Articles in the Category History

What Are You Working On?

It’s a question I ask of my friends and those whom I’ve just met. What are you working on? Because, whether we realize it or not, we’re all working on something.

“What do you do for a living?” is a common small-talk question. But I don’t ask that one much. I save it for later. What do you love? What are you passionate about? And what are you working on? Those are the more interesting queries that get to the core of each person.

So I’ve asked these questions for years. And it surprises me how often the answer is a blank stare. Some people simply don’t know what they love — yet. And that’s alright. Maybe they’re still searching for some passion in life. But inevitably, it’s those who light up with enthusiasm that I connect with. Tell me what you’re into. The topic hardly matters. I can listen for hours to someone who knows their craft from every angle, who understands what they love, why they care about it and what they plan to learn next.

Hardbody

I was driving a small Nissan pickup, halfway down a steep and rocky logging road, somewhere in the Pennsylvania backcountry. The truck crept down a small boulder field of mixed slate and sandstone. And the frame held solid while the suspension complained against larger obstacles. . . . That perfect, hour-long slow climb down a tram road and into the Fields Run valley was the beginning of a wonderful, memorable adventure . . .

What Does He Need?

These places change, but they are more constant than shifting, more lasting than fading. The stream that I fished as a boy every April still holds the same trout, and I follow those familiar bends upstream around rocky mountains. Fallen trees have diverted the channels enough to move the main flow twenty yards east or west, but permanence is more powerful. Here, change is minimal. And that’s comforting . . .

. . . He feels it too. And so he’s drawn to the woods, to these places larger than his small life that often seems too big. I’ve been doing the same for forty-three years . . .

. . . But what else does he need?

You Are Troutbitten

The whole thing started with four fishermen and a long email chain. That quickly became unwieldy, so Sloop and I set up a private message board for our small group of Pennsylvania anglers and titled it, Troutbitten. Each of us invited close friends — trusted fishermen — the kind of guys who could keep a secret, even after a few beers. And for a short while, a small, core group of guys called Troutbitten fished hard and shared their discoveries with one another . . .

Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

Jeff’s Chicken

Jeff’s Chicken

In his mid-twenties, my friend Jeff walked away from his job to be a trout bum for a few months. It was a bold move, but a strategic one. Jeff had enough funds saved up to float him from late spring all the way into the fall, and he simply wanted to hang out, drink beer and catch trout for a while.

Some people hike the Appalachian trail. Others take a year after school to travel across Canada or maybe backpack through Europe, if you have that kind of money. Jeff just wanted to fish the hell out of Central Pennsylvania and be a trout bum for once. So that’s what we did.

At the time, my own lifestyle was pretty flexible. I’d already spent five or six years exploring Central and North-Central Pennsylvania during the day and playing music in clubs and bars at night. Gas was cheap then, and it was nothing for me to wake at dawn and travel north for a hundred miles.

The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

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 . . .

Eggs for Breakfast, Eggs for Lunch, Eggs for Dinner

Eggs for Breakfast, Eggs for Lunch, Eggs for Dinner

It was an early summer morning. Late June probably, and I was fishing my home water. Once the fog had lifted from the cold spring creek, I’d done alright. I caught enough trout to keep me moving upstream at a steady pace, hitting each pocket and every likely bank lie...

What to Trust

What to Trust

Note: This article was published to Troutbitten in January, 2016. It's revised and revisited here today. The tall man crossed the old railroad bridge above me. He paused at the midpoint, lingered and watched me cast for a moment, then he bellowed downstream to me with...

Fishing Alone

Fishing Alone

I swear I fish best when I’m alone. I can’t prove it without a witness, of course, but I guess I don’t care to verify it anyway . . . and that’s the point.

Fishing the mountains always granted me the serenity of simple thoughts, a soul laid bare to the open wilderness and a peace of mind. Then usually, that’s where I left it — somewhere alongside the rocks and flowing water . . .

read more
Hatch Matcher

Hatch Matcher

It was the summer before college — before the real world started, they said. Although, college life never proved to be anything like the rest of the world. I was working for a printing company, spending three hot months in a delivery truck, shuttling press orders to the docks and doorsteps of western Pennsylvania corporations.

As I drove repetitive miles across the Keystone state, I was most attentive in the valleys. From my tall perch behind the worn-out steering wheel, I peered over each bridge crossing, wondering and dreaming about trout. I knew of Western Pennsylvania’s struggles to harbor wild trout. I knew about its troubled past with acid mine drainage, but I’d seen marked improvement in water quality over my young life. And I’d explored enough to expect surprises — trout can be anywhere . . .

read more
Where the Lines Are Drawn

Where the Lines Are Drawn

I’m fascinated by the arbitrary lines people create for themselves. Nowhere in life do I see the tendency to define and delineate so strongly as it’s seen in fishermen. Anglers constantly draw lines about how they fish, about what kind of fisherman they are, and more emphatically, what kind of fisherman they are not . . .

read more
I’ve lived, and I’ve left some good things here . . . that is enough

I’ve lived, and I’ve left some good things here . . . that is enough

Will climbed up the mountain path and out of the canyon. He walked through the back door and into the old sunroom to sit at his grandfather’s wooden desk. He paused in thought and then put pencil to paper.

When he’d finished, he looked up through the sunroom glass toward the fading orange October daylight. Will walked to the porch and felt the cool stone under his feet as he scanned the landscape of his life.

The rooster crowed before dawn . . .

read more
The Ladder and the Sky

The Ladder and the Sky

I climbed the wobbly ladder and slid onto the soft, rubber roof of the camper. I've never been much afraid of heights, but my perspective was immediately challenged by the enormity of what I could and couldn't see. The blackness of the dark seemed different than what...

read more
The Kid

The Kid

My story, The Kid, is over at Hatch Magazine today.  Here are a couple excerpts... -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- ... The kid was ten years old and small for his age, but his legs were strong and he waded without fear. He fished hard. We shared a passion and a singular...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest