A Funny Thing Happened to Me on a River

Once or twice a year, I go out of town for a solo fly fishing weekend. I did so this weekend and met someone to whom my heart goes out. I’ll explain.

When I take a fishing trip, I live a monastic life, getting up early, packing a lunch to eat while on the water, and returning as late as I can. I fish about eight to ten hours a day, with no break. I’m standing the whole time, and during this time of year, in cold water.

Once I’m too tired, I pull away from the river. Then, after a big dinner out, I tie flies until my eyes can’t stay open. I drag myself to the shower.

Repeat the next day.

This past weekend, I went to the Farmington River in Connecticut. The river was high and cold. I think spring is about three to four weeks behind this year, after all the snow and ensuing snow melt.

I stayed at a B&B right on the water. Sal, the owner, is a great guy and he fly fishes, too. I found the place on AirBNB and am glad I did so.  A beautiful room.

I caught about five to eight fish a day. I had to work hard for them, for the fish weren’t that active in the cold. The water was 41 degrees, and there were snow flurries. It felt like December out there, but it was fun.

I caught a variety of trout. The most memorable is a 20″ and very fat rainbow (video up top, or click here). A fine catch, a true catch.

Anglers can sometimes be pretty chatty. I ran into an elderly man, who had a walking stick and a slow gait. After the usual pleasantries, he mentioned that it was a big day for him. “I’ve been sick for a few years,” he said. “And, this is my first day back on the water.”

He shared with me that he had a kidney transplant after being on dialysis. When I mentioned that my mother experienced both, too, his eyes got bright, and he said: “The doctors work on the physical part, but my biggest obstacle was mental. Not losing hope during the dialysis treatments that sap your energy.”

It wouldn’t be manly, but I wanted to hug him right then and there, and tell him that he has overcome a big challenge and that he has many years ahead.

Instead, I offered to yield my part of the river to him. “Go ahead,” I said, “take it, since I’ve caught plenty of fish.”

He politely declined and followed the fly fishing etiquette: “Nah, you were here first.”

With that, he walked up-river. I watched him cast a few times, and after just 10 minutes, he walked back to the bank and walked away.

I wonder if he was tired and just wanted to say hello to the trout.

I’ve often thought that, one day, decades from now, I too will return to a river when I am grey and walk slowly. I too will carry a walking stick. I too will visit a river that I know so well and am grateful that I can visit it yet again. I too will be at the sunset years of my life, hoping that there’s fly fishing in heaven.

In the midst of cold, wind, and trout, I met an incredible person.

4 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened to Me on a River

  1. Very nice anecdote. Well-written, as usual. And especially touching. Hemingwayesque…

    I see a book in your future, at some point; “What I learned on the Farmington.”

    I’d buy a copy!

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