It took me a few weeks to write the following story and by the time I got around to putting it in print the season has passed. So I saved it for today. Black Friday is coming.
I imagine it's the same for most anglers, heck, for most anyone with a passion for anything. But like most hard core athletes it is the pre-game visualization that is the most critical -- What flies? Which pools? How will I play the "big one"? Will there be fruitcake?
I don't like fruitcake but Black Friday means fishing on the Housatonic with Don and Jon and that means that Jon will bring along his wife's fruitcake for us all to sample. My lack of love for fruitcake finds its genesis in a) dried fruit being the antithesis of fruit and b) my parent's wedding cake.
Deep in the dark recesses of my childhood home a freezer held a brick of fruitcake indelicately wrapped in tin foil. This remnant of a 1960 wedding was brought forth every couple of years and pieces of dark, freezer-burned cake were chiseled for us all to sample. I still get chills thinking about it.
At the risk of having more fruitcake foisted upon me, I admit that Jon's bride's cake is entirely edible, bordering on enjoyable. It's more of a bread than a cake and this may be its secret. Of course, spending a morning in the middle of a river being buffeted by a nor'easter’s winds make my palette far less discerning that it might otherwise be.
Prior the last year’s fruitcake trip I was in full visualization mode. The USGS streamflow charts and weather reports are bookmarked. If the combination of streamflow, weather and fishing reports were to be believed this could be the best Black Friday trip ever.
If there’s an emotion that is more fundamental to the sport of angling than hope, I don’t know it. That deep feeling of expectation drives the next cast, the next trip, the next season. And so I hoped Tuesday’s storm would be mild.
Wednesday brought a harsh reality.
We scattered to our various Plan Bs. Jon elected for fishing the salt on Friday. Don threw in the towel. My brain was set on trout so I called a guide I know up in Massachusetts. I booked a boat for my youngest, Sam, and I on Saturday. Hope was restored.
That is until Dan’s text message late Friday evening. "Technical Difficulties" and then "Call u in five". Short Story: Dan had to work a show on Saturday. If fishing trips were fairies Tinker Bell would be dead; I no longer believed they actually existed. I went to bed in a funk; but with a inkling of an idea in my head. Perhaps I could still will her back to life.
I had received some intel on fishing upstream from a certain bridge on a certain small stream that should have been running clear by morning. It was. Sam and I packed one rod and traveled light. We took turns casting to all the likely spots. The first Brook Trout came on a caddis pupa. We fished upstream through pockets and riffles. We hooked a couple and landed half a dozen; all Brookies.
We talked continuously about nothing in particular and everything in general. We investigated industrial and domestic wreckage along the river bank. We talked about fishing and rigging flies and lone moss colored rocks. We let the deep mud of marshes suck at our wading boots. We sat on rocks and watched. We grabbed hot chocolate on the way home.
I very much missed the Black Friday trip. The camaraderie and tradition are a treasure. But the weekend could not have turned out better. I was restored in a way that only flowing water can accomplish and I shared it with someone I deeply love. And through all the disappointments and surprises of the past week I discovered that what I desperately wanted wasn't what I really needed, which, I suppose, is the miracle of this season.