Book Excerpt: “Casting Seaward”
We tried a bit of sight fishing along a crescent shaped flat, but we saw only one striped bass and I cast to it, saw it follow, saw it eat the fly and was so mesmerized that I failed to set the hook before it spit the fly and turned away in disgust. So much for redemption. It’s okay. Everything in life is practice. We live, learn, laugh, adapt, and move on.
This was about the time that my buddy came up with a wonderfully poetic idea for the last fishing spot of the day. On my first trip to the Hamptons, we visited a little cove that seemed simply perfect for striped bass, but we caught bluefish instead. So, we decided to end this day where that day had begun. The cove is like a little aquatic cul de sac of water flowing in and out of a single passageway, surrounded by a narrow, riparian saltmarsh shoreline. Along that shoreline are wooden docks and multi-million-dollar homes. This is a living community—human and otherwise.
If you look up the term “cul de sac” in the dictionary it reads: “dead end, passage closed at one end, route or course leading nowhere.” I disagree. Perhaps these circular endings of linear passages are just what we need to slow us down and remind us that there isn’t anywhere we need to go in order to live a meaningful, joyful life.
David pushed us along as I cast and with my mind still focused on producing a strong hook set, I struck so hard on the first fish that I broke the tippet and lost the fly with the fish. David laughed and said, “You hit that one too hard.” But casting and catching, reeling, and releasing, are all fluid processes—just like breathing. So, I tied another shrimp-like thingamajig on my tippet and cast again, this time setting the hook well and bringing a few more bass to the boat.
It had already been a good day and for both of us, fish were caught. But we had arrived at the last bit of plausible bass habitat in the watercourse “leading nowhere.” In short, we’d come full circle. I began casting and retrieving again and again until there was only one cast remaining. That was about the time David said, “Wouldn’t it be something if you caught your biggest fish on your last cast?”
When I saw the fish strike, I could hardly believe my eyes. It looked massive. I set the hook and the fight was on. David called out, “Let it run if it wants to run!” And run she did, taking me into my backing twice. In time, I managed to land the fish. She was beautiful and David pointed out that she didn’t have any sea lice on her and might be a resident fish. All I know is that I loved her and held her gently in the water with my thumb on her lower lip as she pumped fresh reviving water through her gills like an athlete breathing deeply after a hard run. In time, I felt her bite down softly on my thumb. It was her way of telling me that she was ready for me to let her go… and so I did. I touched her tail as she swam powerfully away, and I watched as she vanished back into the waters where I had found her. And I will never know what became of her after that moment, but I do know this… as long as I may live, I will never forget her.
The older I get the more I like being home. And as grateful as I am for all the adventures I have known from Africa to the Americas, these days, I’m just as happy to sit at my kitchen window, watching the birds at my feeders. I’m at peace standing in my little local stream casting toward sunfish and the occasional Guadalupe bass. It’s always comforting to be home.
Excerpted with permission from Lyons Press