The Perfect Cast

Life had finally caught up to me last week when I had to put my cat, Booger, to his final sleep.  It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.  He had many ailments and at 13 years old, there was nothing more I could do that would guarantee he wouldn’t be in pain anymore.  While I knew in my head it was the right thing to do, my heart screamed in protest.  I rode wave after wave of depression through the week afterwards.  No matter what I did I could not pull myself out of it.

That’s when things changed for me on Friday.  As Ben and I were sitting at home after work, we were talking and preparing for a weekend of fishing and kayaking, when we heard from our good friends, Todd and Cheryl Brown.  They own The Blackfork Inn up in Loudenville, Ohio that we are in love with.  After some catching up and talking, we decided, at 10pm Friday night, that we were going to scratch our previous plans and head on up to see them and spend some time wading in one of our most favorite places to fish.

So Saturday morning we arrived at the Inn about 9:30 in the morning and met up with Todd who insisted on making us one of his wonderful breakfasts, and who were we to argue?  After some French toast, cinnamon apples, and farm fresh sausage, we unloaded the car and got ready for a relaxing weekend.

Ben sat at the table and tied up some flies for us to fish as I unpacked and went around taking pictures of the house while we waited for the fog to burn off in the gorge.  Around noon we geared up and took off for the water.  The scenery alone captivates you when driving into the forest, the sounds of the wildlife and river running along chases away anything that you could possibly be holding onto from a long hard week.

Ben barely had the car in park before we both were out and scrambling into our waders and boots.  Neither of us could wait to get out on the water.  Now I’m still sort of new to the fly fishing world, I’ve been a huge fan of Joan Wulff who was the first woman to take fly fishing by storm and was a champion since the early 1940’s.  To this day she still out casts any man and does it with a smile and grace that leaves one speechless.  She’s even fished in an evening gown!!

So between learning what I can from her books and videos and watching Ben, I’ve picked up the rod and tried, and tried, and tried.  I’ve caught a lot of trees, lost a lot of flies, and never seemed to get it quite right.  I’d get frustrated because I would sit there and watch others out on the water and they all made it look so easy.

I took my three weight that Ben gave me and set out determined to catch a trout, or at least a fish to prove I can catch a fish on something other than my spinner rod.  The good news was I didn’t catch any trees this time, I didn’t even lose a fly, but my casting was all over the place.  Ben must have heard me mumble in frustration and stopped his own casting to help me out.

I’m not the easiest student, but we have something that is a very important thing, good communication.  He sat to watch and coach as I tried to figure out what I was doing right in all of my errors.  Between his, “you’re laying out your arm,” and, “slow down,” I started getting some of it right.

At this point I started remembering something I learned years ago in racing.  Even if you are doing a cool down lap, drive your line.  So I sort of took this lesson and put my own twist on it.  Even if it was a bad cast, I was going to do my best to make the most of it and not just pull it right back in and do it over.  That’s when I felt a tug on the end of my line and I tried to do what I thought was right all while shouting, “Ben!  Fish!”  He coached me how to bring a fish in on a fly rod, and I kept the tip up and stripped the line carefully as he waded over to me.  How I didn’t fall over or lose the fish is beyond me, but I successfully fought hard and brought in a whopping a six inch blue gill.

Okay so it wasn’t a trout, and it wasn’t a monster fish, but I was happy I had caught a fish on a fly rod finally.  After getting the above traditional picture of me holding the fish and then letting him go, we both went back to it.  Shortly after I caught another bluegill, this one was bigger, and then I caught a river sucker (better known as ‘not a trout’).  I even had a fish on and was stripping the line and he threw the hook before I could get a good look at him.

I took a break and tried to calm my excitement.  I felt bad because Ben hadn’t caught anything yet and despite all our playful banter, I really don’t like showing him up on the water.  It’s more fun when we both catch.  As I sat there taking pictures I kept remembering what I had read from Joan.  Fly fishing is a graceful dance.  I’m hardly graceful on land, let alone in the water.  I thought it couldn’t hurt to try some of her techniques and see if I might not make it look like I just had dumb luck.

Back into the water I went, with a new goal set.  I tried changing everything all at one time.  Ben suggested I work on just one thing, not letting my hand move more than six inches.  I about fell down in the water when just that little bit made such an improvement.  I could actually see my line loop over my head!  Something Joan had said was to rock back and forth on your feet with your cast to get a little more distance.

Suddenly I couldn’t hear the other people that were camping or fishing.  It was just the water, my rod, nature, and myself.  Eight out of ten times I was casting beautifully and it felt incredible.  Nothing else mattered, my worries and frustrations washed away in the current.  The water cradled me as I cast again and again hitting my target.

