Well, I told you that after the powwow I’d finish the story of Cutthroat Johnny Walker, so here goes.
When I left off, (click here for part I), my pet cutthroat trout Johnny Walker was spending his nights sleeping in a few inches of water in my bathtub and his days roaming about the house, walking on his fins. It was almost like having a cat: a cat with fins and no cat hair on the furniture.
I got the bright idea of putting him on a leash and walking him around the neighborhood. It would broaden Johnny’s horizons and, well - - - - I could show off a little for the neighbors. They seemed to regard me as a bit of an eccentric: maybe this would help.
I made a leash for Johnny out of an old leather bootlace, no problem. But a collar was another matter. Have you ever tried to put a collar on a fish? It ain’t easy! I finally managed to modify a leather watch band so it fit pretty well between gills and fins. It had a tendency to slip forward over his head but was very secure as far as not slipping backward. It worked well enough because Johnny was always eager to go and continually pulled forward on the leash. I never could teach him to heel.
It became our habit to take an evening stroll around the block. Sometimes we even went a little further and visited a small neighborhood park. Johnny liked the soft grass there. One evening when we were at the park the sun was suddenly blotted out by a huge black cloud, rumbling and rolling and getting closer by the second. It was time to head for home. Past time. As we hurried down the sidewalk ahead of the rapidly approaching storm I was getting worried. I could see that Johnny was frightened almost to the point of panic. Thunder was booming, lightening cracking. Rain came down in torrents, flooding off the sidewalks and into the gutters where it ran inches deep. With a crash and a flash lightening struck a tree directly across the street. This was too much for Johnny. He jerked backward against the leash, the collar slipped off, and he went galloping off down the sidewalk into the storm. I called, “Johnny, come back! Come back, Johnny.” But, what with the noise of the storm and his state of panic, I don’t think he ever heard me. Suddenly he slipped on the wet sidewalk and fell scrambling and skittering into the rushing water of the gutter. I tried to help him but the current was rolling him down the street faster than I could run.
As the rain began to taper off, I kept running down the street in the direction I had last seen Johnny being swept along. I found him in the next block draped motionless across the bars of a storm drain. He had been drowned in the flood. My friend, Cutthroat Johnny Walker, was dead.
I still go fishing in the Blackfoot River but I don’t bait fish any more. I’ve taken up fly fishing with dry flies. Dry flies with barbless hooks the better to release my catch unharmed.