Category Archives: Hope

Fail Again, Fail Better

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“I don’t believe in pessimism. If something doesn’t come up the way you want, forge ahead.” – Clint Eastwood

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from this entire effort, it’s that persistence, and the refusal to quit, matter more than almost anything.

Circumstances in life have taught me this, and if I didn’t learn the first time, the opportunities just kept coming.

It took more than 100 e-mails to find our five sponsors for Catch a Cure II, and a frantic search for a brand that wanted to share the story. I’m forever indebted to B.A.S.S. for their cooperation.

I tried in a host of ways to use to sunglasses that Native Eyewear so kindly donated to the cause during the project, without much success, until finally we were able to get them to the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Wings of Hope Gala in San Francisco.

Finding guides that had the time to help on the lakes largely consisted of going to local tackle shops, collecting business cards, and sitting in a Jeep calling number after number. People are wary of causes, and I get that, but maybe that makes them all the more important to take part in.

Ironically, Father’s Day usually falls right around my father’s birthday, June 20th. Family likes to joke that he was “Born to be a father,” and that certainly might be the case.

I don’t know about you, but I like laughing, so usually on his birthday and Father’s Day we’ll share a funny story about a man I was enormously blessed to spend 27 years with.

We were talking, this past week, about a trip to Florida. Our flight was cancelled, and passengers were redistributed onto other flights, many of which were aboard smaller planes.

One such smaller plane was taking the number of passengers that it could from the cancelled flight, and we were waiting in line to board.

As we neared the gate, the attendant indicated that the flight was full, and that we’d have to continue to wait. We would have been the next passengers seated.

My father, a man who was raised in poverty, served his country in the army, and built a successful law practice handling everything from immigration law to armed robbery, just kept trying to subtly sneak onto the plane.

The flight attendant repeatedly, and as kindly as she could, indicated that the flight was full.

I’m not sure what his plan was if he did get on board. Maybe he’d have sat in the aisle until the plane landed?

We never got to find out. But he wasn’t going to quit trying. I’m sure life had taught him again and again, as it continues to teach me, that whether or not you succeed at a given endeavor, the only thing that you can ultimately control is your disposition, your drive and your determination to continue trying to move forward.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

 

Friday the 13th: Are you Superstitious?

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Open All Night: The hat features lyrics from a favorite musician, Brian Fallon, and it has been lucky to say the least.

Superstition typically isn’t an impactful element in our everyday lives. Sure, we might notice if a black cat walks by, and we might not walk under a latter, but for the most part most of us believe in cause and effect. It helps us navigate an unpredictable world to believe that, with a few exceptions, things happen because other things have happened in the past that set a series of events in motion that caused them.

This belief, however, stops immediately where the water meets the land. I have never met an angler who was not, to some degree, superstitious. And anglers, for the most part, I’ve found, are more superstitious than most. I’ve never met a fisherman who wasn’t aware that bananas are bad luck on boats, but that’s only the most commonly held belief, and there are countless others that vary by region, body of water and individual angler.

I’ll share a few of my good-luck tricks (tactics?) but I’m honestly more interested in hearing about yours.

First and foremost, I always carry two things in the pocket of any pair of pants or shorts that I’m wearing. The first is my father’s watch. It’s a gold Bulova that he wore for decades. My father wasn’t a man who who cared much for flashy attire or stylish clothes, but the watch was a gift  that my mother and I gave him when the one he wore finally gave out. He treasured it, and so do I.

My aunt, Bridget Roberts, collects all sorts of antiques, and she has an incredible collection of antique marbles of all sizes and colors. She selected a half-dozen for me a few years back, placed them in a velvet case, and gave them to me. Of course the running joke about “losing your marbles,” has followed me ever since, so I’m sure to keep the physical ones on hand for luck, and to remember that I have a wonderfully crazy family that cares about me.

