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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day



For my daughter,

June 2018. It came faster than I could ever have imagined. It’s been a big month for you. Graduation from high school two weeks ago, college orientation this past week and in a few days you’ll turn eighteen. It’s been a big month for me as well. While I am excited for you to start the next chapter I wrestle with holding on and letting go.


Today is Father’s Day. I’ve never considered it as a day that warrants parades and banquets. In my own way I’ve celebrated every day since you were born as Father’s Day. It has been my greatest joy and privilege being your dad and watching you grow up. I am so proud of what you have accomplished and the young woman you have become.
 



I know what you're thinking, why am I writing this and putting it out on the blog. Because I can, dude! And because every time I think about shutting this all down you tell me I should keep doing it because it's who I am. You have been the one person who has supported me through all of this.


If you look at the "What" page it says, "In these backwaters life happens, solitude is found, stories are created, friendships are forged and memories are made." My favorite part of the last eighteen years has been seeing the world through your eyes and as you've grown older, listening to you describe how you see the world and experience life.
You've taught me much about life, about what it means to be a father and in the end, about myself.
 You’re about to move on with your life and take the next step to wherever your journey carries you. Other than knowing where you’re going to college the future seems uncertain. It should. You’re at one of those magical places in life that teeters between being exciting and terrifying.


Embrace it. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Put yourself out there.  Walk up to the edge and look over it. Never lose your curiosity about what lies over the horizon. Some of the best things in life are those that are unexpected, things that you stumble across or that find you when you're not looking.
I'm not going to bullshit you, life is tough. You'll struggle through failure and success. We all do. Your grandfather once told me, "If you don't make mistakes, you're doing something wrong." Learn from it all. Mistakes are the foundation of getting things right. Strength comes from the struggle.

If she were here, your grandmother would throw this little nugget at you (I heard it a lot over the years), "The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's not the circumstances, it's about what you're made of." You're made of good stuff. Don't forget it.

At the end of the "Why" page I wrote, "In the end, the only thing that any of us really own is our story. I just want to live a good one." 

You are, and always will be, the best part of my "story."

Now start writing yours.

I love you, 
Dad



South River, MA
17 June 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

7:216



216 x 2 = 432

Four hundred and thirty-two…that’s how many anglers registered for last week’s Cheeky SchoolieTournament. Think of it this way, between 0600hrs and 1430hrs, just from the tournament participants, there was close to three quarters of a mile of fly rods throwing approximately 8.59 miles of fly line on Cape Cod. At the buzzer over 9000 inches of striped bass were caught, recorded by photo, released and entered into the tournament. Who knows how many total fish/inches of fish were actually caught. Based on what The Beast (the other half of Team Dirt Bag) and I saw, the number  blows my mind.
 
Cheeky CEO Ted Upton

The rules are simple. Two anglers per team, fly rod only, wade-fishing on Cape Cod only, the largest four fish are recorded by camera with tape measure and photo puck and all are released. The tourney is billed as “a low barrier to entry, grass roots style event designed to encourage the interest and growth of saltwater fly fishing.” What does that mean? It means anyone with a fly rod can enter and stands a chance to be in the group of top rods at the end of the day. All those who fish regardless of whether they are an industry pro, guide, weekend warrior or newbie all start out from the same place, endure the same wind, weather, water and tide conditions and are all subject to the fish either being here in force or not. Off-season intel development, pre-fishing, and rolling the dice on whether to fish one spot hard or keep moving…that’s up to each team. Home-water status by being a Cape resident – that’s just life, man.



This year was the seventh running of the tournament. I’ve been at all of them. The first year there were about thirty of us standing in the dirt parking lot of a beach bar as the sun rose over the Bass River. It started out really as a group of friends going out to catch as many small fish as possible to raise a few bucks for conservation and charity groups. It has evolved into the world’s largest catch-and-release fly fishing only tournament. At this point in history, based on what science tells us, there may be an argument to be made that it has become the largest event of its kind in the universe.

But seriously, the whole thing was created to be a season opener, to bring fly anglers together for a fun day and generate some enthusiasm for our sport over a few beers while raising money and awareness to benefit our fisheries. Judging by the turnout this year, and the joint $3000.00 donation to Stripers Forever by Cheeky and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association at the end of the day, the mission was accomplished again this year and expectations exceeded.

The size of the tournament may have grown, but from the beginning, at its heart, it was about the fish and about each other.

It still is.

Well done.


Cape Cod, MA
25 May 2018

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Half priced sushi



Half priced sushi.

In New Jersey.

I was skeptical.


Over the winter I had the opportunity to drive around the northeast to fly tying gigs and fly fishing shows. Some of it was for business and some of it was for the social aspect. In retrospect it was all a search for some type of reaffirmation of why fly tying and fly fishing consume so much of my time, money and available hours for sleep.

I wrestle with the idea of stepping away from the business side of it every off-season. Trying to keep up with “the Jones’s” on social media and maintain some form of market relevance for a small full-time part-time niche business is exhausting. The temptation to break out of my “lane” to keep up with the race grows every time I flip on the phone or computer. Businesses and their products need to keep pace with trends and new materials, I get that, but I’m a student of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. I do change my fly patterns based on what I experience fishing them myself but I'm reluctant to alter the mission and vision of my business to be like another. Live by the sword, die by the sword. It’s gotten me this far.

And I still wear clothes from the 90’s. Because I dig it.


In my travels there were moments spent talking with people from different aspects of the fly fishing industry that reminded me it’s not all about likes, followers, hash tags and online identities. Rod, reel and line makers, fly tiers, guides, artists, writers, photographers and a group of really cool ladies working to advance the female segment of the industry…there are still some who do it because it’s just what they do.

At a show in New Jersey I went to dinner with some industry friends. The plan was to hit a sushi place that had a half price special. It was Saturday night and the place was full. Half of us opted to wait for tables while the other half went to a Chinese place next door. After a short wait we split into two groups as spaces became available and I took a table with two of my friends I truly love as brothers. Walking up to the table the three of us silently and awkwardly jockeyed for a seat against the wall facing the entrance and the back door. It’s a reflex left over from a common background that creates an unspoken bond far beyond that of friendship.

Over dinner the conversation drifted around our kids, significant others, businesses, fishing trips, duty stations, hops and the social structure and required etiquette of mosh pits. The underlying theme through it all was support of each other and the rest of our group. As the sushi place was BYOB, I was lucky that one of my table mates owns a hops farm. The sushi was amazing and any health concerns I had about it being half priced were washed away by Big Truck Farms Motor Oil Black IPA.

We reconvened with the rest of the group later at an Irish pub in Metuchen where talk about what we do on our own and together continued. In between conversations and stories we listened to a band play R&B, disco, classic rock and pretty much everything from each decade I’ve been alive. The crowd in the bar was as diverse as the music. The only thing that struck me as odd was that people said “excuse me” and “thank-you” as they passed by or reached through our group when drinks were handed back from the bartender. I couldn’t help but think of the contrast to the tone of the world outside the door. It was encouraging.

I may or may have not lent the band some vocal assistance from our corner of the bar. It’s probably a good thing they didn’t cover any AC/DC because the wheels would have come off quickly.  Needless to say we closed the place. Walking back to the Jeep along the empty dim lit backstreets of Jersey there was one more conversation that a friend ended with “just do what you do.”


I’ll stay in my lane.
 
Photo courtesy of Matt Smythe
Half priced sushi.

In New Jersey.

Priceless. 


South River, MA
3 May 2018

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