Thursday, March 15, 2018

memories left

Yesterday marked one year since my mother passed. It was really no different than any other day since, significant only that it was marked by a milestone. I chose to unplug, keep quiet and got through the day doing what I had to do until I could escape into my tying room. Mom was always fascinated with my fly tying and the number of flies I tied. She asked me once how I learned to tie so many different patterns. I showed her a book, the first one I bought when I was just learning to tie and told her that it and the man who wrote it had changed my life.

That man passed yesterday.

I took the book of the shelf last night and thumbed through the pages as I have done millions of times while memories of mom and the author alternately flooded my mind.

I met Lefty Kreh several times over the years at shows I was tying at. I say “met” because we never spent more than a few minutes together nor had conversations that people who have “known” each other for years do. Lefty would stop by my table, paw through my display box and pick up a fly, look at it and nod or give me a wink and then put it in the box as he asked me how I was and how striper fishing had been the previous season. I’m not sure he ever knew my name, he would always greet me with, “Hey, Mad Dog…” I never corrected him, doing so seemed disrespectful and to be honest, I thought it was cool.

There was an occasion nine or ten years ago at the Bears Den Fly Show where I shared a moment with Lefty that I will never forget. It was late in the afternoon, the crowd was thinning out and a gentleman and his son were at my table watching me tie a sand eel pattern. The boy was probably twelve or thirteen and had just bought a fly tying kit. He was full of questions about materials and asked me to tie another sand eel so he could see all the steps. As I put a fresh hook in the vise Lefty sat down in a chair at the table next to me and watched and listened as I went through each step of building the fly. When I finished I gave the boy the fly out of the vise and reached for another that was finished with epoxy.

Lefty grabbed the finished fly from my hand and asked me what I called it. I said, “That’s called the Cichetti’s Sand Eel.”

He asked, “Who is Cichetti?” I told him how one of my customers had been given one of the flies by a fisherman on Cape Cod named Rob Cichetti and asked me to duplicate it. I explained that after talking to Rob and asking for his blessing to copy it, I added it to my line. Lefty nodded and said, “Good man. That’s a neat fly.” Handing the fly to the boy, he said, “That’s gonna catch you some fish.”

I asked Lefty if he wanted one of the flies and he just smiled, tapped the side of his temple with a finger and said, “I got it right here.”   

The boy and his father thanked me and as they walked away Lefty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You made that kid’s day.”    

Lefty, you made this kid’s day every time we met, as you did with everyone blessed to share time with you over the years.

Thank you, sir. You will be missed.

Rest in peace.

South River, MA
15 March 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018


31 December, the end of another ride around the sun. Driving home from Maine this afternoon gave me time to reflect on the year. 2017 came with loss and was a hard one to get through. The irony of  loss is that with it, somewhere deep inside of the turbulence, eventually it gives you something. A greater appreciation for the past, a better understanding of the present, a new hope for the future. Every once in a while, in the glint of sunshine through the trees, through the fog rolling across the marsh, in the bright blue-green where the water rolls off the flats, there is a reminder that memories stay with us, life goes on and it's meant to be lived moving forward appreciating and accepting it all, the good and the bad, as it happens.

Half-way through the drive we stopped for coffee and I flipped on social media to see what I had missed. One of the feeds was loaded with people posting the "Best Nine of 2017." I contemplated jumping on board but as I kept driving I realized my "best" moments, images, memories - whatever, weren't captured by the lens, they were spent in the moment as they occurred.

Standing at the bar with people involved in the fly fishing business talking about what we do not for dollars and cents but for the moments and memories our products create because at the beginning and in the end, we are fly fishermen. Being alone deep in the marsh lost in the spaces between casts remembering moments in the past and imagining what might come next. Fishing a tournament on the Cape with my mentor and calling it early to share a whiskey or two over a burger and small talk. Pushing the canoe through the dark as my niece's boyfriend brought to hand what might be a fish of a lifetime and knowing as that fish swam away that no matter how we tell the story of the catch, no one else will ever understand what that moment was like. Watching from a distance as Jill dropped a cast into breaking fish to catch her first striped bass and knowing that the process of getting into place and making the cast would become more meaningful than the catch itself. Spending an afternoon fishing with my favorite writer casting at king mack's, stripers, bluefish and albies at our feet off the jetty without a single hookup and happily retiring to a bar to trade backstories and philosophies of life over ahi wontons and beers. Wandering the rivers and the marsh to the very end of the season in search of five more minutes of fishing and in the end, finding what I was looking for the whole time through my own reflection in empty water. That's what I do.

