Suffer the Children

I, as many others, seek in fly fishing an immersion in the natural world that offers peace and renewal. We, if I can generalize, look for retreat from the daily irritations – both large and small – as well as an escape from the increasingly dismal news that threatens our sanity.

But some days fly fishing offers no escape.

Monday, April 15th, 2013 was one such day. I shared in the horror of the images and accounts of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I also felt a sense of admiration and wonder for those brave souls who ran toward, rather than away from, the explosions to assist those hurt.

And of all the images coming from that day and the ones that followed, the one that stays with me is that of eight-year-old Martin Richard; the image shared by a friend of his former teacher: a smiling little boy with the gap between his front teeth holding up a sign that said “No more hurting people. Peace”.

Martin Richard was at the finish line to watch his father finish his race. He had just gotten an ice cream when he was blown up by a bomb made out of pressure cooker. With him were his sister and his mother. His sister Jane, who loved to dance, lost a leg. His mother Denise suffered traumatic brain injury. Only his brother who was nearby and his father escaped physical injury; but one can only wonder at the depths of the grief and pain they must feel.

The monsters who did this took more than just his life; they took away his chance to kiss a girl (or boy); to fall in love and make love; to chase his dreams; to feel the highs and lows of a long life lived well; and to be a good son, brother, and friend to those who surrounded him.

That little boy haunts me. Perhaps it’s because there’s only one child to mourn.

Not many months ago, we all suffered the loss of 20 children (even younger than Martin) and six adults at the Sandy Hook School in Newton Connecticut.

There were so many lost at one time. It was difficult to keep them straight even with their individual stories and photos. Perhaps their faces have been lost to the majority of us, but their names should be remembered: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison Wyatt.

And the six women who died trying to protect them should never be forgotten – the word hero has been too cheapened by overuse to properly honor them: Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Leigh Soto.

There are other children who have been lost that will never be memorialized.

The ten Afghan children – along with two women – killed within the last month by a single NATO air strike in Shigal district, Kunar province. The air strike also killed eight members of the Taliban; those children were just “collateral” damage.

The children who go to bed hungry every night.

The children who live in fear of the violence outside, or inside, their doors.

The children who suffer abuse at the hands of those they trust the most.

Many of them suffer in silent shame. I knew one such child for he was my classmate in elementary school. He was beaten for years by his abusive father. We did not learn the truth until after he took his own life when he was in high school. Phil, I remember you.

And there are others we should think about.

The adults who commit mass murder in Boston or the destruction of Afghan children in an airstrike.

The man who brought Phil into this world and abused him.

A human society that cannot find ways to love and take care of all children – for they all are our children – will not survive. The next generation of heroes and terrorists are alive now; they are babies, the first graders of Sandy Hook, and Martin’s age.

What will we teach them? Is it their future to become a monster or a victim?

The choices are ours to make now. At some point it will be theirs.

No more hurting people. Peace.

Fly Rod Holder

Fly Rod Holder

Fly-fishing is utterly dependent on a fragile hollow tube made of graphite. It must be a cosmic joke that a rod capable of casting a line and heavy fly out to100 feet has what’s basically a glass jaw.

Treat the rod gently and handle it well and a day of fishing will be grand. Set it up, lean it against a car and walk away and the trap has been set. All it takes is a moment of inattention and the rod that fell over in a zephyr is now waiting for your size 12 wading boot.

In a moment you will have a broken tip, ruined day – even if you have a backup rod, and loss of the rod for some period of time as its sent back to the rod builder.

A better approach is to use a rod holder. A good one will hold your rod firmly upright against your car with magnets until you’re ready to head to the stream or shore.

I use one made by Tight Line Enterprises. They cost about $10 each and should be available in your local fly shop. If not you could find them online here.

Death of a Stranger

Yesterday I was at work in corporate cubeville when I heard sirens. That’s not unusual; the building where I work is near both an industrial area and a busy thoroughfare. The police and fire departments always seem to be going somewhere fast.

A few minutes later I took a break and got up to look out the window. Five floors below me in the driveway in front of the the lobby were two city fire trucks; one county emergency truck; one company emergency truck; and two company security vehicles. That’s an infrequent but not uncommon sight for we have a large population of older workers and some do have medical emergencies. I did think the response was larger than I typically see.

But then I looked to the left and noticed two parked city police cars. I knew something tragic had occurred as the police come on scene when there’s been a death.

Word soon spread that there’d been a death two floors below and that staff had been requested to leave the area.

At one point the company emergency truck dropped off a gurney and left; some late arriving workers coming into my area said the emergency truck was parked near the elevator in the parking garage. That seemed to confirm the rumor.

As the morning progressed most of the emergency vehicles left to continue with other calls both grave and minor.

As I was going into the cafeteria some time later there was a group of sober-faced people talking about notification of next of kin, and I understood that a number of people somewhere didn’t yet know that their worlds were about to crash down upon them.

I don’t know the name of the person who died. I’m not sure I’d recognize who it was if I heard it.

