In the end, it’s all about memories . . .

“The Journal”

We come into this world bare-assed and full of energy. We leave the same way—minus the energy.  Along the journey, if we’re lucky, we accumulate countless memories, based upon various experiences: some pleasant, others not so much.  One thing is certain: they all fade as we age.

Friday afternoon, I was cleaning the storage area of my basement, when I came across a little stack of papers, note pad size, held together by a single staple.  I nearly tossed it in the waste basket, but something made me inspect it more closely before I did.  It was a journal I had kept on one of my annual fly fishing trips to the Catskills.  I smiled as I read the entries.  This was one of the good really good times.  Here is a sense of the week’s activities.

“Saturday, 6/2/07 – Left home 6:45.  Passed Harrisburg around 3 p.m.  Decided to keep going.  Stopped around 6:30 p.m. in Pinegrove, PA.  Got room at Econolodge.  Ate at Arby’s.  Asleep by 8:30 p.m.”

I remember that night like it was yesterday.  After dinner, I had made three trips up two flights of stairs, stashing all my expensive gear in the room.  I hadn’t been asleep more than an hour and a half, when I awoke in a sweat.  I thought perhaps the air conditioner had broken down.  I reached over to turn on the lamp, but it was dead.  Furniture walking, I managed to make my way to the door, where I flipped on the light switch.  Nothing.  Dead as a doornail!  Long story short, a driver had taken out a utility pole, and with it, the electrical supply to the motel.  Barely awake, I retraced my steps from the previous three trips up and down the stairs, and loaded all my gear back into my truck.  Forty minutes later, I checked into another motel on up the road, and slept until early morning.

“Sunday – Arrived Roscoe 9 a.m. Ate breakfast Roscoe coffee shop. Saw Pat & Fred. Fished Sunday eve 5:30-8:00 p.m.  Hooked approx. 12 fish, landed 8, all small.”

Pat was a waitress at the coffee shop, whom I had known for nearly 15 years, and Fred was her husband.  They used to squirt each other with water pistols, and play pranks on the customers.  Both are long gone.  I think of them whenever I’m in Roscoe.  The coffee shop closed last year.  I miss them all.

“Monday – Fished Cemetery Pool – some size 14 Isonychia showing, couple of March Browns, no activity . . . Worked over a half dozen fish for 2 hours.  Several refusals.  Finally caught a 15″ brown on ovapositing caddis.  Nice fish . . . Sunoco Pool . . . nothing. . . Acid Factory, 1 – 1/2 hrs. . . nothing.  Quit 4:30 – back to motel . . . ran into old friend, Phil Bolton, will fish with him in morning . . . had a pizza at Raimondo’s . . . watched Stanley Cup . . .”

The old friend was a former customer, whom I had known when I was the manager of the fishing department at Ramsey Outdoor Store, back in New Jersey.  We fished from 5 a.m. Tuesday morning until around 7:30 that evening, caught nothing, and went our separate ways.  The nicest thing about our running into one another was that he remembered me!  (Usually, it’s the other way round.)  It was good to see him.  

“Tuesday – Fished the Acid Factory from 4 –  7:30 – Zip . . . Fished the upper Beaverkill till 8 p.m., took nice fat ‘bow on Isonychia parachute. Jumped 3 times! Lots of Iso spinners . . .”

Wednesday, I fished hard with little success.  During the day, I talked to many fishermen at various locations along the river. Mostly a “people day,” (the kind I most enjoy).

Frank Kuttner

“Wednesday – Took Kuttner to lunch. Returned to motel room & hung out until around 4:00 p.m. Met Steve Donaldson from Mass. Talked about 1 – 1/2 hrs, then went down to river. Very patient, but virtually no activity. Sporadic hatching of Blue Winged Olives,size 14-18, sulfurs same. Finally, gave up around 8:40. Watched hockey.

If you read my Matt Davis mystery series, you might recognize the name Kuttner.  Frank and I have been friends for over 30 years, and he is a recurring character in the series.  He closed his fly shop last year, and I didn’t see him for the first time in over 20 years.  I don’t know when I’ll see him again.  I miss him, too.

Thursday was special.

“Thursday – Arose 5:30, overcast & cold 55 degrees. Met Charlie at coffee shop 7:00 a.m.  8:00 Acid Factory – fished ’til 11:00 a.m. – nothing!!  11-12:00 got Charlie checked in at motel.  12:15 – 3:00, fished Willowemoc from Stewart Ave down toward Junction Pool.  K-I-L-L-E-D!!  All small, hooked approx. 30, landed 17.  Charlie, same, or better.  Ate lunch/dinner at Cairn’s Pool; nothing happening.  Got to Cemetery Pool around 4:30.  Absolutely nothing till 8 p.m. 8-9, smorgasbord but no luck . . . “

L to R, Charlie, Bob, & me (2012)

“Charlie” is Charlie Marra, an old and very dear friend with whom I have been fishing since around 1989.   For the last five years, it’s been Charlie, Bob, and me.  “Bob” is Bob Pagani, and we’ve only been fly fishing a short time.  However, we go w-a-y back, maybe 45 years.  (I’ll talk about him another day.)

 Since my move to North Carolina in 1999, it has become increasingly difficult to fish with Charlie. That’s because he’s about 10 years younger than I am, and still working.  Nevertheless, we still try to find a way to fish at least once each year.  Next year, he retires, but he’s moving to Michigan, and although he promises we’ll keep fishing, I have my doubts.  I miss him already.  

“Friday –  Arose 5:00 a.m.  Charlie came by the room at 6:00, and we got to Peakville and started fishing around 7:00 . . . waded upstream of the island & pricked 2 fish. Charlie stayed at the pool & caught really nice 14-incher . . . fished the 191 boat ramp, hooked & lost 2 small fish . . . back to Peakville around 1:30 . . . very h-o-t!  Saw 1/2 doz. large fish working . . . nothing . . . Guy caught the largest rainbow I’ve ever seen!!  Probably 22″ – 26″, between two-and-a-half and three pounds E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S!! . . . got a hot dog around 12:30. Back to motel for nap . . . Willowemoc 3:30 to 5:30, hooked 7 fish, landed 3. Last fish, best of trip, 14″ – 15″ brown.  Nice jump, beautiful colors. THE END.”

What a difference a decade makes.  My wading skills have declined to where I barely get my waders wet.  My poor balance makes it nearly impossible to bend down to pick up the fish I catch.  The neuropathy in my feet makes standing in one spot downright painful (but still bearable).  Last week I broke my fly rod.  Was it a subtle message?  Maybe.  But, I had the warranty card, and it’s been repaired, and I’ll have it in my hands by mid-week.  For some reason, I’m not all that thrilled.

This year, I will not visit the Catskills for the first time in over 45 years.  There’s a good reason, however.  My wife, Becky, is having a “special” birthday, and I’m hosting a big party to celebrate the occasion.  Can’t do that and take a fishing trip, too.  So, no Catskills this season.  Maybe it’s just as well.  Life is changing, and mostly all that’s left are memories.  Reading my long-lost fishing journal reminds me that some memories are just as well kept on paper . . . where they’ll always remain fresh—and accurate.

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Did I say I wouldn’t mention my new Matt Davis mystery, Deadly Ransom again?  I lied.  Seriously, though, it’s available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook.  Kidnapping, arson, cowboys & Indians; it has ’em all.  Curious? Check it out!  


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