As I sat enjoying lunch with a group of Orvis Saltwater Fly-Fishing students
during our 2-1/2 day school on Cape Cod, I was asked "What was your best
day on the water?" After 20 years of guiding in Vermont, on Cape Cod and the
Salmon River in New York, many best days flashed across my mind.
Visions of steelhead on the Salmon River catapulting like rocket ships skyward,
somersaulting like a juggler's baton then tail walking all the way to Lake Ontario
filled my memories. Or maybe it was the evening, alone, standing in the foam
of crashing waves on Nauset Beach. The fog engulfing me, making me feel as
if I was not of this earth as my ears would not stop the sound of my drag racing
towards the open ocean. When finally at my feet lay a beautiful 40-inch striper
on a fly, released to produce more offspring for my children's pleasure. Or was
it sight fishing on the flats off Chatham, in 2 1/2 feet of crystal clear water,
seeing hundreds of keeper bass in a tide.
I realized that my answer would not come easily or fast and most eyes at the
table were on me. As I searched deep for my best fish story, it suddenly hit me.
It wasn't my fish, my day or even my story that gave me the most rewarding
The story that began to unfold was one no one expected to hear. It was a story
about guiding two fly fishermen on a raw, windy overcast day on the salt.
On this tide, it was the most enjoyable, challenging and exciting day of my life.
I was helping someone rise above the limitations of a progressive, degenerative
disease and letting his soul and mind shine through. Peripheral neuropathy is
a nerve disorder brought about by a benign paraproteinemia, which has caused
muscle weakness, intention tremors and severe wasting in his hands. Without
this control, basic tasks involving walking, writing, grasping and handling
documents or other items necessary in a work environment have become impossible.
Ray's day started with the expectation of float tubing in the salt, in an
area we call the "Tub". There is no heavy surf or fast currents in this
area but flat, calm water loaded with stripers and blues. We planned
to float the entire length, about two miles with the incoming tide. Ray's
disease would not allow him to stand on his own, so the day started
with Ray in the tube with an anchor in place to stabilize him. It was
difficult for Ray to fly cast into the wind so we started with the spinning
rod. It wasn't long before Ray's rod arched back with a snap any
angler would equate to "Fish On"!
Soon afterwards, the wind started to blow a good 20-30 knots. The
rain fell unnaturally sideways and sitting in the float tube left Ray
drenched with the chop as it breached his tube. This raw northwest
wind negated any further advancement down the shoreline as it
pushed us back against our tide.
We then both had to work in sync to overcome the turn in the weather.
At Ray's suggestion, I held the back of his shirt to provide him with
a more solid platform to help him balance.
Again, Ray instinctively rod set and leaned back as this ten pound
bluefish searched for freedom while we both laughed together like
two little kids sneaking a piece of grandma's chocolate cake before
it had 'proper time' to cool.
We had used the "Outermost Shuttle" in Chatham, to reach what
seemed to us to be the end of the world. Solitude, beauty and this
incredibly pristine environment were ours alone for this tide. We
owned that beach.
The shuttle captain showed up later in the day due to his concern
about the weather to see if we wanted to come back early. What
he witnessed were two grown men laughing uncontrollably with the
tip of the rod pulsating up and down as if attached to a ball bouncing
down the street. The launch captain said with grin, "Well I guess that
answers that question," as he sped off back to port, leaving us again,
alone to our private world.
At this point and time Ray's friend John Sobolewski was making
spectacular 80 foot casts on his backcast due to the wind. John
was catching a few but Ray and I both couldn't help ourselves in
ribbing John a bit as Ray was way ahead in the number of fish
Any guide will tell you, we are teachers and our true satisfaction
comes in a way that any teacher feels when their students do well
on a test. When I guide I feel my client is fishing through me, as a
partnership striving for the same goal.
Today, more than ever I felt Ray's hopes, desires and dreams. We
shared laughter and the excitement in each other's voices. The look
of total satisfaction and awe as we revived, released and watched
a keeper swim away, savoring its beauty and gracefulness.
As the afternoon progressed on, Ray told me his real desire was to
land one on a fly rod. John had purchased a Regal Saltwater fly reel
from Europe that had a trigger to reel in the line. He had a leather wrist
guard made to strap the rod to his arm so the cast could be made
without holding directly onto the rod.
Ray's challenging goal then became mine. As a team we positioned
ourselves in an area where the wind was to our back and noticed fish
breaking the surface feeding on sand lances just out of reach of us.
Ray made a fine cast and as he retrieved the line by pulling the trigger,
Ray's back arched. His rod bent and we both came close to hurling
backwards into the water as his line suddenly snapped tight.
I will never forget that beautiful fish and the victorious look in Ray's
eyes as a smile lit his face.
After telling Ray's story and looking at the pensive faces around me,
I realized how very lucky I was to have shared a spectacular day
on the water with this amazing man.
I wrote this inspirational story as not only a fine memory in my life,
but also on behalf of others like Ray who refuse to allow the tides
to stop running. ~ Randy Jones
Randy Jones is a full-time professional fly/spin fishing guide with over
18 years of experience. He has represented the Orvis Corporation as a
guide and chief instructor of their 2 1/2 day Saltwater Fly fishing
schools. During the summer, Randy can be found guiding the Monomoy Island area
where sight casting on the flats to trophy Striped Bass is his
specialty. During the Fall, Winter, and Spring Randy runs drift boat and
wade trips on the world class Salmon River for Steelhead, Coho, Browns,
Atlantics, and Kings.
or vist his Web Site http://www.yankeeangler.com/