I have two rings that I’ve found to be relatively lucky: One is a hand-carved ring with ocean waves from the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, and the other is from a Harley Davidson store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

This past year I was fishing Fire Island with former college roommate and long-time friend Curt Dircks, and was wearing a new hat I’d bought at a Brian Fallon concert (Fallon is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter if you’re interested in finding some more great music). We’d fished all morning, and most of the evening, without landing a keeper striped bass. The six that I’d caught, despite being undersized, might very well have convinced me that the hat was good luck anyway… but when I caught a 33-inch, 11-pound striper right after last light… any and all doubt about the hat’s powers were erased.

So, whether I’m on the water or not, I’ll typically have the hat, marbles and watch for good luck. What do you carry, and why?

From My Family to Yours: Merry Christmas

familypicI’ll not ramble on, or attempt to wax poetic here, but I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has in any way aided this effort: Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

So many fishermen, readers and sponsors have lifted me up in these past years, and it has meant more to me than I can express.

Native Eyewear, Get Vicious Fishing, Buff, Sunology Sunscreen, Rick Roth at Mirror Image Printing, B.A.S.S. and Outdoor Sportsman Group… each of these companies have gone out of their way to see that this project had a chance.

The faculty and students at Emerson College have supported me every step of the way.

The guides at Bassonline were so incredibly helpful, that I could not envision this project having taken place without them.

The people at the Melanoma Research Foundation are the ones truly doing the important work, and I’m so thankful to have those organizations who are working daily to cure this disease once and for all.

To everyone who has helped, whether it was through a day on the water, contributing money or gear, reading or sharing the effort, or even just an encouraging word on Social Media, I just want you to know what a profoundly positive impact you’ve collectively had on my life, and the lives of the people in my family.

I sincerely hope you have an incredible holiday season, and I’m so thankful for the ways in which you’ve lifted me up along this road.

Patience, Faith and Tradition

fire-island-surfI got back this weekend from fishing the surf on Fire Island with former college roommate and longtime friend Curt Dircks. There were fish, but that, in my mind, wasn’t the important part.

Every year we make it a point, no matter what we are doing in our lives, to take a weekend and hit the surf on Fire Island, a small barrier island south of Bayshore, New York.

The tradition started at Syracuse University where we were undergraduate students from 2004-2008. It doesn’t take long, in any setting, for two fishermen to start talking about the sport and it didn’t take us long, after being placed in the same residence hall, to start planning a trip.

On that first fateful trip in 2005, we caught two fish, drifting eels, that weighed more than 15 pounds each. That’s all it takes. A tradition was born.

We’d make the annual pilgrimage each fall for those four years. After graduation, life took us in different directions. I’d wind up first in New York City, interning with Field & Stream, then at On The Water Magazine, as a copy editor, then I’d fish the country from the back of a Jeep for Outdoor Life before landing an online gig creating fishing content for a website. Curt would work in New York City, then go on to continue studying in San Diego before moving back to the East Coast where he’s currently the Director of Admissions at the College of Mount St. Vincent.

Suffice it to say, many things have changed, but the tradition has stayed the same. Like any anglers will, we discussed the weather, the presence of bait, local reports and trip timing as October approached.

Driving through New York City, after visiting my grandmother in Upstate New York for her birthday (today, actually), I ran into more city traffic than I’d anticipated, and nearly missed the 4:30 p.m. ferry I’d promised to catch. I grabbed my gear and ran through the parking lot as the boat was readying to leave Bayshore, N.Y.

But, by a matter of minutes, I made the boat. We fished until sundown Friday night and were in the surf before sunrise the next morning.

The allure of the surf is magical. Sealed from head to toe with a dry top and waders, you can almost completely immerse yourself in the waves crashing on the sand. You can scan the beach in both directions searching for feeding birds, signs of bait, or fish pushing baitfish up onto the beach.

The casting, moving and searching becomes rhythmic, and everything else in your mind fades into the background. There’s just the rod in your hand, connected to a bucktail that you’re working through ocean, hoping to imitate a wounded baitfish.

Waves pound the beach as the sun pulls itself higher into the sky, and you’re completely and wholly immersed in the beauty of it. The clouds shift and change shape and color, birds fly low over the waves and the wind moves the sand over the beach.

