Archive for June, 2014

Never give in…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 by stflyfisher

I’ve always admired Sir Winston Churchill. He was a great statesman and leader, a distinguished military officer, an accomplished writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and he loved a good cigar (the “churchill” cigar, designated as being 7″ in length and having a ring size of an inch of 47-50, 64th’s of an inch). Incidentally, Chruchill was credited for inventing the practice of dunking a cigar in port wine or brandy…

He loved a good cigar...

He loved a good cigar…

Sir Winston Churchill, cigar in his mouth, defiantly forming his fingers in the ‘V’ for victory sign, is a classic wartime image. Few photographs of that era show Churchill without a cigar. He was known to smoke 6 to 10 a day…

And Churchill was also famous for a speech he gave to his own boarding school, Harrow School, on October 29, 1941….

 “But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

This speech was in reference to the war effort, which had finally turned for England. In particular, The Battle of Britain had repulsed the Germans from gaining air superiority and then proceeding with operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne invasion of England. This post gives the effort England put in, short shrift. The Nazis put considerable effort into attacking seaports, then airfields, and finally civilian targets to bring England to its knees. Instead, the English held fast with the classic “stiff upper lip”. It was to be, as Churchill would say, England’s “finest hour”…

So why do I bring up such history?

A few weekends ago I arrived at a favorite stretch of the West Branch of the Delaware River. After rigging up, I watched the river and noticed caddis coming off in very inspiring numbers, to say the least. It was early morning – about 8:30 or so. I waded into the river, my nymphing rig set with a march brown nymph on point, a caddis larva nymph riding shotgun, and a sparkle caddis pupa as tail gunner. I fished this rig and experimented with weight and changed flies as the morning wore on. At one point I looked down at my upstream leg and noticed 30 – 40 charcoal caddis swarming me. Regardless of the caddis pattern I fished, the water seemed dead. As time marched on I will admit I considered giving up the ghost. I was getting discouraged, especially with all of the bug activity but no one seemingly home.

By 11 am, the caddis were just a trickle of a hatch, but a few sulphurs started coming off. I decided to change my plan around 12:30 and fish a flashy bubble-back pheasant tail nymph. For one, this was putting something different in the water. And it also was hopefully leading the hatch that I figured was on the way.

My hunch turned the tide. It wasn’t long after changing things up again that I hooked a small rainbow, then a nice brown, and then, this beautiful Delaware River rainbow…

A beautiful West Branch rainbow...

A beautiful West Branch rainbow…

My flashy tail gun fly was a size 18. It always amazes me that trout can see such a tiny thing fly by in fast water.

I continued fishing and lost two more nice fish, and then had this very odd take in some slower water. My indicator slowly slid under the water, much like a snag. I lifted my rod, felt solid resistance but the snag started moving, then through in some head-shakes, and then moved up-river with the heavy authority of a big carp. Slow and steady, this fish ran up the river, then woke up and put on some heavy and fast runs, more typical of a big brown. I had this fish on a good 5 minutes, and could see its butter brown flash as I worked it out of the current into shallower water. Still, it would make a few more runs, and then, twisting and turning, it was off…

My heart sank – all anglers know the feeling. In a way, though, I smiled.  A good strong wild brown had beaten me. I had failed to  retie – the fly had broken off at the knot. But I had persevered through the fish-less morning hours. I had endured the doubt that darkens an angler’s mind and heart when seconds turn to minutes and hours and casting begins to feel more like flogging the water.

I had not given up…

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Father’s Day: Do not go gently…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2014 by stflyfisher

My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives.

Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not in the fullness of your strength.

For kindness to a father will not be forgotten…

The Book of Sirach

Father’s Day has changed for me. My father – my rock and foundation as I became a man and then father – is different these days. Now in his 85th year, he is less steady, less sure. His strength is slowly ebbing, but this year the slide has been more dramatic. He is mentally sharp as ever and all in all, in relatively good health for an octogenarian. And I am lucky in that way, for many friends and co-workers will not have their fathers this Father’s Day. But the days of fishing are over.

Good times summer fluke fishing in 2009...

Good times summer fluke fishing in 2009…

Our last fishing trip was in September of 2012. My Dad is not an early riser, and not a fisherman, but has always encouraged me, and for a number of years, would go with me. This last time he had to be up at oh-dark-thirty – an early riser he has never been – but he did just that to spend the day with me. We had a beautiful day, jigging in 90 feet of water for blues off NJ. My Dad did not fish, but he sat, relaxed, and acted as official photographer the entire time.

Jigging up blues - always a blast...

Jigging up blues – always a blast…

After that trip I remember him telling me how sore he was – his legs, he said, were aching. In 2013 he fell and couldn’t remember falling. He had suffered a stroke and some bleeding on the brain that miraculously, resulted in no damage to the brain or to his ability to function in any way. And this year he cancelled coming up for my son’s graduation. Hearing that he may never visit my family in our home again was difficult to take.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his aging father as he faced death. The poem makes a statement on how to accept what we all must face. Old age, frailty, and death are inevitable, even for fathers. But should we resign our lives to them, or fight them on the way down? To me the poem makes it clear that it’s our obligation – indeed, our duty even – to fight and to live.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This Father’s Day, I pray for strength for all fathers, particularly those in the evening hours of their lives. It is never too late and life is too dear to go gentle into that good night.