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Heading Downstream

Over seven months ago I finalized plans to move. It will be back to Virginia, back to the Mid Atlantic where so much of my life has already taken place.

I won’t lie: I’m very excited to go fly fishing. To get back to the streams I love, revisit rivers I only fished a few times, and explore new waters.

I’m also not delusional. This move isn’t a license to fish unabated. I’m a father and a husband with a new job. I’m going back to grad school. Again. And going back someplace also necessitates leaving another.

Which means saying goodbye.

Honestly, there are so many angles that I want to explore in this post. But between these hectic days of packing, coordinating logistics, and managing two little through all of it, what is most poignant is the goodbyes.

Sure, there is separation from the fly fishing in New England. I didn’t do nearly enough saltwater fishing. I fully anticipate the disbelief in anglers I talk to over the coming months and years when I say I didn’t fish for stripers much. I didn’t. Although I am (was) close to the ocean as the crow flies, the drive isn’t an easy one. Life has been at a pace such that I was also a little intimidated to try something totally new and make that investment.

I also only dabbled in some of the big water trout fishing in the northeast. It was just in the past few months that I got up into Maine to chase trophy brook trout. And cumulatively, I fished the Connecticut river in northern New Hampshire more before I moved to the state than when I lived there. Three hours through the White Mountains, out of cell range, seemed a lot longer than similar drives elsewhere – and in the past.

Leaving those places, and the other waters I fished in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, pales in comparison to leaving the people with whom I’ve developed relationships. Relocating hundreds of miles away, I was surprised how quickly I formed friendships that were some of the strongest in my life.

And it was hard to say goodbye.

It is hard.

I’ll be thinking about it on the drive to Virginia in the truck. I’ll be thinking about it as I settle in. I’ll be thinking about it as I get into a routine.

And I’ll be thinking about them when I get to go fishing.

My friendships transcend a rod or a creek or a fish. But I’m thankful that relationships and fishing aren’t an either/or ultimatum. For so many of them, my fly fishing is just a thing I do and then write about. That is fine, and has never been a point of annoyance (at least for me).

This is what I wrote back in November, looking forward to this phase in life:

There are a lot of emotions that come with leaving a place, and there are a lot of uncertainties that come with returning to someplace I’ve already been. Faith, family, and a sense of purpose are the overarching and truly anchoring factors at play. Those things will be what navigate me through the highs and the lows of the coming months and years.

I also have the water. Fishing ought not be an escape, per se, but those places will be woven in to my routine. The rivers and streams that I cut my teeth   on as a teenager and then as a true trout bum in my 20’s will be back in play for this season of life. I will step into them a very different man, but they will be the same. When I return to creeks where I learned to cast a fly rod, it will be with a son in tow that I need to teach. Spring creeks that tried my patience as a younger man will hopefully be approached in a more measured fashion. Most of all, I hope to appreciate what I have taken for granted in the past. On and off the water.

What happens off the water is so often what makes what happens on the water matter. And frankly, the what is frequently a who.

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