Between tides we’d discuss the plight of the Red Sox, women, rehash old college stories, and talk about… of course… fish.

On Saturday night, after catching a few smaller fish in the surf earlier in the day, the sun was sinking into the ocean. I promised myself that I’d keep casting until last light. I’d been working the beach for hours, and had caught and released a few smaller stripers between 20 and 25 inches.

Right at last light, in that magical moment of twilight, the bucktail I was retrieving stopped cold about 30 yards from the beach and started going the other way. As the rod bent and I stepped back out of the surf, I could only think: “This is perfect.”

The fish turned out to be an eleven-pound striped bass, measuring 33 inches. I’m all for catch-and-release, but some fish, in keeping with tradition, are meant for the grill.

We filleted the fish on the back deck as the autumn chill started to sink in. I had to run my hands beneath warm water for a few minutes to get them to the point where they’d properly operate a fillet knife.

Watching playoff baseball with freshly grilled striped bass, I couldn’t help thinking: It’s not the fish that keeps us in love with the sport, however much fun they might be to hook, land, fillet and eat…

It’s everything that leads up to that moment. Christmas Eve is always more exciting than Christmas Day itself, and until that first fish is on the beach, we are all, in some sense, our inner kid staring at wrapped presents… staring at waves crashing on the beach…

Dreaming of the incredible possibility.

 

Picking the Next President of these United States

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It seems like, the closer we get to November, the more divided we seem as a nation over the next President of these United States. You can’t look at social media for more than three minutes without scrolling by some form of vitriol directed at one candidate or the other. There are people shouting about supposed wrongs that Hillary committed in her time serving our government, and there are those shouting about Trump’s history as a businessman and whether or not he’d be a viable candidate to lead our nation.

The qualification of either of these candidates is not my concern. I think, sadly, we as a nation have come to a time when so, so few people can afford to, or even be qualified in any realistic sense, to run for President that it’s hard for most of us as voters to relate to anyone who winds up on the ballot. I cannot imagine the life of a billionaire real estate mogul, or the life of a former First Lady. Truthfully, I can’t relate to either candidate. They both live in a very different America from the one I inhabit.

And if you think that something that you write or say, either in person, on a blog or on social media might open minds or affect change… just try going up to a staunch Hillary or Trump supporter and having a conversation… starting an argument for the opposite candidate. The kind ones will be silent and let you finish before telling you that you’re wrong. The not-so-kind-ones, well…

Won’t.

It’s healthy and important that we have groups in this country who are passionate about politics and intent on supporting their chosen candidate. That’s the lifeblood of a thriving democracy.

My concern is that we’ve stopped listening to one another. My concern is that we’ve made up our minds, based on opinions and and facts that… let’s face it… most of us “choose,” and we’re sticking to our guns.

My concern is that conversation has stopped. My concern is that we are no longer being polite, civil and respectful of one another.

A conversation isn’t two people waiting for the other to finish so that he or she can rebuke the claims or let loose a long-winded list of reasons for why that person is wrong. A conversation isn’t one person hollering at the top of his or her lungs about everything that they believe to be true based on the information they’ve sought out and attained. A conversation is not two people yelling at one another about the others’ faults, shortcomings or missteps.

A conversation involves listening, considering, and responding. A conversation involves the exchange of ideas that… perhaps most importantly, we are always willing to change based on new information.

If there is one essential element for this nation’s, or any nation’s, survival, it is conversation. We must respect, listen to, and respond to the ideas being put forth.

What would we say about a mother who ignored her son or daughter’s complaints, wishes or ideas? What would we say about a spouse who just waited for the other to finish so he or she might correct them, or worse yet, ignore them completely?

What scares me about this election is that we are not one country, talking openly about the ideas being considered, talking about what is at stake… talking to, and more importantly… listening to.. one another about the country’s future.

We seem like a nation divided, having chosen our side, contented to yell across party lines at the other voters about why they are wrong, or why their candidate is corrupt.

We have two major political parties in this country (and God bless him, the once-in-a-decade Bernie-Sanders types who come along to ignite the nation’s youth) and in that respect we are like a marriage between two people who, while different, respect one another because at their core they value the same things.

