The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

by | Mar 30, 2018 | 21 comments

Rich had cancer, and it was spreading fast. We both knew this was our last trip together and that a dear friendship was coming to a close.

We fished a long morning, and eventually, I worked upstream toward my friend. From thirty yards, I could see the exhaustion in his face. Rich stood where a long riffle dumped into his favorite glassy pool. He breathed a long breath and gazed at the cloudy sky. Reeling in his line and breaking down his rod, he looked at me, and we smiled. We each knew we were at the end of something.

I was fishing a large parachute ant, moving quickly and covering a lot of water, as was my habit on Clover Run in those days. And in the right months it was a tactic that brought at least one chance to catch and release a really good fish. But on that morning I hadn’t caught much of anything, so I threw a couple careless, hopeless casts into the glide ahead of me as I waded the last thirty yards toward my friend.

“Put a few casts to that bank,” Rich said, and he gestured toward a shallow piece of side water next to the riffle where he was standing.

With not much cover on the bank for a trout, and with the sun poking through the clouds at midday, I didn’t have any hope. But I obliged and diverted my course a few feet. I stripped out some fly line and cast to the bank while Rich stood and watched my line draw narrow, artistic loops through the air.

Two casts. That was all. Something with a big mouth swirled and engulfed my fly, and I set the hook hard. Rich howled in approval!

In the shallow water, with no glare against the surface, I could clearly see the long trout before he ran into deeper water — and I knew something was different. The fish fought weakly against the pressure of my rod tip, and I was surprised how easily I brought the trout upstream and into Rich’s waiting net.

It was a twenty-two inch wild brown trout. But it was long and slender, with a head as wide as its body. It looked tired.

Rich and I made eye contact and kept smiling. The symbolism was enough, and words were never spoken. Not only was it a top-tier fish on the last cast — and in the last water that Rich and I would ever fish together — but he’d shown me where to find it. Even more startling was the parallel of Rich with the trout itself. The fish was clearly in its last days. It was either sick or dying from old age, and it was weak.

We shook hands, embraced and kept smiling as we waded to the bank and walked the narrow path back home.

— — — — — —

A few months later I found myself in my waders on the same river, but with no fly rod in hand or vest on my back. With Rich’s best friend at my side (my father-in-law) in his own waders, we slipped quietly through the clear water to the top of what we now call Rich’s Pool. And in the same spot where Rich netted that last fish for me . . . we scattered his ashes in the current.

Rich sent a letter to me before he died. At the end he wrote, “Dom, I’ll meet you upstream.”

I look forward to that.

The fisherman is eternally hopeful.” — Rich Alsippi

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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

Aiden’s First Brown Trout

Aiden’s First Brown Trout

Hundreds of times Aiden has snagged the bottom, pulled the rod back, and either asked me if that was a fish or has told me flatly, “I think that was a fish.”  This time, he finally experienced the certainty that a couple of good head shakes from a trout will give you . . .

Waves and Water

Waves and Water

. . . But when all of that dries up, when the travel seems too long, when dawn comes too early and when chasing a bunch of foot-long trout seems like something you’ve already done, then what’s left — always — is the river . . .

The Foundation

The Foundation

There is tranquility and stillness here — a place to do nothing but think. And that alone is valuable. Because there aren’t many places like this left in the world . . .

Dog Days

Dog Days

Fishing the summer months is a protracted game of hide and seek, where more often, the angler loses. Every condition favors the trout.

It’s August, and we need rain again. The rivers have taken on a familiar, thirsty look — deep in the heart of summer. Water trickles through the pockets. It sinks into dry rocks like a sponge. We see the skeleton of an ecosystem. And the distilled, clear flow is low enough to reveal the watershed’s deepest secrets. Wading these wet trails requires composure and patience . . .

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 do you think?

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

21 Comments

  1. This article wasn’t long, but it was so incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing this. May we all, one day, see our departed friends upstream.

    Reply
  2. Wonderful story, Dom. Ashes to water; that’s how I want to go too.

    Reply
  3. I never comment on articles but this time I had to. Years ago this was the weekend my brother and I would always go out to western Maryland to go fishing with my grandfather. I was thinking about all those times over my morning coffee. Before getting started with all the chores for the day I decided to check your blog. Your story profoundly affected me on this day of all days. Thank you.

    Reply
    • That’s what it’s all about. Meant to be, sometimes, Todd. Cheers.

      Reply
  4. This article touched me deeply, as my fishing buddy and I are in our 70’s and have been fishing together for over 60 years. We have this one spot that we both love and when our time is up we wish to have our ashes spread there. Due to age and infirmities we don’t get there as often as we use to, but we both know that at the end of our days we will be fishing it together once again. 🙂

    Reply
  5. He will join all of them, wild brownies…

    Reply
    • I am new to the site. My son and I are fishing with Dom in May. Many years ago I had a friend that taught me a lot about salt water fishing. We fish for Shark and Tuna off the Jersey coast. Unfortunately his wife shot him with his rifle and killed him.
      After the cremation we gathered at the marina and scattered his ashes in Raritan Bay. Eight boats in a circle paying respects to Joe. He was a great friend. I think fishing buddies are special. I hope we all know someone special that we have fished with and remember them kindly and will see them on the other side. God bless them all.

      Reply
  6. Absolutely love this.

    Reply
  7. Dom – Another wonderfully scripted story full of emotion. No dry eyes after reading it. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Dom,

    I lost a friend and coworker to cancer recently. He wasn’t a fly fisherman, but we often talked at lunch about him picking up the sport when we retired. Due to many reasons, we never found time to do that.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  9. Beautifully written tribute Dom!

    Reply
  10. Tears

    Reply
  11. What a wonderful story Dom! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  12. Beautiful and touching writing Dom- I haven’t lost a fishing partner yet, but every year I pretend not to notice my aging father’s fight to fish hard despite his body’s opposition to the matter.. One day we’ll all be working our way back downstream.

    Reply
  13. A great, story. Thank you

    Reply
  14. I lost my friend to cancer. We were supposed to go to Montana to fish a dream of mine the last 24 years. He had been a few times previously. I was all packed two weeks before the trip when he called me and said Bobby I can’t go.
    I was crushed not because of Montana but because my friend was very sick. Six months later he passed away. I still think of him often especially when I’m fishing by myself. Montana will always be there but I doubt I’ll make that trip.

    Reply
  15. Thank you for that one Dom, I’ve been meaning to call my fishing buddy because we haven’t been out once together this year. I’m calling him as soon as I put this down. Life is too damn short.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

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.

Pin It on Pinterest