As our stomachs started rumbling louder than the water we decided to pack it in for the day.  Ben still hadn’t caught anything, but he had noticed my improvement in my casting.  To avoid me getting too full of myself he told me that I needed to do it again the next day.  Though I swear he said it with pride in me.  After a filling dinner at The Mohican Tavern, we went back to The Blackfork Inn and spent the evening catching up with Todd and Cheryl.

The next morning, Todd got up early and had breakfast waiting on us, he knew we would be all too ready to hit the water again and he made sure we went out with full bellies.  When we got to the spot, we decided to head out to a different area, one that we had heard about, but never done because it is a mile and a half trek through the forest.  It’s not an easy path either, with the ups and downs over roots and rocks, around trees, and off small ledges.  It was worth it though as nature enveloped us in her arms and shared a beauty that most never see.

We went right out into a spot we liked and started fishing.  My casting started off shaky again, I fought the water around me and struggled getting my line to lay out straight.  Ben had me take a break and come over to see a sight that was really neat.  An entire school of red horse sucker fish.  They weren’t interested in any of our flies, but they didn’t just scare off either.  We watched, fished, and interacted with them for a couple of hours.  My casting even got better again.

We hiked back to the car and said we’d fish for another hour right there.  I took a deep breath and sat down to focus myself.  I would have my perfect cast back.  Wading out, I tried a side cast to get under some trees (I had watched Ben doing that earlier).  That was a fail right off, so I just backed up and decided to try that another time.  After that it didn’t take long for me to find my rhythm again and get lost in the feeling of dancing in the water.

At the end of the trip, I had not caught anything else, nor had Ben.  We didn’t feel as bad as we have in the past for getting blanked; we both knew we just didn’t present the right fly.  However we did get to enjoy a beautiful weekend at our favorite place and those dark shadows that had chased me the week before were long forgotten.  As we left the water behind to head back for home he looked at me and said, “Joan would be proud of you.”  That feeling and those words will stay with me for a very long time.


Life update

So it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  A few snippets here and there, mostly of random writing, but even that has been sparse at best.  I’ve been asked recently what is going on and if I have any upcoming projects.  The answers are it’s complicated and yes.

Trying to sum up the past two years and make it a long story short.  My best friend Ben lost his Dad, then his wife, his house, his dogs, and very recently his Mom.  I know many that would insert a joke here about a country song.  However I have been with him through every step of this.  Watching and sometimes feeling the same, all the emotions from anger to sadness, depression to guilt, frustration to anxiety.  I have watched him day in and day out for over a year now from when I opened my home to him and gave him what meager life I could.  It has been incredibly difficult for him and for me, the helplessness I feel sometimes to not be able to take away some of the bad can be overwhelming.

One of the positive things in his life is his daughter Mallory who will be 3 in May.  She is such a breath of fresh air and a spark of life to both of us.  Hearing her laughter can take away the darkest of days.  Watching her long eyelashes rest upon her cheeks while she sleeps melts my heart every time.  Ben will never understand the gift he has given me as I had never wanted children, by having him in my home and my life; he has brought her into it too.  Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from either of them.  I am truly lucky to not only have discovered this joy, but to get to continue to be a part of it.

So what else do I do you ask?  Ben and I have found a common love of fishing and the outdoors.  Most every time he doesn’t have Mallory, we are out in some stream, river, or pond fishing.  For my birthday I got a fishing kayak and you can hardly pry me out of it when I get out there.  To be able to be out on the water is the most calming experience I’ve ever had in my life.  The cell phone gets turned off, no computers, no work, no bills, no traffic, no headaches, and no drama on the water.   I’ve gotten to see so much wildlife and beauty out there, not to mention the fish I’ve caught.  I have to admit, the rush of feeling that fish on my line and then fighting to bring it in, only to take a picture and set it free is incredible.  You have only to go to my Facebook page to see all the pictures I’ve taken.

Now understand I grew up racing cars and the high paced environment.  So this experience is considerably slower and even more relaxing for me.  The best part is I have someone to share it with who feels exactly the same way.  Which is a good thing because you should never go out there alone; you have only to read Ben’s blog to find out why.  For Christmas I got a fly fishing rod.  As the weather has been conducive this winter, I’ve even gotten to go out a few times and use it.  I never understood Ben when he said it’s an art, but it really is.  The graceful movements are extended all the way past the rod and the line out over the water.  There is such pleasure in it when I cast just right.  I haven’t caught a fish on it yet, but I’m not discouraged.  The fish will come, they always do.

That brings us to winter.  There are some days that are too cold to go out and play in nature.  That does happen inOhio.  So I do have some writing projects I am working on.  I am currently finishing up the edits for an anthology by Knightwatch Press called The Ultimate Angels.  I should have that done and off to be formatted within the next week or so.  Then it’s back to my novel.  My characters are calling to me to finish their story and it is my goal to have exactly that done before spring.

So keep watching here, and I will try to do better at keeping you all posted on my life’s happenings.  Thank you for reading!