So as last year becomes this year, I say do what you do, when you can, as hard as you can, for as long as you can.

Get after it.

South River, MA
31 December 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


The paddle in had been tough through the narrow and shallow places where the water, with the full weight of the marsh behind it, rushed to find its way back to the ocean. It had been a race to get to “the spot” where the fish had been holding for the past few days at this exact time of the drop. A small side creek running over a sandbar at its mouth was dumping grass shrimp, juvenile baitfish and crab as it emptied into the river. I could see splashes as I got closer. The rat stripers had been in a pocket of deeper water off the sand bar. Most of them were small, twelve to fourteen inches but every once in a while a fish in the low twenties would take a fly; not a large fish but fun on a seven-weight in shallow water nonetheless. In thirty minutes the tide would slack and these fish would be gone.

Line was stripped out within the first few steps out of the kayak and a cast put into the air while walking up to the edge of the sandbar. Still in the rhythm of paddling and cramped from the confines of the boat the first few casts were short and open. I glanced back and forth between the fish breaking water and the line in the air, a sense of urgency to get the fly in front of them beginning to form in my chest. A deep breath was taken; the next few casts getting longer and tighter. Another deep breath with a little bit of a haul on the last false cast and the fly dropped right between two spots of boiling water. I silently mouthed the words, “strip, strip, strip…”

I could see the fly and watched a streak of silver run up to it, take it and turn. Another short strip right as the rod bent set the hook and the line went tight, pulling out the slack until it was on the reel. The fish headed into the current and up onto the sand bar, splashing through the shallow water as it tried to shake the fly. I’ve watched all this happen thousands of times over the years and I never tire of it. It’s like the first time, every time.   

But this fish was different. It wasn’t mine. I hadn’t even made a cast yet; I was just a spectator. This was Jill’s first striper on the fly.

She and I grew up in the same small town, had the same teachers, the same coaches, we knew the same blue ice at Sunday River and both took Route 26 south to different lives. Despite thirty plus years between here and there we have a history, a bond from knowing who the other is from knowing where and what the other came from. We were both drawn to the ocean and both adjusted our lives to stay on it. Fly fishing the water by our home has been a big part of my life for nearly twenty years. I wanted to share that with her.

We began her fly fishing education during the middle of last season and picked it back up this spring. She patiently listened to my coaching, watched a few Pete Kutzer video’s and stood for hours throwing line back and forth. She got the basics down but being able to shoot line was taking some time. The previous week it started coming together, she was adding distance to the cast and fueled by a few dropped fish she now knew what to expect. My mission on this day was to get her close to feeding fish where she could see what was happening, make the cast, watch the take and the turn and feel that fish, to be a part of it and in so, understand a little more about me and why fly fishing consumes so much of me. I will probably think of her first striper with as much reverence as I do my own.

Our house is cluttered with rods and reels and I track pieces of Krystal flash, tufts of marabou and buck tail all through it. Stripping baskets and waders hang in the shed. Stuck in the wall on the kitchen porch is an assortment of old beat up flies that I walk past every morning. I look at all of this and I see little pieces of memories of each fish she caught this season, of moments, thoughts and a life shared.

Life on the fly.

A new history.

(Flamingo, Cudjoe, Baja, NOLA, the Berkshires, ACK, MVY, UDL in SC ?? Stay tuned.)

South River, MA
21 November 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

five more minutes

It’s been a while.

I’ve sat here at the desk a dozen times a week since the last post trying to vomit out a few lines of text but that’s exactly what it’s been – vomit. My mind has been distracted. More than my mind really, I just don’t know how to define it without sounding dramatic and absurd by using the word “soul.”

It’s been hard to focus. In recent months we’ve seen the power of earth, wind, fire and water all over the world. Homes, towns, and islands destroyed. Lives taken, interrupted and changed forever. Acts of violence and terror in Barcelona, London, Las Vegas and in the last week, New York and Texas. More lives taken, interrupted and changed forever. My heart breaks for those affected while I’m guiltily thankful for the safety of my family and those around me.

Social media has become a platform for proselytization serving as a battlefield for the polarized and creating a burying ground for debate and compromise. I’ve grown weary of life on-line and turn to it less and less. I’m not arrogant enough to think I have any salient point(s) to add to any element of the melee but I’m not ignorant of the toll it’s all taking on this world and all of us on it.

