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.
T R O U T B I T T E N
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.
Wonderful story, Dom. Ashes to water; that’s how I want to go too.
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.
That’s what it’s all about. Meant to be, sometimes, Todd. Cheers.
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. 🙂
I like it.
He will join all of them, wild brownies…
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.
Absolutely love this.
Dom – Another wonderfully scripted story full of emotion. No dry eyes after reading it. Thank you for sharing.
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.
Beautifully written tribute Dom!
What a wonderful story Dom! Thanks for sharing!
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.
A great, story. Thank you
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.
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.