Lost Fishing Friends

by | Jul 22, 2020 | 21 comments

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.

Photo by Bill Dell

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

 

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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.

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21 Comments

  1. Well said Dom. I enjoy your writing and look forward to every post.

    Reply
  2. How true this all is. Those memories and friendships of the past make moving forward an even more meaningful and exciting endeavor because I know what is possible. Great article.

    Reply
  3. The moment we release a fish it becomes a memory. And memory forms the basis of who we are; without it we cease to be. In effect memory is the essence of existence, and rich and meaningful memories make for a good life. Thanks, Dom, for celebrating the relationships that form our fishing memories. As I get older I appreciate these even more. Though we aren’t exactly fishing buddies, I appreciate the day we shared on the water, and the many days I’ve learned from your writings and photos here on Troutbitten. They too are part of my memory. Tight lines, friend.

    Reply
  4. Nice piece of writing. Melancholy, but speaks of existentialism to the being.

    Reply
  5. A well written piece that fully encapsulates the bond of fishing friends. I have fished many times by myself but the memories of fishing with my friends always brings me joy and a smile. Thank you…

    Reply
  6. I lost my friend last year. We were supposed to fish Montana last October but two weeks before the trip with my bags already packed he called to sat he had Cancer he passed within 6 months.
    I’ve been wanting to fish there for over 25 years. When I got the news All I could think about was the agony my friend had to endure

    Reply
  7. Great article, the older I get the more ghosts I fish with. Sometimes there are a few tears but many more smiles.

    Reply
  8. Great article. I moved to PA and lost contact with my AR fishing buddies. I eventually found more and they eventually moved. Such is life, always changing. Rarely do I go out and not see a memory following me, and it inevitably brings a smile to my face.

    Fish hard!

    Reply
  9. What a beautiful piece of writing.
    I have tried to write of such times myself. But this article captured the essence in a way I have not been able to do. Magic

    Reply
  10. Excellent! Any fly fisherman in the world can relate.

    Reply
    • Beautiful.
      At the end of my life I find your
      words stirring memories that have not been visited in a long time.Too long. Thank you!!.
      It triggered a need to dust off my rods and return to my paradise creek in PA soon.
      Thank you again.

      Reply
  11. From the heart. A reminder to cherish the times we have now because inevitably things will change. Make the best memories while you can.

    Reply
    • Troutbitten has kept me in good company during the pandemic. Your writing is superb.

      I will miss a fall trip with my brothers to upstate New York this fall. Need to self isolate due to family health concerns.

      Memories are all I’ve got for a while- which I treasure

      Can’t wait to get back to the peace that comes from trout fishing. Make some new friends and memories.

      Thanks Dom.

      Reply
  12. It has been nearly 30 years since my best friend and fish partner passed away, my fatherinlaw was my best friend and we hunted the hell out of deer and fished some amazing lakes and streams here in Michigan! I now fish alone, but my friend is with me in my heart.
    Mike.

    Reply
  13. Troutbitten has kept me in good company during the pandemic. Your writing is superb.

    I will miss a fall trip with my brothers to upstate New York this fall. Need to self isolate due to family health concerns.

    Memories are all I’ve got for a while- which I treasure

    Can’t wait to get back to the peace that comes from trout fishing. Make some new friends and memories.

    Thanks Dom.

    Reply
    • The story rings so true. Started Flyfishing with a work friend who asked if I was interested in going to a Flyfishing school. What started as a lark of sorts became a lifelong passion. We fly fished and surfed together for over 25 years and had a falling out of sorts. Well we never did mend the riff and he moved to Boston. Regrets I have, what I don’t have now is a friend to Flyfish with that I feel as comfortable with as I did with my friend. His wife used to called me his other wife. I was up in Mammoth the past week and had a grand time. I even hired our first guide. It was as close as I could get to fishing like the old days. Yeah never take your fishing partner for granted. He or she is one of the gifts of Flyfishing.

      Reply
      • Richard,

        Poignant post.

        I too lost a longtime fly fishing friend because of “ambiguous friction” that seeped into our relationship over time.

        Best of friends for decades to simmering animosity now.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

        Crowley Lake.

        Reply
    • Take care my friend i wish you and your family good health ,
      like you time spent on the river is priceless ,

      Tight lines .

      Reply
  14. “Active tombstone” ! Perfect description.

    Reply

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