I don’t know if it was a man or a woman. I assume that he/she was someone I’d seen at some time in the hallways, elevators, or cafeteria.

I’m not sure if it’s important I know who that person was for you see that nameless/faceless person was a stranger.

We never worked together. We never were in meetings together. We never shared a table in the cafeteria. At this point if it was otherwise I would have known.

But that stranger had hopes and dreams, and hopefully loved and was loved.

That stranger had once been a baby with a life of potential and possibilities.

That stranger had passions and interests.

That stranger had worked for many years – hopefully doing something of value and personal meaning.

And now that stranger is dead.

So why do I care?

I care because someone’s death is a reminder that each day of life should be savored. Of course it’s trite to say it, but it’s an inescapable truth.

Rushing from crisis to crisis; taking no pleasure in the small things; much too soon they will all be gone.

As fly fishers we treasure time on the water. But do we take the time to enjoy the small things: rigging up the rod and line; putting on waders; the slow approach to the water while taking in the day, and the selection of fly for the first cast?

I care because that stranger is every one of us; we are all strangers to others – sometimes even to people with whom we share some part of our lives.

When we’re fishing do we see someone else as an intruder or as someone sharing the love for the same activity and the same special place?

The choices are still ours to make – for as long as we have.

Rest in peace.

Winston BIII-SX: First Fishing Trip

My previous post on casting the Winston BIII-SX (see post here) came after my fist afternoon casting session in my backyard. Since then, I’ve had a chance to cast it more in the backyard; experimenting with different reels for balance; and got my first time with it on the water – using it during an Introduction to Beach Fishing Course (see post here)

I’ll say this with no hesitation: the BIII-SX 9’ 6” 6 weight is a wonderful casting rod with plenty of power, and with the fishing soul of every other Winston.

First on the choice of reel. After a bit of experimentation I decided the Galvan Torque T-6 reel was the best match. Coming in at 5.2 ounces, it gave me a balanced feel in the hand. I had tried a couple of older reels I still had and a Nautilus FW8 7/8 (4.1 ounces), but in each case the rod felt tippy in my hand. That’s not a slam on the Nautilus reels; I use them on my BIIIX and find the lighter weight a great match for lighter rods.

One point to consider is that both the Galvan and Nautilus reels were loaded with SA Mastery GPX 6-weight for the comparison; what I might have thought had I made the comparison with the line I used on the water I can’t say. I suspect the Nautilus would have been a bit better balanced given the extra volume of backing. I may test that at some point.

In terms of the line I used on the water, I went with the recommendation I got in the Introduction to Beach Fishing Course and rigged it with an Airflo Forty Plus Intermediate Fly Line. This is a great line for beach fishing; with its semi-translucent head that sinks at 1.5 inches per second, it tends to float just beneath the surface on the windy conditions of Puget Sound.

One thing I did learn in the class was that a stripping basket made all the difference in terms of line management of intermediate lines. Without it, there was too much drag from line in the water.

As far as casting the rod on the water, I found the elusive groove.

One of the challenges I’ve had since I starting fly-casting is learning to not overpower the cast. I’ve had glimmers of doing it right, but nothing consistent from cast to cast.
Even in my first session in the backyard and the first few casts on the beach with BIII-SX I was doing the same thing.

Then I started to experiment and things got much better. What I found was the rod’s obvious power allowed me to slow down my cast and let the rod do the work. I felt like I was casting better than I had before. Blake, our guide and instructor, came by twice and complimented me on the way both the back casts and forward casts were rolling out in straight lines. After that, it didn’t matter if I caught any fish– the confidence of his compliments made my day.

We had a bit of wind from the left (I’m a right-handed caster) and I had no trouble in keeping the line moving in the direction I wanted. I could vary my cast to see how the rod handled it and most casts felt easy and relaxed.

I gave the rod to Blake for a demonstration of double hauling (something I still have to learn) and he easily got the line out to some distance, showing me what this rod’s capability in the hands of a great caster.

Did it turn me into an expert caster? Of course not. I have to much to learn and need to get miles under my casting belt. But the concerns I had about whether this was a rod I could grow into were dispelled within the first hour on the water.

I can’t wait to get out with it next time I go chasing sea-run cutthroat trout.

Best Socks for Cold-Water Fly Fishing

One of the challenges of fly-fishing in cold water is warm feet. Standing in cold water with cold feet is uncomfortable at best and can lead to a decision to end a day of fishing early.

There are many sock choices out there, but after trying a number of synthetic socks – including ones described as for the coldest conditions, I’ve found what I think are the best socks for fly fishing in these parts. They are knee high boot socks from a company called Alpacas of Montana.

Made from alpaca fleece, one of the warmest fibers – described by some as seven times as warm as sheep’s wool, the socks are warm and light. I use them with a light liner sock and my feet stayed warm over three hours in cold salt water. I wish I had found these earlier as they would have made a number of ski days more bearable as well.

The ones I have are knee-high in length. This provides warm lower legs for the type of wading done in Puget Sound for Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout.

You can find them here.