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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Wild Things

 2020.

It started out great. I had big plans based on the sum of 2019. Long days on old water, road trips to fish with friends on theirs. New stories to get out and make, others to watch and listen to. I had a shelf of empty notebooks and SD cards to fill.

Then the storm hit. For all of us. People got sick, people died, businesses closed, jobs were lost and our world changed hour by hour. Metaphorical drawbridges were raised in the name of practicality and trepidation. Nearly a year later it continues. Even as Covid-19 vaccines begin to make their way to the masses, the idea that we will ever "return to normal" seems inconceivable. Too much has changed.

I've been fortunate. I've worked everyday through the pandemic and remained healthy. It's been a struggle and concessions have been made, but the company I work for is still operating. Next week could be different. Everyday begins and ends with the question of what will tomorrow bring.

I've been lucky. I don't take it for granted. As it was for so many, the economic impact of the pandemic knocked on the door of our home. The company that Jill worked for furloughed most of its employees shortly after the initial lockdown and then soon after closed its doors and was gone. Like most we sat in the kitchen many nights wondering if this might be all that there is. The new normal. The line between hanging on and letting go that was once far out of sight suddenly could be seen outside the window.

But the human spirit is extraordinarily resilient. Outside that same kitchen window is our shed. The base for  Jill Mason Art. Up until now, Jill's business was a part-time labor of love built on the dream of some day making it a full time endeavor. With a dismal forecast for returning to her previous career, she wasted no time in getting out there and changing the dream into a reality. Rather than waiting for something to happen, she's worked ten to twelve hour days everyday making it happen.

Parallel to Jill's story, her friend and former co-worker, Bonnie Frost, chose not to wait for the next career opportunity and started her own business, Frost and Found. In partnership with her landscaper husband, Chad, Bonnie took her passion for design and applied it to plantings, flowers and antiques to offer custom container plantings, sustainable arrangements and unique gifts for the home, patio and office.

The two of them recently collaborated to host an event, "The Jingle Barn," showcasing their work as well as South Shore Candles for holiday shoppers. 

They worked on the planning of this for weeks and filled the barn at Bonnie and Chad's farmhouse with wreaths, floral arrangements, framed nautical images, Christmas ornaments and unique decorations. Despite hurricane-like conditions on the first day and cold temperatures on the second, the turnout was incredible, Not only was their work well received, but so to was the idea behind each of their businesses. 



At the end of the first day, as I poured a glass of wine for everyone, I said to the two of them, "I'm proud of you. It takes b*lls to do what you have done." Pardon my word usage, I write in my own voice and if you know me, well, that's how I speak. My point is, in a chaotic world and a down economy, starting a business is a questionable decision at best. And trust me, a lot of people have questioned their judgement. But they did it. And they're rocking it. Not to make a fortune, but to make a life.

As I've watched Jill and Bonnie leave their previous careers behind and build something new out of drive and determination, I think of those empty notebooks on my shelf. Selfishly I've thought all this time I was missing out on the stories I thought I'd fill them with because of the limitations thrown at us by Covid-19. As I sat down to write this I took a look around at "my people" I thought I'd find stories with and realize that they've been right at it working on and re-writing their own stories through the uncertainty of these times.

A few years back, in the film, "A Deliberate Life," our friend Matt Smythe made a comment about the chase of choice, chance and change. He said, "It's not going to be easy, but you can't go wrong."

He's right. And following his own words, in the midst of big life changes, Matt's gone back to his roots and rediscovered his voice and his focus. He's writing again. The good stuff. And continuing to inspire a lot of us.

My good friend, Rich Strolis, now semi-retired, is going at it full time on the vise at Catching Shadows cranking out flies while he waits for things to get to a point where he can guide full time. His plans got slapped around by the pandemic but he's adjusted and grinds it every day.

Nick Santolucito spent almost a year planning his new venture, M&D Outfitters, only to have Covid-19 hit just before he launched the new shop. Like Rich, he adjusted and made it work. Every day. 

My niece's husband, Max Ritchie, worked through the pandemic on his side project, Carlisle Island Oysters, and brought his first harvest to market just before Christmas.

The human spirit can be extraordinarily resilient.

I look at these people and what I've written and I think of my favorite poem, "Self-Pity,' by D.H. Lawrence:

I never saw a wild thing

sorry for itself.

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

without ever having felt sorry for itself. 

With the year about to end, I'm thankful for all of you who have read the periodic posts here and all who continue to support whatever this place is. I appreciate it. And I wish us all the best in 2021.

