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“Connected”

By: Mike Rice

Mike rice Fly Fishing

Mike Rice

I spent just over the first half of my life in the mountains of Maine and Vermont. Where ever I was, I always felt a strong connection to water; streams, rivers and lakes always filled my mind with wonder of the life they held and the places they led to. Growing up in Maine we were just an hour from the ocean. In the seventies that seemed like half a world away but every summer, for one day, my parents would take my sister and me to “the beach” where we swam in the waves, explored tidal pools and walked the surf line looking for shells and treasures to keep as mementos of our trip. The memories of those ocean trips and the vast possibilities that the ocean held and represented are etched in my soul. Those days on the beach formulated the desire to at some point in my life live near the ocean where I could hear the waves and smell the salt in the air every day.

Twenty years ago my life changed and I relocated to Boston’s south shore and eventually found myself living where I can hear the waves and smell the salt in the air. I also started fly fishing the ocean and it’s estuaries at the same time. While learning to throw the long rod, I also learned about the ocean and the complexities of its ecosystem(s). Delving into fly tying and studying forage fish led to a profound understanding that the ocean’s plant and animal life support one another and are dependent on each other for the health of its waters. In this time, because of the intimacy with the water and its inhabitants that fly fishing affords, conservation and protection of our ocean resources has become as big a part of it as the act of fishing itself.

Mike Rice Fly FishingOver the years I’ve had the opportunity to fish in many different environs. I love fishing the backwaters of the Everglades, the grass of the Low Country and the flats off the islands but my favorite water will always be in the mud and grass of the estuary I live on. Schoolie striped bass in shallow clear water are my passion. An integral part of that passion is bringing new fly anglers into that environment and watching the one on one interaction between the angler and the fish serve to introduce, or strengthen, the awareness of the importance of conservation of all ecosystems and fisheries. Once that awareness develops it becomes clear that the health of northeast fisheries is dependent on that of the Everglades, the Low Country, the islands and undeniably any fishery. We are all connected, eventually, by the same water.

Conservation starts with us as individuals. I believe that. The full time guide, the travelling angler or the weekend warrior… we all have the same role to play. It can be something as simple as handling fish properly, practicing catch and release and hauling out garbage each time we’re on the water. These practices, I hope, lead to investing ourselves in protecting not just our own, but all fisheries through support and involvement in conservation groups, programs and initiatives.

I look out over the ocean everyday and I see the past, present and future all become the same thing. We need to preserve, conserve and protect all of it. I’ve been on this water for nearly two decades. It’s where I’ve raised my daughter and learned to be a father, where I’ve learned about what it can give and also about what it needs. While I make a small part of my living on it, I like to say that it’s where I’ve made my life. I won’t leave the water. I’ll be out there doing what I can to ensure its health, quietly, but not silently.