Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

November 22nd, 2004

By Dave Micus

My wife recently did an inventory of old photographs, a Herculean task involving thousands of pictures taken over the past 25 years. She segregated the fishing photos, thinking that I might want to keep these in a separate album, and I was struck by what a tiny fraction these were of the total number of photos, especially considering that I fish close to 100 times per year.

The reason there aren't many photos is, obviously, I don't take many. I usually fish alone, and though I have a waterproof camera I stopped carrying it during one of my minimalist phases when I realized I just didn't use it often enough to justify lugging it along. Photos of spectacular sunsets or sunrises never come out even remotely as vivid as the real thing, and it is difficult to photograph you and your prized catch when you are in the habit of fishing alone and there is no one there to snap the picture.

But, though few, the photos are much greater than the sum of their subjects, and clear in each picture is the specter of a life time of fishing. The oldest is of me in my late teens, holding a nice sized weak fish taken in my dad's boat, 'The Hooligan,' off the coast of Atlantic City, long before age and two bouts with lung cancer caused him to sell the boat and give up fishing. Just a glance at the photo and I can recall how my dad and I would fish at every opportunity and how I learned from him a love of the outdoors, the ocean, and fishing. There is another Jersey photo of me with a big blue, and while it was taken over 25 years ago I can remember that it was the only fish taken on that excursion, rare in those days off of the Jersey coast where we'd hit schools of marauding blues and take one on every cast, each weighing over 10 pounds.

There are a number of pictures from my trouting days, when, with a new fly rod that was a birthday present, I'd spend every weekend stalking oncorhynchus mykiss, salvelinus fontinalis and salmo trutta in the local streams and rivers. One brings to mind a time when, on a hunch, I whipped up two soft hackled wet flies of my own design for a good friend and me, and we each took six trout from a small bridge pool on the Ipswich River, exceptional fishing for this area, and, more importantly, affirmation that I was finally getting the hang of this arcane sport.

And there's photos of friends; Jim fishing off of Gloucester, precariously perched on rocks, his feet covered by the wash; my best friend, Dick Brisbois, holding a beautiful rainbow trout he took at the Cold River Pool on the Deerfield, when, with no fish biting, he acted on a hunch and fished a dry fly pattern on a sinking line and took three nice trout while the rest of us went fishless; Mike Tolvanen, maybe the best fisherman I've ever known, holding a trophy striper taken at dawn on a September morning when the laughing was as good as the fishing. There are a few photos of this year's Eagle Hill River Striped Bass Fly Fishing Derby, a gag tournament I host every year as an excuse to drink and fish and lie about it afterward, and if you look closely you can see Glenn, the winner, proudly clutching "The Golden Cup," an athletic cup painted gold and mounted on a block of oak which was the prize given for the largest linesider.

By far my favorite, though, is one of my two sons taken the summer after I had bought them each fly rods for Christmas. They are standing waist deep in the river, proudly displaying their catch, and I would need a telephoto lens to highlight the tiny pan fish on the end of the line, but a wide-angle lens to capture the grins on their faces. Looking at this image it is easy to remember those days on the river when casting lessons ended with the first bullfrog sighting, and we would spend much more time swimming and chasing critters than fishing.

"God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December," observed J.M. Barrie, and I realize that, while priceless, I can't just put these photos in an album and lock them away in a vault for another 20 years. I've selected a few to laminate and use as bookmarks, and, now, at the beginning and end of reading recesses, I glance at the photo and am flooded with warm feelings. They not only mark the pages of my books, but mark the pages of my life as well, and assure that I don't lose my place in either.

~ Dave

About Dave:

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.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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