Full Days

by | Apr 12, 2016 | 15 comments

Sunup to sundown.

There’s nothing as simple and yet so full of variation as a full day on the water. The diversity of situations challenges the will of a fisherman: Exhaustion from the forces of water —  its speed, its numbing cold, the pressure of its depth. Weariness from the weather — the endless wind, the heavy rain, and the consuming heat of the sun. We soak in all the stages and moments that one single day brings, and we are alive through each one.

Everything changes in a full day. Fish pass through windows of activity. The light shifts from blue morning into crisp, midday hues and finally passes into the soft orange-black shadows of evening. The wind, the weather, the temperature — our energy level, the strength in tired legs and the mental ability to focus — it all changes in one long day.

In springtime, these days grow longer. The land is greener; the sun climbs higher and provides more chances to master the elements and to find fish in parts of the river that have lain dormant since the winter solstice. The hatches are coming: mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, midges. All sense the light and the temperature shift. The longer daylight activates the food chain, and we will follow.


We carry no timepiece. We care not the specific hour, because it’s an unnecessary bother. We pull on waders in the predawn half-light, warming gloved hands with puffs of heated breath dancing in the air. There’s nothing but the river and the fish, no other care or concern until the evening darkness asks us to surrender, upon which hour we’ll find the dim path back to where we started, back into the modern life and into a world that so many souls mistakenly consider the real one.

Full days allow time for reflection, for a good bank-sit, time for getting to know our own thoughts or the thoughts of a friend who shares the same madness — time enough for a streamside fire.


We prepare, we plot. We replace miniature soldiers for the dismantled platoons inside fly boxes. We perpetually patch waders because we know there’s a price for inattention, for laziness, for being unprepared miles from the access point. We walk, bringing heavy packs stuffed with essentials, expecting and meeting the forceful shifts of time — one into another.

We fish the full days. Dawn to dark. Not almost dawn — real dawn. Not almost dark — real dark. Dogmatic and persistent. The first ones here and the last ones to leave — because there’s too much to miss otherwise.

Because every abiding memory starts here.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Lost Fishing Friends

Lost Fishing Friends

The lost friendship transforms a river bend — the one with the ancient and hollowed-out sycamore — into an active tombstone. The towering tree with the undercut bank becomes a place to remember shared moments of casting into cool waters, where the ghosts of laughter and fond companionship persists.

Seven Days

Seven Days

For those who fish daily, the routine resonates. We are part of the pattern, not mere observers of the design.

We have time to learn and grow, to breathe deep and sigh with satisfaction. We’ve the time to stand tall, to rise from the constant crouch and the intensity of a fisherman, to take in the surroundings, not once, but regularly. It’s the ferns, the sun and the rain, the trout in the water and the birds on the wind. It’s everything . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

The Twenty Dollar Cast

The Twenty Dollar Cast

“Okay, Dad,” Joey bellowed over the whitewater. “Here’s the twenty dollar cast . . .”

His casting loop unfolded and kicked the nymph over with precision. And when the fly tucked into the darkest side of the limestone chunk, Joey kept the rod tip up, holding all extra line off the water. It was a gorgeous drift. And the air thickened with anticipation.

We watched together in silence as Joey milked that drift until the very end. And I think we were both a little surprised when nothing interrupted the long, deep ride of over thirty feet.

“Not this time, buddy,” I told him.

Joey flicked his wrist and repeated the same cast to the dark side of the rock. And because the world is a wonderful place, a no-doubter clobbered the stonefly nymph . . .

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Wonderfully written and photographed Domenick!

  2. I found your blog for the first time today and it was perhaps the most enjoyed read I’ve found on a fishing site in a long time. Like many, I too have a deep relation with our living waters. Its is a rare talent to create such mental imagery and to express your emotions in words about a lifestyle that many of us feel but can’t describe. -Thank You

  3. After staring at moving water for a “full day” when I look up at the trees they ripple like the currents. A sure sign of fishing hard. Am I alone on this? I am getting pretty old.

    • At my age Rick, its me that ripples like the currents and sways like the trees and I creak when I bend like an auld tree.

  4. Superb – I love photos of streamside discoveries, one of my local rivers has an old abandoned mill on one stretch, and someway downstream of it, is an old car, I stop on ponder how it got there every time I pass it.
    One lakeside fishing spot has an old fish trap from the days when salmon used to run the river before it was dammed for hydro electric scheme circa 1930, further up on a track above the dam, there is an old German machine post that covered the dam in case of resistance/maquis saboteurs. Or maybe it was to protect the dam from angry salmon fishermen LOL. The great thing about being tired after a days fishing, is that you are happy tired, and that first beer is the sweetest you’ll ever taste.Excellent piece, brings to mind Steinbeck and Hemingway in some ways.

    • Thanks you.

  5. “back into the modern life and into a world that so many souls mistakenly consider the real one.”
    – Damn, I envy you on being able to bring those thoughts to paper in this manner – it’s fantastic!
    Well done, great to read.
    Cheers from Switzerland,

    • Thank you, Tom.

  6. Beautifully written, Dom.

    A day on the river is a fractal for a lifetime. I wish that my entire life were as thick with experience as most days I spend fishing.

    A perhaps trivial thought: of all your great photographs, the ones that stick with me most are those of the dilapidated spinning and spin casting reels. Perhaps they remind me of the little boy who thought that a new spin casting reel was the greatest thing on earth.


    • Right on. I love those pics too.

  7. Dom, Well done! I even read it out loud to my non-fishing wife. (appreciated the photos on the “j”).

  8. Another truly great article Dom! What differentiates it from a great article and a “truly great” article is the beautiful photography you provide!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest