Thank You...And Keep It Coming. Please.
Like many of you, I suddenly find myself unable to do what I normally do and at a loss for much of what I took for granted just days ago. I'm a high school teacher. Well, I guess I still am, even though I can't get into my classroom or actually be with my students. I'll be honest, that wasn't so bad for the first couple of days. No pre-dawn starts, no seemingly endless after school and evening meetings, no cafeteria or detention duty, and I got more than 20 minutes to eat my lunch and wash my dishes. That last bit has been especially nice. Anyone who works with or even knows a teenager also knows that they can be in turns, exasperating, infuriating, hilarious, life affirming, and heart warming. Now, the 90 or so that were a bigger part of my daily life than my dear wife of 28 years are mostly absent from it. Voices and faces on a computer screen just ain't the same. I'm blessed to work with a remarkable group of colleagues, too. Really smart, funny, caring, talented folks who always seem to know how to keep the important things in perspective and do their best to help pull the load. They're just part of my virtual world now, too.
I have made some good progress on the rod build, and I'm looking forward to some time at the vise. But we're still a ways off from the decent fishing here at the 45th parallel. The water is a tick or two above freezing and still pretty high. There are ice chunks bobbing down the bigger rivers. I'm also old enough now to know that I'm not bulletproof or completely buoyant, so I'm choosing to hold off on the stepping and swinging for a few more weeks. As John Gierach succinctly put it, "Death can take a big bite out of your fishing time."
What's worrisome is that for the first time in my life, I'm looking out at April, May, June, and beyond with some apprehension. June in Maine is normally the proverbial bowl of cherries, almost like a whole month of Christmas for a little kid. The first weekend of the month, Dad and I take our annual landlocked Atlantic salmon-brook trout-smallmouth bass trip to the bug infested woods and pristine waters along the Canadian border. He started going there in the early 60's as a college undergrad. I have black and white pictures of him fishing there with his dad who died when I was still in grade school. It was the first place Dad ever took me on an overnight fishing trip. I was in the sixth grade. It's funny, but what I remember most about that first trip was that I got to miss a day of school. Mom was a teacher, and she NEVER let me miss school for anything except life threatening illness, and sometimes, even that had to be delicately negotiated. I'm still not sure how Dad talked her into springing me from class.
I'm 50 now and Dad is 78, and we have gone almost every year since. A few things have changed; he lets me pilot the boat, and I fish a 5 weight with a Hardy Perfect instead of a spinning rod and closed face Zebco, but our routine is still the same. Make the four hour drive after school on Friday and start tossing bass poppers on a small, remote lake at first light on Saturday while it's still flat. There are exactly three camps (what we Mainers call cottages) on the lake, and I don't know as I have ever actually seen people in any of them. I've encountered more loons and eagles than fishermen there. Way more. And the fishing is almost silly good. It's mostly big and medium size smallmouths that jump like NBA stars and pull like little Clydesdales. Thirty in the net between the two of us before lunch isn't unusual. If the breeze kicks up by early afternoon, and it usually does, we pull in the boat and fish one of the prettiest streams in the East for native landlocks and brookies. It's actually one of the few places in the world where you can do that. As easy as the bass fishing is, this is technical, challenging stuff. The water is gin clear, and the salmon see lots of flies. They spend most of their lives deep in one of the two lakes at either end of the stream, so they tend to be a little moody and twitchy in the shallow water of the stream. But they will eat from time to time and reward you with a fight that beats anything else with fins of the same size. Dad will nap in the late afternoon while I continue to work the stream, and he usually has the steaks on the grill in time for us to have one more short session on the water before dark. To call that weekend a little slice of heaven doesn't quite do it justice.
For the next few weekends, it's hard to decide where to go and what to fish for. The trout streams and smallmouth rivers are at their absolute prime. Bugs are hatching and the fish are hungry and looking up. The big stripers have finally rounded Cape Cod and infiltrated the Gulf of Maine in good numbers and are hot on the heels of massive schools of bait in the estuaries. If I want to, I can target them all in the same watershed on the same day. School is usually out by the last week of the month, and I treat myself to two or three fourteen hour days of solitude and swinging wakers at river smallmouths before I settle into the grind of my summer job.
This year, though, I wonder if it's all in jeopardy. If we go into shelter-in-place mode, I couldn't in good conscience travel all over the state to fish. I wouldn't take Dad on the road, for sure. What I'm looking at is more rod building and fly tying, I guess.
This is all my long winded way of saying that Speypages is probably going to help fill a very big void for awhile. Everything you all post here - the flies, the stories, the questions and answers, the witty retorts and clever turns of phrase, and even the stuff for sale that I can't afford but love to look at - are nourishment for the angler's soul. Unlike just about every other place on the internet, this one is unerringly friendly, civil, and welcoming. So, moderators and posters, I just wanted to say thank you for all of it. And please, keep on doing what you do.
"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing"
- Duke Ellington