And to the wild things,

You make my heart sing.


South River, MA

26 December 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Road Soda

 

I say I don’t go inland. But sometimes I do. I still had twenty minutes to go. My usual stop for gas and facilities in New Hampshire on the way to Maine had been shortened by the closing of the facilities due to Covid-19 guidelines. I soldiered on confident I could make it without stopping.

No dice.

Covid.

Fucking Covid.

The turn off Route 26 to the Poland Spring Campground gave just enough room to get the truck off the road and enough darkness to hide me from anyone passing by. I got out of the truck and picked a tree. I sighed a breath of relief as disaster caused by the extra-large coffee, I had bought leaving Boston was averted.

Standing in the pines I sensed the Maine in my DNA and remarked quietly to myself that I most likely still remember every “emergency pull-off” in Oxford, Androscoggin and Cumberland counties. In the cab of the truck Boz Scaggs was just breaking into “Lido Shuffle.” I finished my business as Boz declared “One for the road…” and thought about that for a second. I’ll be honest, I thought twice about it. Both times it seemed like a good idea so I grabbed an ice cold can out of the cooler in the back of the truck.

Before I get flamed by the comment police, let me state that I do not condone, endorse or encourage drinking while driving. It’s poor judgement and I made a poor choice. But I’m human. And I rationalized with the Universe that my judgement may have atrophied a bit after enduring the cloud of leaf smoke (you know what I mean) generously provided by my fellow rush hour drivers on 93 through Boston and up Route 1.

Choice made, I took a spin around the truck to make sure there were no lights out and got back in as Boz was finishing his set. I replaced him with the boys from Van Halen, turned them up to 28 and got back on the road. I took the first sip of the beer and toasted Eddie and his guitar. Then I toasted the lore of the road soda and settled back in my seat and memories from long ago as I drove into my past.

I was making this trip to help my dad put nine cords of firewood in the basement for the winter. Despite what I might have said and felt about it back then, splitting and stacking firewood on the farm is one of my fond memories of growing up. Mixed in with those memories are times riding in dad’s truck after a day on a jobsite, hauling hay, moving cattle or those trips along the back roads in the woods when I “needed a talking to” or the sacred “attitude adjustment.” Good day or bad day, these were times that I treasured because it was just me and my dad. And there might have been a road soda involved.

“Running with The Devil” flooded the cab as I took another sip. That was one of my “Fight Songs” way back when and my mind returned to one of those back-road drives in the woods. I don’t recall what cataclysmic event triggered the ride into the woods, most likely it had to due with my general lack of ambition when it came to school, work or anything I felt I was being forced to do. I do remember the outcome because it was one of those life changing moments. The lecture, like most, was short. I don’t remember the beginning or the middle, but I remember the finale because dad had tears in his eyes and I rarely saw him cry.

“You’ll never be smarter than everyone else. Your only chance is to work harder and longer than everyone and make up the difference by being stronger.”

And then silence. That was it. My first reaction was to be pissed at him. Then I was pissed at myself because I knew I had let him down. But it didn’t take long, after staring into the passenger side mirror the rest of the way home, for me to understand what he was trying to tell me. It sounded negative when I first heard it, but it was the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Because I was his son, and he knew me. It changed me. Not completely and not all at once but things changed. I took those words to heart and they became my foundation. They propelled me through the rest of high school, through college and along my twisted career path.

I took another sip and toasted the old man.

I turned off Route 26 towards Oxford Village and wandered down memory lane again. A few years after that pivotal ride in the woods we were riding in dad’s truck again, this time after pouring concrete all day at a foundation job at Robinson’s Mill. I just happened to be driving past the mill at that moment and stopped for a few minutes to reflect. Dad had given me a lot of responsibility on that job and I had worked my ass off to bring it in right and under schedule. While I finished floating the top of the foundation, he had gone next door to Steve & Deb’s General Store and had come back holding a paper bag. When I got in the truck, he handed me a beer and said, “You earned this.” We headed for home and he commended me on the job I had done laying the job out, setting panels and coordinating all the work with the excavator. And then he gave me a $2.00 per hour raise.

I drank that beer and stared at myself in the passenger side mirror again. And then I thanked him, not so much for the raise but for those words years earlier.

I cranked the boys singing “Humans Being” back up to 28 and drove the few remaining miles of my journey to my sister’s house. I sat in the driveway and replayed it while I finished (for those keeping score) the last half of my beer, grateful for the lore of the road soda and all that goes with it.

