Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Next Cast

This morning was my first real day of the fishing season. I’ve been going out and prospecting for the last month using most of that time to look at changes in structure from the winter storms and erosion and trying to figure out if or how these things will affect fish movement this season. But today was just about fishing; just me, the river and the spaces between casts.

It was raining hard and windy as hell when I walked out into the marsh. That was just fine with me. It meant I would most likely be alone. More than the hunt for the first striper of the season, this was a grasp at being unseen and taciturn for a few hours. I quietly took my place in the grass as the herons and cormorants jockeyed for new positions around me and a red-tailed hawk patrolled the flooding marsh from above. After a few minutes the disturbance of my arrival was absorbed, the cormorants moved on and calm fell across the salt meadow with the fog and the rain.

I started casting, working the upstream current knowing that nothing was going to happen until the tide change. As the water flooded the sod bank and filled the grass so did my mind with what I have been avoiding. Like the basket of laundry still in the corner, I keep finding distractions and reasons not to fold, organize and put it in its place. I laughed out loud because she would have liked that analogy. And I laughed again in the moment of that thought as the rain fell harder and the wind picked up a little. This is the exact second she would have called to ask me some obscure question while I tried to keep the phone dry and fly line untangled in the wind.

But she didn’t call. So I kept casting. Mom passed away unexpectedly nearly two months ago. I still hadn’t let it out, I hadn’t let myself. I spoke at the funeral and nearly broke down reading memories written by the family. Among the tears and between bouts of strength and weakness I read the words but I didn’t let it out. Back on the pavement, submersed in the noise of the world of everyone else it’s easy to practice avoidance. There in the marsh, washed in the mud and the water of my world there was no place to hide, no reason to avoid what had to happen.

So as the tide slacked, the rain let up and the wind laid down I let it out. A little at a time, building in intensity and volume until I had no control of it and could only let it flow out of me. In the view of the heron and the hawk I let it out. I wondered if my sounds would disturb them and cause them to move. It didn’t. And so I kept casting.

There was a day that mom spent with my daughter and I on the boat. We had beached it on a sand bar and walked back into the marsh to a small creek I knew would be holding a fish or two. I made several casts with mom and Abby looking on and mom asked me what my favorite part of fly fishing was. I answered, “The next cast.”

She, of course, was full of questions about what I meant. I tried to explain to her that with each cast you can learn a little more about the place you’re in, the fish you’re trying to catch and in the end, somewhere between the casts, a little more about yourself. I made a few more casts and after seeing a small wake along the edge of a riffle, adjusted one mid-cast to put the fly just up-current of it. As soon as the fly drifted through the riffle it was taken by a small striper. As I held the fish in my hand to release it she said she had seen my attention shift to that spot in the water and adjust the cast and understood what I meant. Over the years the term “the next cast” came up in many conversations about adjusting to life and moving through it.

So this morning, in the spaces between casts, I cried and I let it out, more and more and then finally less and less with the next.

Mother’s Day is next Saturday.

Call her.

North River, MA
4 May 2017


  1. Thank you for posting this, Mike. Beautifully written and said. Again, I'm sorry for your loss and sorry that you won't be able to speak with your mother this Mother's Day. I know she'll be in your heart and you'll have a conversation, but it won't be the same. I needed this reminder and will call my mom as I spend the day in DC with my son. Again, thank you for posting this as a reminder to all of us that our loved ones may not be with us tomorrow, and to grasp the moment to be in touch. Kristi

  2. Hearth felt and well written. Thanks for the share. Blessings to you in the great outdoors. Goat

    1. Thanks Goat! I'll track you down when I'm up there for a beer.

  3. I will do one better, I will visit her, my decision solidified after reading this post. Keep the faith.

    1. Word. I remember her calls to E5 on Saturday mornings when you were cleaning the bathroom and I was vacuuming and she thought it was hilarious you were cleaning a toilet. More hilarious had she known we were both strapped with xtra mags.