I thoroughly enjoyed the personal interaction in serving and entertaining small groups in Montana fishing lodges, where I successfully worked for seven years serving fly-fishers from all wal…
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On January 23rd 2014, I flew into LA International airport wearing a purple sundress and carrying an aqua blue down-filled winter coat. I had spent much of the last days before departing Montana for the Spokane airport, sorting, stacking, packing, un-packing, re-prioritizing and re-packing. Chef coat and pants for the Sinaloa Winter Food Festival workshops, along with Summer cloths for 80 degree days touring Los Mochis, Topolobampo Bay, and El Fuerte. If I put my bulky, yet light-weight winter coat for the 6,000 ft 50 degree temps. at the top of the Cooper Canyon in the large suitcase to be checked, I would be out of space long before I reached the fifty pound weight limit. I decided to leave the 20 degree bone-chilling cold of Spokane wearing the only sundress I was taking along to keep it as wrinkle-free as possible, and carry my down-filled jacket.
On my way to baggage claim in the Los Angeles airport, I called William, the quick-witted free-lance writer for Phil Freedman Outdoors, to let him know I had arrived. “I will be the 6 foot blonde in a purple sundress, carrying a blue coat” I said. “I doubt I will have any problem spotting you in the Los Angeles airport” he replied with a chuckle. From our Facebook chats, I felt we would be fast friends, and it wasn’t long before we were bouncing jokes off of one another. Soon, we met up with Phillip Friedman and his cameraman Bob to drive to San Diego, then across the border to the Tijuana Airport.
While on the plane, I thought back to 2009, walking through the door of a Spokane fly shop, to ask the shop owner about the minimal equipment I would need to get started on my new hobby. During our conversation, I mentioned I had owned a restaurant and catering business. The owner said “Have you ever thought about working as a chef in fly-fishing lodges?” ” No.”, I replied, “I know nothing about fly-fishing lodges.” He went on to tell me about a friend who learned to fly-fish while working as a chef. He became so proficient at fly-fishing that Orvis hired him to travel to fly-fishing lodges to teach workshops. The lodge owners learned that he was a chef, and asked if he would combine cooking workshops with fly-fishing clinics.
As cooking has always been my passion, and I have loved the out of doors and fishing since I was a child, I immediately offered up a silent prayer. “Please God, being a chef in fly-fishing lodges is what I want to do.” I was not aware at the time, the amazing path this simple prayer would take me down. I just thought it a romantic notion. Now, only four short years had passed, and I was on my way, to Los Mochis Sinaloa, the “gateway to the sea of Cortes”, sponsored by the Secretary of Tourism, and Mexico Land Tours, to teach cooking workshops, to culinary students from all over Mexico.
As we dropped down for a landing in Culiacan (the capital city of Sinaloa), as far as my eyes could see in every direction, were variegated green patchwork quilts of crops. Our very personable, tour guide, slash driver, slash translator, was there to pick us up at the airport in a Mercedes van. After a wonderful lunch, we started out on the two and a half hour drive to Los Mochis. We drove along the freeway passing vegetable fields, and fruit orchards, extending to the horizon towards the Sea of Cortes, and to the Sierra Modre mountains off in the distance to the East. This truly was as described, “the bread basket of Northwestern Mexico. One-hundred and fifty miles of nothing but futile farmlands, naturally irrigated by rivers flowing out of the Copper Canyon into the El Fuerte River Valley.
In late 2012, I was contacted by the owner of Millennium Custom Rods. “I love your photo fly-fishing in a sundress and I would like to build a fly rod for you”. “You need only pay for components and have your photo taken fishing with the rod” he said. So began one of David Norton’s “Labor of Love” custom rods.
A perfectionist with his art of custom rod building,David was not satisfied with his work until he felt the wraps, Uschi and artwork came together perfectly, which took well over a month to complete.
I chose the name Siren’s Song to be put on the pink wrapped shaft of the rod. Water Sirens from Greek Mythology were Daughters of the river God Achelous. Sometimes referred to as Water Nymphs, which fit perfectly with hand-tied water nymphs used in fly-fishing.
I took Siren’s Song first to the headwaters of the Missouri River where with the help and guidance of a friend and seasoned river guide and one of his special hand-tied flies, I was shortly rewarded with a fat twenty-three inch trophy Brown trout. That catch and release trout was by all means Millennium Custom Rod photo-worthy in and of itself, yet a much grandeur tribute to Siren’s Song was soon to follow.
In late summer, I had the idea to set up my Siren’s Song rod for a photo in front of Grave Creek, a pretty little stream just a few miles from home. I did a little wade-fishing, then set my rod up against a rock and took several photos.
I picked up my fishing bag and without breaking down my rod, started back along the trail to my vehicle. I had walked but a few yards, when I decided to exchange my wading boots for tennis shoes. I had no sooner sat Siren’s Song down, when five small butterflies came fluttering over, landing on my fishing bag and rod. I watched them as they seemed to dance on my fishing bag appraising Siren’s Song. While snapping photos, I put my hand out expecting the delicate orange and black butterflies to fly off. Amazingly, they landed on my fingers moving from one to another. I felt a moment of absolute joy and delight as these bright and beautiful gifts of nature danced from one finger to another, leaving my fingers briefly to light on my rod, and then back to my fingers again. After a few minutes, they fluttered away to land on some bright yellow wild daisies nearby. At this point I figured the party was over, gathered up my gear, and finished my walk down the trail.
When I returned home, I up-loaded the creek side photos. I was intrigued by the last photo in particular, and cropped it in tight. The butterfly seemed to be captivated by the bright colors of the Uschi in the rod handle. Every time I look at this photo, I re-live the joy of the moments I was blessed to be a part of..
It can take caterpillars two years or longer to mature before spinning a cocoon in which they miraculously transform from an insignificant insect into the graceful and colorful creatures that inspired folklore and fairy tales. Some butterflies live only hours, or a few days. Just long enough to mate, lay their eggs and die. Recently, I did a search on the symbolism of Butterflies. I found Christian cultures believed Butterflies represented Guardian Angles being near, while the North American Indians thought butterflies to be messengers from the spirit world. Butterflies are representative of happiness. The more you chase happiness the more it eludes you. When you finally realize true happiness comes from within, and is found in how you choose to view life, it finds you. Perhaps if human beings were only given a few days to live, they would better appriciate the beauty of all we are blessed to be a part of in this glorious world.
I cropped in closer, and turned the photo upside-down. To me the design on the wings looked much like stained glass angel wings.
David Norton puts his heart and soul into the “works of art” rods he builds (as testified to me by five Guardian Angel Butterflies), which I had the great pleasure of spending a few precious minutes with out of their brief flights of freedom).