Yeah, this isn’t about fishing or being on the water. It isn’t about drinking and driving, loud music or the relationship between me and my dad. It’s about us. It’s about humans being. It’s about working hard and being strong to live a little better. For each other.

And Covid.

Fucking Covid.  

I’ll have another Corona, please.

 


Thompson Lake, ME

30 October 2020

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Traditional Gray

 


The day began in the gray magic between dark and light.  Mornings like this had been the norm for both of us all season but today was different. Everything was different. The light beginning to creep into the sky no longer had the “full speed ahead” energy of summer. Instead it seemed to linger as it spread across the water, softened by the filter of autumn. The air had changed as well, not a lot, but enough to notice.

Seasons were changing.

We met at the boat ramp with the usual handshake and bearhug. Little was said as gear was loaded and the boat was splashed. The breeze met us as we headed out the inlet carrying a bouquet of salt, oil fumes and baitfish. Weighing the time against the tide, we agreed to run in search of bass and blues before heading to “The Spot”. We found a few bass, but no blues. The tide slacked and everything went quiet. Before moving on we changed rods and flies. As he finished, I pulled out bacon and egg sandwiches I had made at 0300 and poured Folgers out of the beat-up Stanley I have had since college. Talk turned to the reason we had planned this day for weeks: albies. His clients the day before had been on them. Hard. We hoped for a repeat performance.

We motored slowly to “The Spot,” watching the horizon for birds and any abrupt splashes in our peripheral vision. They were there. As were three other boats executing the “run and gun” attack plan on them. We joked about the proverbial old bull and young bull and set up on the outside of the circus. I took the bow and began casting, watching the water in front of us for sign. The albies blew up around us and we both got several shots into what we thought was the zone. This happened several times as we moved, reset, and waited. Between the two of us, at least one fish should have made it to the boat. I paused to watch the bait as he continued to cast, curse and retrieve.

Decision time.

I stripped in my sinking line, grabbed my other rod with an intermediate line and opened my fly box. I tied on an off-sized, off-colored fly and began casting. My choice received a chuckle from the stern. I ignored it. A few casts later, as my drag was singing, I heard, “You got any more of those?”

It was a draw for the morning; four albies each. Not a bad day. The action had disappeared and rather than follow the fleet we discussed going back for bass. He pawed through my fly box as he finished the last of the coffee. Holding up a zonker strip Deceiver he had shown me how to tie years ago, he said, “Tie this on, the twelve weight, I know where we’re going.”

I sat in the bow and went to work as he pointed the boat northeast. I finished rigging the rod and returned it to the rod holder. As I took my place beside him, for the first time in all the years of our friendship, I noticed he looked old. His face darkly tanned from another season in the sun and weathered from years on the water. Hair and mustache, once brown, I think, now a multi shade of gray. The kind of gray you only see on the coast in the pilings and wood shingled structures that have withstood the wind and weather and all that the sea can throw at them. Shoulders, still powerful and square despite carrying not only his own freight, but that of others. Eyes, still bright and all-seeing but tired around the edges. Twenty years my senior, I hoped to be half of his sum at his age.

We ran for nearly an hour and then he dropped down to trolling speed. He told me to take the wheel as he stepped up to the bow. “I was here two days ago and found something.” After scanning the water around us he turned to me with that wild and crazy look that only he possessed and said one word.

“Tuna!”

He handed me the twelve weight as we switched places. It took a while, but he found them. It took just as long for me, despite his patient coaching, to get over myself and drop the fly in front of the outside edge of the school. For almost thirty minutes I fought twenty pounds of muscle. I felt like I had just run a marathon and fought ten rounds, all at ten thousand feet. My hands were cramped to the point I could barely hold the fish as he handed it to me. He torpedoed it back into the water and turned to me with that rabid look in his eyes.

“Let’s go get another one!”

“Okay, you cast, I’ll drive.”

“You sure?”

 “Oh, yeah. I’m spent.”

He retied the leader as I motored along looking for the tuna. We caught up to them as bluefin from twenty pounds to a hundred crashed bait on the surface. I tried to get him in for a close shot but kept missing it, apologizing each time as he got ready to cast and then stopped.

“It’s ok, these bastards are smarter than we are, just drive like we do for blues or albies…same thing.”

Eventually I got him on, he hooked up and I tailed the fish for him. A little bigger than mine and proportionately more pissed off. True to his way, he spent the next fifteen minutes explaining his process for approaching bluefin and running me through it at the helm.

