We walk in the shadows of those who have
gone before. I refer not to those casters
of long shadows, the Theodore Gordons and
Lee Wulffs, but the ordinary sportsman who,
with family and other commitments, could not
devote his life to his passion but never-the-less
loved it as much as anyone.
It might be easier for the trouter, in the
woods on a meandering stream, to see the shadows
and hear their whispers carried on the water.
These whispers can be drowned by the roar of
the surf, and the shadows, like footprints,
washed by the tide. Yet we who fish the brine
still know they were here. We only have to
look to see.
A fireplace, naked at the water's edge, is all
that remains of a secluded fishing camp, but
the stories told round that hearth still linger
in the air. Large striped bass are caught
within sight of the granite steps that led to
a long-gone front porch, and things are probably
not much different then they were 100 years ago.
At least so it seems.
A net snagged from a vest by a thieving branch
waits patiently in the brush until found and
used again. The twine is tattered and the
handle, bleached like driftwood, is warped
by water and strong hands. How many fish have
been brought to this net? Somewhere its owner
is satisfied that it is once again in use.
The remains of a sunken boat are being exhumed
by the tide. Its skeletal ribs and keel, thick
white oak still firm to the touch, protrude
from the sand and it is easy to visualize the
size and shape of the craft--about 40 feet
long and wide of beam. Given the location,
it is likely an old fishing vessel.
Dilapidated duck blinds rest on solid cedar
posts where the estuarine river caresses the
marsh. Once self-contained hunting camps,
they are now inhabited by the specters of
late fall outings where gunners gathered
after a day's sport to warm their limbs by
the wood stove and their bellies with golden
brown bourbon. The ducks return in autumn,
but the hunters have moved on.
Strong passions don't fade, old sportsmen
never die--they linger all around. It is
up to us to hear their stories and carry
on their traditions. And we'll leave our
own shadows for those who come behind.
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.