It’s that time of year. Some people do this in the midst of the holiday madness at the end of the year. I seem to fall into the abyss of self-analysis as the calendar adds another year of experience to my resume. I’m just over a handful of tide cycles away from turning forty-eight. Not a major milestone like forty or the age of fifty that men seem to have their “crisis” at. But it is significant for me. I vividly recall sitting in a bar on my twenty-eighth birthday thinking and believing that the probability of making it to forty-eight was less than fifty percent. Those odds were based on the career path I was on and my extra-curricular activities in the mountains and at sea. But here I am twenty years later. What a long strange trip it’s been.
I sit here on the bank of my beloved North River in the cold dark of the middle of the night and write this by headlamp. This is the fifth rewrite of this piece. I was going to wax poetic about something introspective discovered while fly fishing and make references to the work of Robert W. Service, Hemingway and Thoreau, maybe some Gierach, and weave in the turning a year older thing. But something happened when I got here tonight.
There were a couple of boys my daughter’s age skate boarding under the street lights where I parked. I listened to them talking trash to each other as I pulled my gear out of the Jeep. Some of it I understood, some I did not. I snapped on my stripping basket, grabbed my rods (one for top water and one for everything else) and walked past the boys toward the river. This is what I heard one of them say as I walked out into the darkness:
“Hey man, that old dude is bad ass, he fishes with two fly rods…in the dark!”
I started down the rocks of the jetty and nearly fell when I heard this coming from one of them:
“I’ll wear your grand dad’s clothes
I look incredible….”
Up until this point I kind of liked that song. Now…not so much.
Old dude? Really? Do I look that old? I guess I do, I just don’t feel that old in my mind. Is the gray in my beard really that noticeable in this light or do I walk like an old guy? Mmmh, I have been eating soup a lot lately.
Bad ass? Little brother, I wish I was a bad ass fly fisherman (Ladies, hereto forthwith this means fly fisher-person!). I want to be one. I have friends who are. In fact, in a few hours I’m driving to the Cape to chase albies with my buddy Henry who is one of them. Granted, he is retired but he fishes hard. A lot. In my book H is about as bad ass as it gets. More about H in future posts.
Through my fly business, I have met and become friends with bad ass fly fisherman from all over Fly World. Some I have fished with, some I have met at shows and in shops, some from social media and some from just telephone and email conversations. Some are in the industry, some just live to fish. They are guides, manufacturer’s reps, shop owners and workers, fly tiers, writers, bloggers, photographers…people from all aspects of the fishing world. There are others who have compiled long resumes of transient and part-time jobs as they follow the fish and the seasons, earning what they need and living without what they don’t. They are my fellow New Englanders, steel headers from BC and the northwest, trout fisherman from Idaho and Montana, the hardcore’s from Michigan, the Keys crowd and the Glades and Gulf Coast crew in Florida, the ones who chase reds in the marshes of the Carolina lowlands and Louisiana, there are Aussies, Kiwi’s, Bahamians…my point is they are everywhere.
Some of these folks have abandoned the traditional jobs, obsessions with retirement planning, the white picket fences, relationships and social climbing to follow their hearts and passions and figured out how to make a living doing it. Not a fortune…a living. If you talk with them for a while you find out that is exactly what they are doing…living. They have figured out the equation. Living on the fly.
That’s my destination. Running with the tide and following the sun.
I’ll get there. And I secretly hope that when I do, someone will refer to me as a bad ass fly fisherman. In the meantime I’ve got to go home and get a couple of hours of sleep before I head to the Cape. Maybe I’ll have some soup. I hope I can get that stupid song out of my head…
“I’m gonna pop some tags
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket…”
North River, MA
27 September 2013