The truth is, most days, outside of paying the bills my primary concern is making sure I have enough good white bucktail and mono to get through the week followed by keeping track of tide charts and water temperature. I run a marathon all week, so I can escape to the water and the mud when Friday rolls around. I fish while I’m out there but that’s not what it’s about. It’s where I endure this life drawn to new places with the ebb and the flow of the tides losing myself in the silent noise of open spaces where I can sort my thoughts on my own terms. I think I’ll keep doing that.

I started writing this back in September. It was going to be about the last few weeks of the fall run.  I fished more this season than I have in a lot of years and was determined to get in every cast possible until it was over. At the end of the summer I resigned myself to putting off yard work, projects around the house and anything else that didn’t include throwing flies at southbound striped bass until I was sure the fish were gone. The only things that would interrupt my plan were a couple of scheduled college visits with my daughter.

In early October we made a trip to New Hampshire to visit Plymouth State. As we sat in an auditorium with a hundred other potential students and their families waiting for the admissions program to start I found myself thinking back on the first days of pre-school, kindergarten and elementary school. I thought of the morning walks to the bus stop wondering what she would learn that day and then listening to Abby tell me about it when I picked her up from the after-school program. Those two moments were the best part of my day. They still are, except she’s driving herself back and forth to school now and I haven’t understood the math since she was in the fifth grade. Sitting there thinking about her going off to college next year I selfishly wished for five more minutes of pushing her on the swings at the playground, watching her traipse around tidal pools with the dogs looking for treasures and listening to her stories as we played with Polly Pockets. The years have gone by faster than I thought they would. I wondered if I had appreciated those things as they happened as much as I do now. Did I give her as much while she was growing up as she gave me? Did I do my best? If I had five more minutes…you know, dad stuff.

Five more minutes.

Those words ran through my mind all day as we walked around campus.  As we were talking about Plymouth State possibly becoming part of Abby’s future on the drive home, I kept thinking about a part of my past.

There are many people who impact us but there are just a few who show us tools to shape our selves, to build the foundation of who we are, who’s lessons and guidance stay with us throughout our lives. One of these people in my life was my first ski coach. He had gone to Plymouth State and the irony of my daughter possibly attending the same college as the man who helped build my “foundation” was not lost on me.

In Greek mythology, Hercules was the strongest mortal ever born. Tim Lavallee was the second. He had been a force in high school and college as a slalom and giant slalom racer, Nordic racer and ski jumper; one of the few Ski Meister’s as four event athletes were known. When I was in the eighth grade he had coached the high school team to the Maine Class B State Championship. I knew a few kids on that team and had listened to them talk about Coach Lavallee. I knew I wanted to be part of that. My aunt had given my sister and I wooden cross-country skis for Christmas when I was in the seventh grade. We skied all over our farm and the fields around us taking the basics my aunt had shown us and learning through trial and error. I hadn’t been much of an athlete up to that point but something about cross-country skiing clicked with me. So, I went out for the team my freshman year.

We had snow droughts during most of my high school career. That year was particularly bad, so bad that our first few weeks of “on snow” training consisted of skiing back and forth on the top of a few inches of snow banks the plows had left around the school parking lots. We skied those snow banks for hours into the darkness and then would scrape up snow from wherever we could find it to patch the thin spots for the next day. I was struggling with my “technique” and timing and getting frustrated. And I was embarrassed.  At the end of one particularly bad session I was taking off my skis as the rest of the team was heading inside when I heard the words that honestly changed my life.

“Hey, Ricey…give me five more minutes.”

For the next twenty minutes Coach Lavallee skied behind me and patiently talked me through the timing of my single-stick and kick-step-double-pole. Those twenty minutes changed everything. Afterward, in the light of LaVerdiere’s Drug Store and the Country Way Restaurant from across the street, he put his hands on my shoulders, looked me directly in the eyes and said,

“When things get hard, when you get frustrated…go back to basics…slow it down…don’t worry about what you think it looks like or what you think other people are thinking…slow it down…then get right back to it. Five more minutes…not just in skiing, but in school, in work, in life…five more minutes at a time and you’ll be better at whatever it is you’re doing, and you’ll be a better man for it.”

