It’s a good day when you fish until dark. It’s a great day when you do that and come home smelling of a wood fire, grilled burgers and hot dogs, and rye whiskey.
We received some mixed news a few weeks ago: our blog colleague, Ashu Rao, will be moving out-of-state for a very sweet job. We are happy for him but sad for ourselves, as Ashu has been such a great team member and friend for many years.
So our team decided it would be good and right to get together to fish and give a send off for our friend. That was Plan A. We quickly escalated from there.
Jamie Carr mentioned that he had access to land near a river where he could build a campfire, given that the weather forecast was for cold weather.
I then mentioned that I could bring sandwich makings for everyone, and Jamie then said that he could procure a gas grill. That settled it: I’d instead bring burgers, hot dogs and all the fixings to give Ashu a proper goodbye. I also decided to bring some surprises, too.
It would be special: a ‘Shu Fest.
Some blog team members met mid-morning to fish, and the sharp 14 °F air temperature was frigid but a nice break from being cooped up inside during the pandemic.
We fortunately were onto fish early and often, with each angler fielding his own preferred technique. Given the icy weather, I went with tightlining on a Euro rig and ran into rain-bros and browns while swinging size 20 scud patterns.
At noon, we gathered for lunch: Ashu, Jamie, Joe Drake, Dave Hyde, and I. Jamie built a warm campfire, and I surprised the group with some wine (an Italian white and an Italian red) and Whistle Pig 10-Year Rye.
In short order, we wolfed down 16 hot dogs and hamburgers, ate some chocolate, and enjoyed the drinks while good cheer was in the air. It was great to get our blog team back together again, as we had skipped group gatherings in 2020.
We wore our face masks when we weren’t eating, and we had plenty of hand sanitizer. Since I’m tested regularly for Covid-19, I handled the food prep and cooking, which was a small task and one that I enjoyed. Mrs. Carr’s homemade peanut butter cookies, warmed on the grill, were a great coda to the meal.
With a fire going and good banter, we made good use of 25 ounces of good rye. We emptied that tank. That’s some Pig!
I’m very lucky in that I’ve fished the most with Ashu: multiple day outings to the Farmington and Swift and over-nighters in Maine and Pittsburg, NH. He also joined our family for Thanksgiving one year when his parents had to travel suddenly for a family health matter. So I’ll miss him a great deal.
The good news is that today’s technology lets us all stay in touch. “You’re not leaving the blog team, ya know,” Joe Drake mentioned to Ashu. “We expect you to keep writing about your new home waters.”
And that settled it. It wasn’t “goodbye” but “until we meet again,” as Italians would say. And we know that Ashu will be back periodically to visit his parents and to fish with us.
It was a great gathering. We ended the lunch with a toast and a present for Ashu, a surprise gift for Jamie, and good tidings all around.
Then, Jamie and I fished until dark, connecting with fish here and there and feeling that we were so fortunate to be able to get together as a group during such an odd time, given the pandemic. We each had a double-digit day to boot.
I’m lending Jamie two of my fly rods, as I think he is about to go headfirst down the Euronymphing and 000-weight-dry-fly-rod-and-7x-or-8x-for-size-30 flies chutes. I’m glad to be an enabler.
It’s all good. It was a great day on the water and a wonderful way to celebrate friendship.
I’m looking forward to the next ‘Shu Fest.