I don’t think you need to be a relationship expert or a marriage counsellor to know what eventually happens when two people stop talking to, and more importantly listening to, one another.

After this election is over and we place a new President in the White House, some things will change, but many things won’t. Most importantly, we will still all live in this nation, we’ll still all call this country home. In many respects, we’ll still be neighbors, fighting for and believing in many of the same things.

So perhaps it’s in our best interest… right now, until November 8th, and even after then… to politely listen to one another about the issues we’re concerned with and the changes we’d like to see.

What I’ve Learned: Never Give Up

The sun sets on one of Florida's best bass lakes.
The sun sets on Rodman Reservoir.

Perhaps the greatest thing about fishing, as a sport we can get into while we’re young, is that our fortune or fate insofar as the fishing is concerned is always dependent upon, and only upon, ourselves.

If we get into basketball or baseball and are cut from the team, we can choose to blame a host of different factors. Maybe we can say “The coach was biased and kept his favorite kids,” or “I’m just not tall enough.”

In many other arenas in life we can choose to blame a variety of factors if we don’t have the success we’d hoped we might.

A pond or a lake, on a very calm, windless summer day, will almost look like a mirror from above. So when the results of our efforts don’t meet our expectations… the water’s there to remind us exactly what went wrong… which isn’t to say that we were doing anything wrong, per se.

Maybe we were, maybe we timed the bite wrong, were on the wrong part of the lake or the river, maybe we didn’t imitate the forage well enough or get up early enough in the morning.

But more likely than not, we just failed to spend the amount of time there that would have ultimately led to the result that we wanted. The answer, with all due respect to recent Nobel-Prize winner Bob Dylan, isn’t “blowing in the wind,” it’s in the water and in the time we have to devote to it.

And because I grew up as a fisherman, I learned not to take one unsuccessful outing to heart, not to absorb failure or hardship any more than might be necessary to glean a lesson from it.

I learned that if you spent a day on the water and didn’t catch, didn’t bring fish home, or perhaps didn’t even get a hit… it only meant one thing.

You had to go back. You had to try again. Maybe you’d try in a different way, during a different time of the day, or with a different approach…

But in fishing, and hopefully in the rest of life’s endeavors, failure or a lack of success is absolutely no reason to stop, only a reason to change, adapt and grow.

The Fall Run: Let October Begin

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Taking a wave in the Long Island surf.

As we wind down the last days of September, you’ll hear and read a lot about the beauty of fall in New England, and it’s all true. The changing leaves paint a stunning landscape, albeit for a short period of time, from Maine to Rhode Island.

There are those few nights in October, those sit-by-the-fire-in-a-sweatshirt nights, where the stars seem so bright that it’s as if there’s a blanket of darkness covering another one of infinite light, and the blanket is full of tiny holes.

But coastal anglers have a bit of a different relationship with October: They see it as the month when the fall run of striped bass shifts into full gear.

Don’t get me wrong, there’ll be fish starting to move in late September, especially up in Maine, and there’ll still be migratory fish headed south in November, but for all intents and purposes… October’s THE month.

Northeast anglers will debate whether the fall run has diminished in recent decades, and there’s sufficient evidence to suggest that it’s not what it used to be. Many will tell you that the months of May and June provide better fishing these days, and that’s likely the case.

But in the fall, and in October especially: There’s an urgency that’s not there in the spring. There’s the “Let’s do this while we still can” sentiment that’s driven home every morning with the dropping temperatures.

Every breath of crisp, tingling autumn air that you inhale reminds you that the days are winding down.

In May and June, you might walk to the water with a kind of carefree optimism about the season ahead.

But in October, you’re just grateful to be out there, seeing the sun pull itself from the ocean one more time, launching one more bucktail into the surf. Like most of the important and beautiful parts of life, it’s perfectly bittersweet.

And if you’re a fisherman haven’t read On The Run, by David DiBenedetto, trust me when I tell you that he articulates the beauty of the fall run better than I ever might, and buy the book.