I memorized his words and took them to heart. For most of high school I would sweep and scrape together what snow we had in the backyard, flip on the back lights and ski circles on the back lawn at night, working on technique and imagining I was Bill Koch skiing in the Olympics. I never made it to the Games, but four years later I did ski into the Olympic Stadium at Lake Placid with my college team at Johnson State when we qualified for the Division I Championships after winning Division II’s. I got there because of my college coach, Peter Albright and my teammates, but it would not have happened without the foundation that Tim Lavallee helped me build five minutes at a time, a foundation that while cracked here and there, still stands today.

I’ve thought about Coach and his words a lot this fall as I’ve paddled, waded, fished and stared at the waters of the marsh. Last Saturday the fish were still there. I looked for five more minutes on Sunday but I didn't find them. I found something else.

Five more minutes.

It can make all the difference.

South River, MA

8 November 2017

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Grind

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and with Irma continuing on her path about to hit Florida, I am somewhat reluctant to post this. To those affected by these storms, God Speed and God Bless.

In a few hours, two fishing tournaments begin on islands off the coast of Massachusetts. The 72nd Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby will run from September 10th to October 14th. Across the Sound, the 12th Nantucket Inshore Classic will occur during the same time. Both tournaments pit anglers on land and sea against four species of fish; striped bass, bluefish, false albacore and bonito. Each tournament provides entrants several opportunities to win awards and prizes in different categories outside the traditional leader board but the real winners in each are the islanders. Both tournaments are set up to generate funds to provide scholarships to students on the respective islands.

I became involved with the Derby as a sponsor several years ago because of the scholarship program and the spirit of the people I met who are involved in running the Derby and those who fish it. This year I’ve become involved with the Classic for the same reasons.

To be truthful, I’ve become weary of the tournament scene. Some tournaments seem to have devolved into something between a NASCAR race and WWE event. I mean no offense to fans of either; I’ve been known to listen to NASCAR on the radio and at one time I was a faithful follower of The Undertaker. I just don’t want to fish in the middle of all that.

What draws me to the Derby, the Classic and in the spring, the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, are not the prizes or visions of greatness in catching a winning fish but the act of the pursuit of the fish. The physicality of it. The hours spent and the effort put in. Enduring the weather, adjusting to wind and tide, pushing through the exhaustion in the hopes of feeling the line go tight. It’s the grind and the story that goes with it. 

It’s the individual stories, fish or no fish, that in the end interest me the most. I have heard stories from people who have fished for days or weeks with nothing to show for it and then when all hope seems lost, have hooked up to enter one fish. I have heard the stories from a couple of friends who have completed “The Slam” and entered a fish in each species category. The story from an acquaintance on the boat back home who fished right up to our ferry departure time and caught a striper as he was reeling in his last cast. He just let it go and quietly boarded the ferry content in his own mind with his accomplishment. The stories define the spirit of the individual and merge to collectively define the spirit of these events.  

I’ve used the term “spirit” a few times already. I’m at a loss for a different noun. Over the years I’ve come to know Derby President Ed Jerome and Chairman John Custer. I have had several conversations with both at Derby events and the recurring theme in these conversations is what I’ve described above. The word has also come up in talks with Chris Lydon of the Inshore Classic. 


That of past anglers and those departed, some of who were given tribute in the 2016 Derby Guide Book and part of many conversations at the final weigh-in and awards weekend like Luke Gurney, Estey Teller, Robert “Hawkeye” Jacobs and Olga Hirshhorn.

That of Committee members like Amy Coffey who put in endless hours to make the Derby run smoothly. Amy is a fixture at Headquarters for daily weigh-ins. She knows everyone and is known by everyone. If something has to be done or someone needs something, Amy is usually the one doing it.

That of current anglers like Terry Horrocks and his son Zac. I’ve known them for several years via social media and email and finally got a chance to meet both at last year’s Derby. Terry was nice enough to take The Beast and I out in his boat prospecting for albies one afternoon. The fish didn’t cooperate but I got to hear some of his stories and learn about the relationship between the father/son team. More on that in the future.

Terry, Beast, Zac, Dog

That of the most solid guy I know and island guide, Capt. Jamie Boyle, his wife Heather and their son Tyler. When it comes to fishing knowledge and the art of smoking bonito, no one compares. I can’t wait to see Jamie watching Tyler weighing in a fish.

That of everyone who has fished in past Derby’s and those who will fish in the future.

And this year, I look forward to hearing the stories from the Nantucket Inshore Classic. There is no less spirit there than on “that other island.”

It’s the people who make the events what they are. The anglers, the organizers and the islanders. And (hopefully) the fish!