And then he pulled two warm cans of Miller Genuine from the cooler and we toasted the ocean, life, and each other. Smiling at me he said, “Buddy,” in that slow, low tone way only he could, “what a fuckin’ day! Let’s get out of here.”

The ride back to the ramp was long. I stood beside my mentor and replayed the events of the day in mind as I fought to stay awake despite the rough ride. I kicked myself for not bringing a camera or thinking to get pictures on his phone. This had been a day for the books, as they say. I wanted some record of it.

We hauled the boat and agreed to meet up for dinner. We sat at the bar at Land Ho’ and ate, laughed and lamented it would be next season before we would see each other again. I brought up the fact we had not taken any pictures during the day, especially of the tuna. He laughed and said something about bringing a camera next time.

“You know, the coolest part of the whole day was that all the fish we caught today were on flies you tied.”

“Yeah, but most of them you showed me how to tie.”

He finished his whiskey, looked me square in the eye and said, “That’s the best part. Family tradition.”

The day ended as it had begun. A handshake and a bearhug in the gray magic between dark and light. At a stoplight I caught my reflection in the rearview as the lights from a passing car lit up the inside of the truck. My face was darkly tanned from another season in the sun and a little more weathered from another year on the water. For the first time, I noticed a gray highlight starting to take root in my temples and in my beard.

 

From the abyss, September 2012

12 August 2020

Friday, May 8, 2020

oscillation


I only see him when I’m on the water. Sometimes standing motionless at the water’s edge or walking deep into the mist that covers the marsh. Sometimes he is just an outline shrouded in the blazing sun, other times a blurry halftone image in the water just out of reach in front of me. I have no idea where he came from, but I have an innate feeling I have been there. I’ve watched him in the distance for a long time now. But as seasons pass, he draws closer and I sense a growing familiarity. Long periods of stillness. An indistinguishable face but with eyes clearly defined. A blank gaze visibly focused on the distance. Periodic moments of slow, efficient movements. A slight limp to the left. He often speaks in quiet conversation but to who I can not say. The sound of his voice becomes more recognizable as these encounters continue, but I have yet to understand his words. He stares at me with a look that is both confident and lost as if awaiting my response. I hurl questions across the silence between us uncertain if they are spoken or just thought.  Unable to answer one another we stand in the struggle somewhere between faithful and fateful listening for some far-off bell yet to be rung. I turn away for a moment thinking I hear the echo. When I turn back he is gone. Until the next time.   







From the water.

8 May 2020

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

somethng from nothing


Around this time of year, we see and hear words like happiness and joy tossed around and although I recognize the sentiment in which they’re used, I wonder if we understand the difference anymore. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a co-worker a while back while looking at a photo of a fish that I had caught the previous weekend.


 


A comment was made, more in the form of a question than an assertion, that I “must find happiness in fly fishing.” I began to respond in the affirmative and then paused, revising my response to say that I “receive joy” from the process of fly fishing but that the end result, catch or no catch, really has nothing to do with it. My co-worker seemed perplexed and asked why I would spend so much time doing something if I was not concerned with some form of a” prize” at the end. I dug way back in the memory bank to the psychology and philosophy classes I took in college and the study sessions we had over cheap beer. I explained happiness is corporeal, based on an attachment to an expected reward of doing or receiving something. It usually accompanies a successful completion of whatever is being done.  Joy is ethereal, connected more to the spiritual side or reason for doing something. The joy of doing something, if we’re lucky, is always present regardless of the outcome.



I know, a little deep. And while it is New Year’s Eve, no, I have not opened the tequila. Not yet.      



I went on to explain the events, the process if you will, behind the fish in the photograph. I had spent an hour fishing one section of water along an edge of an oyster bar that dropped off into a deeper channel. There were fish moving up on to the bar from the channel but were being selective. I had a few follows but none would commit and take the fly. I had considered changing the fly but the one I was using is my go-to pattern and I knew eventually it would get taken. I explained it’s like the twenty-dollar Casio that’s been on my wrist for almost as long as I can remember. It’s beat to hell, isn’t fancy and just keeps working. Even when the battery runs out, it’s still correct twice a day.




I kept casting at those fish, watching them follow the fly, relying on the strong sense of confidence that years of the ebb and flow of trial and error impart. It is still life’s greatest teacher, earned and then learned. Eventually one fish followed the fly and turned off it and paused. I water-hauled the fly and put it back out in front of him off to his left. I knew he was going to take it before he did. Two strips into the retrieve he turned on it and ate it. I felt “happy” as the line went tight, but it lasted only for as long as it took it to release him. I have no immediate recollection of that “happiness” today. The joy from the process of working those fish, staying with that one fly, watching the take and then seeing him swim away afterward…I feel that as I write this today as I do the blood in my veins.



