Waves and Water

by | Sep 14, 2020 | 9 comments

I tend to do what others don’t. It’s not for any defiance or bravado, either. And I’m not trying to prove anything. I just like going where most people don’t. And I like trying stuff that others won’t. Because when everyone is off doing one thing, I know I can have space by doing the other thing. I choose fishing locations based on this first fact. And I like the predictability of it all.

I like empty places.

Think about one of your favorite rivers — but pick one that everyone knows about. Think of a popular water that has a good reputation for being fishy. Got it in mind? Now, where will the anglers be tomorrow? Do you know the river well enough to make these predictions yet? If not, you will. After years of fishing trips, you’ll know the habits of fishermen on your river — you’ll forecast their daily and seasonal rhythms. And if you’re like me, you’ll make plans to do the opposite.

“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.”

And so it was, yesterday morning, that I was on the water at 6:30 A.M, just after dawn. Because fishing at sunup is another way to do what others don’t. (Fishermen everywhere have trouble getting up in time to see the sunrise.)

For the stream that I had in mind, I knew the out-of-towners and first-timers would be in the paved lot, because everyone starts there. I did on my first visit to this water. You probably did too. Why wouldn’t you? Some of the locals would be in that same lot, for both the easy access and the social event that hangs around the prospect of Tricos. I say prospect, because it’s been a weird year for the little bugs. Despite that, there’s a group of dedicated, daily regulars out there. And I love it. But I love solitude more.

The part of my nature that’s been questioned as anti-social by some seems right at home among the introverted misfits of fly fishing. Strangely enough, being withdrawn is normal behavior in this world. Even when we do pass each other on a river, half the time no one says hello. And that’s perfectly fine with both parties. Yes, I think most of us appreciate a good dose of loneliness on the water. Don’t you?

READ: Troutbitten | Tags | Peace

You like the empty spaces.

You crave both the gurgle and roar of a river — the calm and chaos. And no matter what part of the riffle, run, pool sequence you wade into, the water makes you lighter. It suspends you a bit, lifting your deepest thoughts to the surface to ponder for a while. The contemplation in between casts is broken up by the occasional trout — frequent on the good days and less frequent on the slower ones. And those days are just as good — just in a different way. For as much as we strive toward perfection and completion out there, we’re humble enough to submit to the low fish count as a simple run of bad luck. Hell, we’ve seen even the most talented of our angling friends come up empty plenty of times.

READ: Troutbitten | We Wade

I think this is what Robert Traver meant by “quietude and humility.” You can be gung-ho, season after season, with the fishing so fast and frequent that it’s easy to think that a full net is where the joy of fishing comes from. For a while, maybe it does.

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. What draws you back is the alluring loneliness of standing against waves and water, until there’s only your thoughts — final and pure against the whispering backdrop of a canyon wind.

Fish hard, friends.

Photo by Bill Dell


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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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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  1. Appreciate the article, thank you. More often than not, I tend to go to the section of a stream where I don’t see a single person – not that I’m antisocial. I prefer to be in solitude and witness the beauty and splendor of nature that our Creator has blessed us with. Not catching a fish is fine with me. Spending over 250 days a year fly fishing, every day in the water is like nourishment for the soul!

  2. This article hit home with me – at a time when the world is filled with chaos and so much anger.

    I recently rediscovered some water near my home. In the past I’d drive an hour to a river that was crowded but brought me handfuls of fish and some larger brown trout. However, I discovered this journey became a task, a job – not a time of peace and solitude – but something that wasn’t fun. And the crowds…

    Returning to the smaller stream by my home, I rediscovered nature – beautiful birds, frogs, snakes, and solitude. What I also discovered was the pure joy in being alone and sneaking up on a small brown trout that gobbled up my fly… In truth, I rediscovered why I fish; peace, solitude, and mental calm. I rediscovered why I fish.

  3. I’m not as good with words as you are Dom. You can frame words in ways I wish I could. But sitting on a log, in the shade of trees, watching the river and creatures that come there in silence, brings a peace to me that I can’t describe. I’ve lived a long life and it’s nearly impossible for me to get to those lonely places I love so much any more. To see a mink, or on a occasion a wild turkey, deer or any other wild animal makes my day. Coupled with catching a few wild trout and being surrounded by the sound of silence is incomparable. Your stories and articles take me back to my youth and the times I could more fully enjoy what nature offered me. Thank you for that.

  4. Beautiful….you captured it all. I find myself nowadays never taking pictures of the fish….but often of the river. I’m starting to believe only about the stream, the fish are just part of it. Thanks for your work.

    • Nice words everyone a joy to read.

  5. I’ve just started this new phase of my fishing journey. I can’t yet say that it’s just about the river, and probably never will. But after my first season of rough fishing, especially during stressful times, I’ve come to realize that the water is all I need. Thanks for putting words to it.

  6. Good article. I can really relate to it.

  7. Wow. Very moving. I’ve often wondered if my desire to be alone – and try to learn on my own – was weird. My wife thinks it is. . My friends don’t get it either.

    This inspires me to keep fishing the empty spots. If I catch something it’s a bonus. And I learn something new all the time.

  8. I too enjoy the solitude of river fishing. Yesterday I hiked long off the set pathways, following instead the game trails of deer and coyote. The small stream was my own, except for a solitary mink working its way along the bank unaware of my quiet presence until a soft whistle brought it to a standstill, head searching to locate me. As I am in Canada, I legally partook in a brief “home-grown” break that heightened my senses, intensifying the experience for me. I find it sharpens my focus. Lunch break was simply on a fallen log amidst a cedar grove. A single blue jay visited briefly before sounding the alarm to all the forest that I was intruding. After releasing many small brook and rainbow trout, I headed six hours later back to the truck….alone.


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