They all come and go. The friends we love eventually leave.
Some find jobs across the country, moving hundreds of miles away, with a promise to keep in touch or return with frequency, to rekindle old fishing memories and cast again to all the familiar haunts. But such words are spoken with a trailing glance, knowing that the best of intentions will be bested by reality and responsibility.
Some fishing friends burn out with trout fishing altogether, finding other interests that leave the fly rod unattended in the rafters of a dim, dusty garage. And with limited hours in this life, friendships lacking a common connection fall apart.
Others are married. And the temperament of their spouse dictates river time. All of my best and frequent fishing partners have wives who are unconditionally happy to see their husbands enjoy the water — or they are single.
Combine any relationship’s average responsibilities with a few kids, and the free time to fish is trimmed down to almost nothing. Because prioritizing what others consider a hobby comes with an associated guilt that most cannot overcome. So fishing, and the accompanying friendships, are lost.
Some fishing friends pass into the afterlife. And they leave their legacy within our own fishing styles. We carry their knowledge, their habits and their best ideas along the stream.
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 now becomes a place to remember shared moments of casting into shaded, cool waters, where the ghosts of laughter and fond companionship persists.
As I stand midstream, facing this wooden memorial, engulfed by water waist deep and watching rising trout near the edge, I remember waiting through a thunderstorm with my friend — just twenty feet up on that bank. I feel the melancholy memory of a spinner fall at dusk that wouldn’t quit — when all the trout, for just once, rose to meet our flies on the surface for what seemed like hours into the darkness. Who knows how long it was? Because the minutes, shared with a best friend on our favorite river, were timeless.
And now, on this perfect summer evening, with the humidity cleaned up and pushed away by a northern wind through the canyon, these memories are as starkly tangible as ever — even after twenty years. And though the fish will never rise with such eagerness again, the heart of a friendship, born through water and built upon thousands of shared waves, remains strong.
They all come and go.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N