So, in the final hours of 2019, I bid all a Happy New Year and hope that in that happiness, whether you fish or not, we all find joy in 2020.



See you on the other side.



South River, MA

31 December 2019

Friday, November 8, 2019

four days from my island


Today began without last night ever ending. Wide awake for most of it, I greeted the orange rumbling of dawn with a second cup of coffee on the front porch. The kitchen thermometer read thirty-seven, a clear sign the season is over but something inside me said, "Wait, not yet." Weighing the idea of beginning the fall clean up against floating the river one last time I walked through the leaves in the backyard and pulled the kayak off the rack. Ten minutes later I was paddling downriver as the sun finally made its way into the sky to my right. The river, empty, quiet and smooth as glass, reflected my thoughts back at me as I went from spot to spot searching for one fish to end the season on. Three hours of wet wading the mud and grass at the lower end of my tolerance of hypothermia. With no sign of any straggling striped bass, I turned and made my way for home making one final stop to throw a Hail Mary at my personal Last Ditch Gulch. There was no gold to be found but after two or three dozen "last cast's" the line went tight and I touched silver stripes one more time.


Cold and wet but feeling alive and happy, I sat on the sand wrapped around my coffee bottle as the sun finally created some warmth. I watched the light on the water and thought about the season, the people who drifted through it and the world on the dry side of the water's edge I sometimes don't see so clearly.  In the here-today-gone-tomorrow, who-am-I-today, swipe left or right instant world, it's easy to overlook the heart of a moment and the soul of those in it. The truth in a personal or shared experience gets edited, filtered and defined by awareness, engagement, conversion and consumer metrics while we get lost in the "climb" with the herd. I find myself retreating from all that more and more, surrounding myself with fewer personae, less "stuff" and replacing screen time with listening to "Peace of Mind" by Boston over and over.  Comfortable with where I am, I just don't care if I get left behind.  I was recently at a cocktail party where an old acquaintance brought this up. After giving me his review of my personal and business social media pages and activity, he favored me with several suggestions to increase my "market presence" based on what other people in the fly tying / fly fishing world do. Turning away to visit the bar, I responded by paraphrasing Thoreau and asserting that fools stand on their own island of opportunity and look toward another land losing sight of their own existence.

I sifted these thoughts as I got back in the boat and paddled upriver, carrying my island with me.



In May I spent a morning in the very spots I fished today with my friend and favorite writer, Matt Smythe. Our friendship is one of those where few words are necessary to share a complex conversation and when it comes to fishing, it's about the act of it, and the place that it occurs. Catch or no catch, it's the passion for the next stretch of water, anticipation of the next cast and the suspense of the retrieve we placidly share. It was a privilege to share that time with him as he got in on some early season striped bass action, the serenity of the day outdone only by his statement to me of, "I see why you're where you're at."

Matt Smythe

Somewhere along the way Jill and I were fishing a piece of grass bank when she walked off on her own and set up on a piece of water I had pointed out earlier in the spring while explaining when and how to fish it. In short order she hooked up and released a striper on her own without saying a word. There has been much written about fishing with your significant other. It may not be for everyone but it works for us. Jill and I both cringe when we introduce the other as "girlfriend" or "boyfriend," at our age it just doesn't sound right so we try to be hip and over-fifty cool by employing the term "life partner" when we can. We've looked at our relationship as a partnership from the beginning so it makes sense. It carries whether we're on the water, chasing an image or building a project on our "island." 

Jill Mason

In August Jill, Abby and I traveled to Vermont for the annual Fly Fishing Festival at the American Museum of Fly Fishing. I had the privilege of tying flies in the Tier's Tent with Scott Biron, Greg Brown, Mark Dysinger, Rhey Plumley, Nick Santolucito and Rich Strolis. These guys donated their time to help introduce people to fly tying, share some fishing stories and pass on a few tips. Behind the table, from years of friendship and respect for each other's work, we shared ideas and opinions with no lane changes, branding, influencing or pirating maneuvers. It was reaffirming to spend the day with friends, old and new, there for a shared love of the sport and respect of its history that is contained within the walls of the museum and understanding that what we do now is built on what was done by those before us.

