And then he took me fly fishing

Emma McCoy

for my father, and his father before him


**content warning: disordered eating**


I’m thigh-deep in glacial water with a cane rod

in one hand, wrist straight and snapping

thwip! through the air so the tufted fly

lands gently on the water like snow on a bank.


“Think of it like this,” my father says, cigar in mouth.

“The river has racing lines down it, water faster or

slower. Mend the line so the fly doesn’t travel too fast

and commit a lane violation.” It has been two years


since I left the racing lanes, the international stage.

I still wake up sometimes and panic, I’m late

for practice, heart rate hammering.

I still look at the scale and panic when I gain weight.


My roommate wonders how I get up so fast, how my feet

hit the floor seconds after my alarm hits the air.

My father doesn’t wonder why I cry cold tears

in the early morning, glacial sliding down my face.


What is considered a violation? I don’t know how

to fill my afternoons, fill my stomach so it doesn’t ache.

I pinch my flesh until my wrist is sore, little bruises

to keep the panic away from the waking hours.


“Fish don’t trust fast flies,” he says around the cigar.

I suppose if a cheeseburger on roller skates came zooming

by on the street, I would be suspicious of it too.

I hope I would be suspicious for the right reasons.


I mend the line, avoid a line violation. A fish bites,

and misses. I let the river course by, scour the racing

lanes and sluice them down until nothing remains

and I am standing still in the early morning, thigh-deep.


thwip!

About the Author

Emma McCoy is a poet and essayist with love for the old stories. She is the assistant editor of Whale Road Review, co-editor of Driftwood, and poetry reader for the Minison Project. She is the author of “In Case I Live Forever” (2022), and she has poems published in places like Flat Ink, Paddler Press, and Jupiter Review. Catch her on Twitter: @poetrybyemma.