At times I can hardly distinguish what characteristics actually define the person or the place until I arrive at the singularity where George and Yahtam are really just one and the same.
I’ve mentioned before that George and Bo Jackson were good friends. They bow hunted together, and apparently while Bo was at Auburn, he learned to bow hunt with George. It’s no surprise then that their legacies (one is most certainly more well known than the other) are similar. Both of them were/are larger than life, and it’s nearly impossible to know what really happened and what was just a tall tale.
Did Bo actually jump clear over a VW Beetle? Did George actually kill animals with only a knife on his hip? It’s hard to say, but ask people and they’ll swear by its authenticity.
That last account about George with the knife wasn’t true and I know it because I asked, but I remember when I was a kid hearing stories from people that didn’t know him swear that he was such a minimalist that he was known for doing things like that. I personally believe that he developed that reputation from his unusual approach to bow hunting from the ground but that’s another topic for another time.
I do believe what I’ll remember most about George as a fly fisherman is that he was not traditional by any understanding of the term. I tried to have a conversation with him once about bamboo fly rods, and he just laughed. He told me about one that someone made him, and he never had any desire to fish with it. Instead, he showed me his heavy duty 14 wt saltwater rods he built from Sage blanks with casting guides mounted all the way to the tip and a stout fighting butt on the other end. There was not a single snake guide to be found anywhere on it. I believe it would’ve repulsed just about any angler with a slight sentiment towards mountain streams, Quill Gordons, or tweed jackets.
“I once caught a 70 lb grass carp on that thing,” he informed me.
George wasn’t worried about the lifestyle. He was worried about the fish and in particular, he was worried about the big fish.
It’s difficult at times to clearly think about someone or something legendary. Often times it’s hard to distinguish the factual account from the fictional. In fact, rarely do we set out to create anything in our minds contrary to what actually occurred. What tends to happen is that the feeling of the memory is the same, but the justification for that feeling— as the memories develop being replayed over and over again in the mind — calls forth embellishments in order to satisfy one’s understanding of what, when, and how it really happened.
East Yahtam and George are no different.