Left to right: Nick Santolucito, Mud Dog, Rich Strolis, Mark Dysinger
Photo: American Museum of Fly Fishing / Alex Ford


The day got away from me. Lost in thought I had paddled farther upriver and out and back more side creeks than I had planned. I turned around and chased the setting sun and this last day of the season  along the edges of my island.



South River, MA
2 November 2019


Thursday, August 15, 2019

avis prede


Behind me I could hear and smell Sunday morning getting started in the summer rentals along the beach. Voices of families planning the day echoed over the smell of bacon and toast as the morning dog walkers, joggers and paddleboarders made their way into the heat and humidity before it got too uncomfortable. Over the beach an ultralight under a red canopy buzzed back and forth.

Across the river in front of me a few schoolies were ambushing bait where the river proper poured itself into a shallow-bottomed creek. They were well out of casting range but I had timed it this way hoping that when the tide turned in a half hour the change in the direction of the river and the push of water out of that creek would deposit the action directly in front of me.

I started blind casting while I waited out the tide, weighing the pros and cons of adding another payment “app” to my fly business. I had spent the previous morning at the bank dealing with the pleasantries of one of my accounts being breached. I remember a time when things of this nature were treated as a major event worthy of investigation and reprisal. Now it seems they are as trivial as getting an oil change or a haircut. I guess I’m showing my age, but the idea of putting my financial information out there in another area of the soulless faceless wireless world was not something that excited me. Recently, I had conversation with a good friend and customer about this. He happens to be from an “older school” than I am but he’s hipper to the “new” ways. He basically told me “you’ve got to adapt to survive.” Great. More usernames and passwords to remember.

An osprey appeared from upriver and began circling the mouth of the creek at about two hundred feet. I’ve become obsessed this summer with watching two pair of these birds and their fledglings who nest near some of my favorite spots. Also known as fish hawks, river hawks or sea hawks, they are amazing to watch and listen to. Like many other species, the osprey was seriously threatened by the effects of DDT and other pesticides in the mid 1900’s. With the ban of these pesticides and other chemicals in the early 1970’s, at least here in the US, the osprey population has rebounded significantly.  The osprey is one species that has adapted to survive, commonly nesting, brooding and raising fledglings on the edges of and within waterfront communities, marinas and urban sprawl. Another reminder that the world continues to get to smaller as society grows larger. I wonder how much more the planet can adapt to survive humankind.

I watched the osprey circle above as I listened to the drone of the ultralight behind us and wondered what the bird thought of it. Has it accepted and adapted to our intrusion into its airspace or does it think “…like, WTF?”  Ironically a party barge happened to be passing by while I contemplated the osprey’s thoughts. There were five children and four adults aboard and all of them, other than the driver of the boat were staring into their devices and tapping away. I thought of the contrast between them and the adult osprey I had watched the previous weekend flying with its two young in and out of their nest and over the marsh communicating in whistles and chirps, fully immersed in the teaching of self-reliance. Yea. I’m pretty sure the osprey watches us in disbelief.  

Suddenly the osprey dropped straight down on the schoolies rolling bait across the river, flared itself to an almost complete stop just above the water before dropping its talons in the water and coming out with a small striper. The bird flew back upriver as I stood there humbled, and, honestly, breathless from what I had just experienced. The timing of the cast and the placement of the fly, particularly when sight fishing a topwater feed, is the difference between “fishing” and “catching.” At that moment it seemed a small feat to master in comparison to what the osprey had just pulled off.

I continued to cast as the tide turned but kept watch for my osprey friend eager to see a repeat performance. As I had predicted, bait began to stack along the grass edge in front of me and it wasn’t long before I had a few follows and a short hit. I opted to change to a smaller fly. The smaller fly didn’t receive any attention, so I went back to the larger pattern and bit off part of the tail and wing to shorten it. A few casts later the line went tight and as I stripped a small schoolie to hand I heard the high-pitched whistle of the osprey as it flew past me. I watched in fascination as it pulled another fish out from along the bank just downriver from me. I released my fish as the osprey flew past me close enough that even with my restricted vision, I thought we made eye contact. For a split second I saw the bird silent and motionless, caught in the balance of its vulnerability to an environment constantly altered and consumed by another species and its innate proficiency at surviving by taking only what it needs from what is available. The silence was broken by an email alert on my phone and I instantly knew the osprey will continue to adapt and survive long after we’re gone.


One fish was enough. I watched the bird disappear around a bend in the river and headed for home to learn about Venmo.


South River, MA
28 July 2019