A solid fishing partner has to catch fish consistently (so you can learn what the fish are interested in). However, they shouldn’t be constantly out-fishing you or be too preoccupied to show up with a net. The ideal river conspirator must be reliable but not to the point that he or she won’t cancel their real-life responsibilities to go on a fishing trip based on a hunch or hearsay.
I’ve been fortunate to share a river with a number of great folks. There is a discrete difference between meeting up for an evening hatch and sharing a campsite for six days of rain; you need to be able to still laugh about the stream that developed right under your picnic table as the week went on. A great fishing partner will tolerate your decisions when you get lost on the way to a far-flung remote pond and spend the day paddling around looking for a fish on what may or may not have been the correct pond. Of course, they’ll also remind you of it for the next decade or so.
You don’t want to hitch your wagon to a crazy person. But, what would you call someone with whom you could roll into town after dark and head right out to fish a trophy trout river that neither of you had ever been to? After you discover that, to reach that choice stretch of water, you must navigate a Colorado mountain road at night where un-penned black cows wander the misty roadway, would they try to navigate the herd? Would they go back the next night? Of course that would depend on how big and how numerous the fish were….
Physical handicaps related to fishing, such as snoring, body odor, or an undue affection for campfire beans can also be disqualifying. I find that I have a near monopoly on these shortcomings.
I mean, we are going on adventures to catch fish and then release them, so pragmatists need not apply. It also seems ironic that such high demands are made for a fishing companion when, in reality, upon arriving at the river, one starts working upstream and the other down. Perhaps, then, the only quality truly required is the ability to make any fishing experience fun!
I am thankful for a friend named John, who always seems to add fun to any situation. We met when we were both guests at a fly in fly fishing lodge in Alaska. John was practical enough that he had gotten a huge discount in filling in for a cancellation and just crazy enough to drop everything and go in on the trip solo. I was there with my wife, and we ended up fishing with John several days because we ended up laughing so much when fishing with him. Since then, we’ve met up and fished in Maine for brook trout and covered a good portion of John’s home state of Colorado over the course of multiple trips.
We don’t get to fish together often, but we do try to talk periodically. We’ll chat about fishing, family, and usually discuss our opinions of the Patriots. As early as midway through the 2019 season, John was of the opinion that Tom Brady would not return to the Patriots for another year. I disagreed, conceding that their offense was anemic but not due to a lack of effort by the team. Belichick’s squad had drafted a wide receiver with their first-round draft pick, traded a second rounder for Mohammed Sanu, and made the expensive misstep of signing Antonio Brown (I wonder who fishes with him!?).
John proposed we make a wager on it. If Brady re-signed with the Pats I would win, if he signed with another team John would win, and if Brady retired it was a draw. “Well, what’s the wager” I asked. “The loser has to come up with a quality photo of themselves fly fishing, in a river, wearing a dress” John replied, proving why he is so fun to fish with. “You’re on,” I confidently replied, and the conversation moved on.
Fast forward several months, and Tom Terrific became a free agent GOAT, making me bleat a little. Like a lot of New Englanders, I was shocked when he inked a two-year deal with Tampa Bay. But, for me, that news meant I would be adding humiliation on top of loss.
Thanks to my son Wynn for capably manning the camera for some photos, putting up with a distinctly un-fun fishing partner for a day, and coming up with the idea to use my fishing hemostats to hold the dress closed in the back so it wouldn’t fall off my bird-like chest on every cast. You bet I won’t be making any more wagers any time soon. I am happy to add a moment of light heartedness and humor at my own expense.
John, congrats on your win. Have fun on the river, everyone. Go Pats!