My next couple of months will be filled with college visits and applications. I may or may not make it to the islands. But I will be following the daily reports and the daily grind of both the Derby and the Classic.

In spirit.

The Port Hunter, Edgartown, MA

To all involved in each event, Slainte!

South River, MA

9 September 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

hands free commandos

It was an early September morning, the beginning of what we call the “Fall Run” and the fishing had been unbelievable. It wasn't because I had cracked any code, I had just wandered into the right place at the right time. Things had started as the sun rose over slack-water at the top of the tide and had stayed consistent during the first of the drop. The fish were all cookie-cutter twenty to twenty-two-inch striped bass. I was casting from a high spot into a rock garden that held about six feet of water. The water was exceptionally clear and as the sun climbed higher and the tide dropped I could see the fish swimming back and forth among the rocks. The stripes had a mix of bait penned into the rocks and were feeding sub-surface. It was a big school. I had fished this spot several times during the fall in the past out of my boat and had seen schools of hundreds of stripers in these rocks. I probably would have walked by on this morning had it not been for a few tails splashing that I caught out of the corner of my eye while rigging the nine-weight.

About halfway through the drop I saw two other fly fishermen a good distance down the beach. I designated them Tango One and Tango Two. In between casts I would check their position and noticed Tango One moving closer with each fish that I caught. After I had released a half dozen or so fish he was no more than thirty feet off my right shoulder.  He made a few casts and would make the infamous “rod-under-the-arm-two-handed-high-speed-turbo-retrieve.” As he did this I could hear him talking. I didn’t pass judgment; I talk to myself when I’m fishing. 

The water had dropped enough that he could get out to a small section of sandy bottom that I had been fishing the edge of. He started to walk out and I went tight to another fish and as I was stripping it in I heard him say, “Get up here, he caught another one…it’s on fire up here!”

At this point I realized Tango One was talking to Tango Two via Blue Tooth. I looked down the beach at Tango Two and saw him begin to make his way up to where we were. It was about to get crowded and I don’t like crowds. There was plenty of beach to move to but I had a good thing going and was not keen on giving it up. I decided to hold my ground and let things play out.

I released my fish and watched as they took up spots thirty feet in front of me and to my right. I was casting straight out from the rocks. The current was running at a soft angle from my left to the right which brought my fly just a few feet in front of them on the last few strips. I thought this would send them a message to back off a little. It did not. Instead they both started casting up-current and perpendicular to my casting lane. I stood in disbelief and watched them cast. They were both two-handed-turbo stripping but they couldn’t keep up with the current and their flies were making it back to them before the lines. Situational awareness was weak with these two.

I moved another thirty or forty feet to my left and went back to casting. All morning I had been retrieving the line in short, staggered strips. Nearly every fish had taken the fly on the drop in the pause between strips. These were happy fish and not expending a lot of energy to feed because there was so much bait in front of them. I think I could have drifted a Beanie Baby in front of them and they would have eaten it. The slow strip continued to work and I brought a couple more fish to hand. Each time the Tango Twins saw me hooked up they began to cast and turbo strip faster and faster. I understand the reasoning for the two-handed strip but it’s a tool, not necessarily something needed in every circumstance. Watching them made me think of the first fight between Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises where Bane says, “You fight like a younger man, nothing held back…admirable but mistaken.”

I hooked up again and Tango Two broke out his fly box. He and Tango One spent several minutes thumbing through the box. I threw another cast and let my mind wander as I Granny-stripped the fly.

I had a Caesar Salad once at Carmichael’s in Chicago. It was amazing. I was there with my friends Jay and Z (not to be confused with the rapper) to watch the Patriots play the Bears. We didn’t have tickets. We watched the game at Mother Hubbard’s with about two hundred other Pats fans and my buddy, Mike Davis from who had driven in to meet us. The night is a blur. I don’t remember who won the game, I’ve tried to forget saying I would cover the bar tab and I think it was snowing when we walked around the corner to Rossi’s. But I remember everything about that salad. The Romaine was torn to perfect fork size, the dressing had just enough anchovy and the grated parmesan added extra taste and texture to make it a full meal. I ate slow and savored every bite. For ten minutes, I blocked out everything around me other than that salad and the Jack and Diet in front of me. Salads like that don’t come along very often. Neither do mornings like that one. So, I did my best to block out the fly fashion show the two Tango’s were having and kept fishing.

Eventually they tied on new flies and went back to casting into the current and turbo stripping. I went tight to another fish and decided it was time to move. This time I held the fish up out of the water before I released it. Tango Two dug the fly box back out.

