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"You'll need this," he said, handing it to the young woman. For a moment, their eyes met. Abby saw the encouraging look on his face, and realized that Jake knew what she was feeling. "You won't fail," he smiled confidently. "Your guardian angel can fly fish, even if mine can't."

Abby returned Jake's smile.

John said a prayer asking for God to help their Abby, and then everyone split up. AJ and Dennis would take the jeep, while John would drive Izumi and Terry in their car.

Abby was glad she took the jeep's hardtop off. The summer wind whipped through her black mane, giving her a welcome distraction from the pressures of the tournament. She could almost forget that her entire career was riding on the performance she would give that day. Perhaps that was overemphasizing the importance of this one tournament, but Abby was serious in her determination to do the absolute best that she could. This wasn't about her competing against the others-- but her competing against herself.

The Upstate New York Fishing Depot was hosting this year's fly fishing tournament. It was a large impressive building located near a lake and surrounded with green fields and tall trees. Terry had taken her here many times as a child, both browsing over the lures and tackle like children in a toy store. Now Abby was here as an adult, ready to test her skill at the thing she had loved since childhood.

The crowded parking lot was overflowing with cars and RVs, so that Abby and her father had difficulty finding a place to park. The fishing depot was teeming with people that had traveled from around the country to watch the professionals and to check out the latest in fishing technology that the store was more than willing to sell them.

When the three got out of the jeep and went to the registration table to sign Abby in and to pay the registration fee, she soon realized how out of place she looked. The beautiful, slightly oriental-looking young woman with the brilliant blue eyes, was in great contrast to the mostly middle-aged to retiring Caucasian men that were participating in the various events. In comparison, there were few women, and even fewer who were Abby's age. In fact, from what she could tell, she was the youngest female in the ladies division.

As the line of people slowly filed past the registration table, a man greeted Dennis.

"Hey there!" cried the overweight stranger, coming to where they stood waiting in line. "I didn't know you were coming, Dennis! I would've dropped out, if I knew I was going to be up against you!"

"Actually," smiled Dennis, "I'm not here for me. I have a student who is trying to qualify to become an instructor."

"Well, well," laughed the man, looking Jake over. "I hope you don't have too bad of a first time out! I remember mine, and I can only say that I'm glad my wife didn't take pictures! Line was stripping from my reel like crazy, when a gust of wind came up and blew it straight back into my face. There I was, in front of the most talented casters in the world-- with line falling down around my ears! Most humiliating experience of my life! I hope you do better, young man!"

Dennis cleared his throat, and pointed his head in Abby's direction. The man's face suddenly became sober.

"Really?" he cried, trying to recover from his shock, for it wasn't his intention to make her feel out of place, even though she looked it. "I always encourage the fairer sex to give fly fishing a try. It makes for interesting conversation in the boat."

"Abby shows a great deal of potential," insisted Dennis.

The middle aged man stared at Dennis for a few moments, trying to figure out what he was up to. He looked Abby over and then turned to Dennis with a knowing laugh that annoyed Jake. Without another word, the overweight man walked off.

"Dennis, I hope you're not going to be sorry you came," sighed Abby. "I could've come by myself and not told anyone that you trained me."

"I'm not worried," Dennis grinned confidently.

After Abby's gear had been examined by officials to make sure that regulation guidelines were met, John and the others joined them near the entrance of the superstore.
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