As I made up my line I walked over to them and said, “It ain’t the fly.”

Neither one said anything but confusion was in their eyes. And they were in fact both equipped with Blue Tooth’s.

“It ain’t the fly, anything you throw will get bit. Cast straight out, let the current swing the fly and work it back with slow strips. Let the current make the fly breath. Strip it with one hand. Slow.”

They both took heed and made casts straight out. It only took a few SLOW strips and Tango Two was on. Tango One stuck his rod under his arm and dug his camera out to capture the moment. As Tango Two held the fish for the photo, Tango One, who had left line in the water got bit and as the fish took the slack up in the line his rod went flying out from under his arm. It was a shit show for a few seconds but he grabbed it before it got too far.

All I could say was, “Wow. Hands free.”

I turned to head up the beach and one of them asked me if I was done for the day.

“Nah, I’m gonna’ go get a salad.”

From the Journal
2 August 2017

Monday, July 3, 2017

Running Lines

I know the road without having to look at it. I’ve travelled over it more times than I can remember.  It twists and turns and flows along the straightaways under a cathedral of pines. It struggles up the hills in the heat of the sun and coasts down the backside into the shade.  It takes me from the water and leads me to it.

I’ve run this road. I’ve felt the change of its elevation in my legs and the inconsistencies of its surface through my feet. I’ve cursed it for taking my breath and praised it for allowing me to catch it. I’ve run effortlessly down its center and struggled along its soft shoulder. I’ve run it alone in silence and deep in conversation alongside my sister. Together at times but more often on our own we’ve run that road to gain distance from something, to find a way through dark times and get to the other side. Sometimes we’ve run just to keep moving. Sometimes we’ve run just because we’ve needed to. It’s one of the things we share as siblings. The road isn’t about pavement and miles, it’s about life and living.

Turning off the road on to the dirt lane that is the driveway, the boulders and trees that line its short length filter the noise and calls of the world behind them. It’s different on this side. The transition from one to the other is unexplainable yet palpable. It’s not unlike the feeling of returning home after an extended absence; familiar and comfortable but momentarily awkward until greetings are exchanged and the proverbial dust gathered since the last visit is brushed away.

The camp stands to one side as the trees give way to the water. It sits in the back of a small cove that looks south down the length of the lake.  It’s called “Camp” but it’s really been the summer residence of my sister and her family for several years. Eventually they will make their permanent home here. Ironically, as I have come to live on the water and in the sun, so has she.

The road has brought the family here today. We’ve come together to share a meal, stories of the past and news of the present. The day has been overshadowed by sorrow for those now departed but brightened in the solace of us all being together. I sit back and look at my family gathered around the picnic table and fire pit. Sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. And our grandmother who at ninety-four inspires us all with her youth and grace. 

From behind my camera I capture some of the moments as I listen to the conversations around me. It suddenly dawns on me that my sister and I are no longer the kids in the family. It should be obvious; her kids are grown and moving on with their lives, my daughter will be headed to college soon and our “little cousin” has a son of her own. I suddenly feel old and time slipping away. I grab a beer, my fly rod and head for the dock. I look back and no one seems to notice. At least nobody says anything. I’m not being rude, they all get it.

I watch the line unroll in front of me as I cast and listen to the voices by the fire. The line loops and curves and straightens out as I bend each cast around mushroom rocks and tree roots reminding me of lines on a road map, the folded-up paper ones we used to buy at the gas station. I think of the roads in my life; Route 26, Route 2, Route 15, I-89, Route 16, Route 7, I-95, Route 3, Route 6, Route 44. Once they were all just ways to get to where I was going, one place to the next. I understand now they were also ways to get back. Memories of the miles, of parts of me lost and others found, the road changed me. But here, with my sister and among family, at least for a few hours I’m the same as I once was.

The line goes tight and the water erupts in the rocks in front of me. It’s the second smallie I’ve pulled out of those rocks today. I lean down to release the fish and stare into its eyes.

“I’ve come a long way for you, my friend.”

It stares back as I lower it into the water and then is gone.

Another piece, another part of the story, more of the road. I finish my beer and stare at those rocks. I’ve sat here during storms and watched as one breaks the waves and shelters the one behind it. I hear my sister laughing back at the fire. After all the roads taken, miles travelled and storms endured, my little sister is still the rock in my life.

Thompson Lake, Maine

10 June 2017