November 10 – Friday – Veterans Day (celebrated)
It is the first really cold day of the season and it is forecasted to get colder as the day wears on. I layer up with fleece, wool, a hoodie and a windbreaker along with a pair of Army surplus wool gloves – appropriate that they were Army surplus as I will be fishing with Veterans from Project Healing Waters and Cadets from the USMA Fly Fishing Club. West Pointers!
Long Island Fly Rodders are to be the river guides or Greeters as I call myself. We station ourselves at the various beats. Then the Vets are paired with Cadets – or so the plan is to be. Somewhere along the way things were allowed to just happen and it all works out, as it always does when I get out of the way.
Mike asks me to go to beat 11 which I know well and like. When I get there four guys are on it so I go to 10 where I find 3 more guys. I call Mike and tell him the situation and that I will go down to 9 and stand my duty.
Beat 9 is a long walk and I have it to myself for the first hour, so I fish. I start with the sluice and have a nice rainbow on in a short while. Modest in size but not in fight. He has been in the river a while.
Moving downstream to where the current fans out and goes to good holes on both the right and the left (the one on the left is deeper) I just stand and watch. There are fish creating wakes, moving about and once in a while, coming to the surface but not taking anything that is floating. Just under the surface something is turning them on. One big boy has his back out of the water as he moves to the shallow center of the run to grab something and then moves back to his cover.
I take off the Woolly Bugger that worked above and put on an Iris Caddis which floats in the film. No takers. Next I try an Odierna Ausable Wulff as I know they like orange at any time of year. Some looks but no commitments. Back to the Green Bugger and the fish makes me really work for him, swimming the fly in and out of each hole and across the shallow. After some time he chases it as it travels from right to left and he is on. A big boy…or girl.
I look up to see a fellow fishing the top of 9 so I go over to “greet” him. He has already released a fish and is using the right fly. Not much I can tell him other than my story of the fish just below us. I invite him down.
“Ray is my name” and I responded with mine. He looked at me and said “I read your stuff” meaning my blog and postings. I thanked him. I ask if he is a West Pointer as I am expecting the Cadets to be working their way down. “Yes, Class of 2003. Two tours in Iraq – when it was interesting” he said.
We review my suggested techniques for fishing the holes and the sluice and then I watch, thinking of all this man must have been through. Civilian now, and working on the rest of his life – trout fishing to be a part of it for sure.
I sat on a rock and two more folks came by, not cadets, but looked military. I greet and welcome them to Connetquot. Introduce them to Ray and it turns out this fellow was an instructor at the Point when Ray was there. Small world. A fish rose in the middle of 9 and my newest friend wants to give him a try. I ask what fly he has on and offer him another in case it didn’t work. A Green Woolly Bugger, of course.
I walk upstream, leaving these West Pointers to chat and fish together. A Cadet is casting well from the platform and says she already had one on. Not easy to do in this section of 9. Her fly is the right color but a bit large so I give her a backup in a smaller size.
Moving on to the bottom of 10 I run into Ira and Tom who have worked their way down. Tom Casey is a buddy of mine and he is now an accomplished fly fisher. “8 so far” he proudly boasts in a good way. Last spring he was a newbie. Project Healing Waters gives so much and the smile on Tom’s face says it all.
With every one catching fish, I head back down to Ray. He already released a fish and the others hooked up as well. I suggest to Ray that he move upstream to 11 where the fish are a little less sophisticated and more plentiful. The others head up as well. I sat for a bit and fish a little waiting for my next “greet-ees.”
At noon I start to work my way toward lunch which promises to be a full menu BBQ with chicken, burgers, dogs and special homemade beans. I pass the others who are still fishing but are being served by knowledgeable Fly Rodders. In good hands, as they say.
At 13 I meet a Cadet by the name of Jay who I greet as I did the rest. He sees all the fish but hasn’t hooked up yet. I suggest we walk down to the top of 12 and point out how the river curves and the distinctive darker tones on the left bank. “That is where they are” I say and here is how to approach them. Where Ray is an aggressive fisherman, who covers water quickly (he is starting to give the fly more time to do its work), Jay is the opposite. He soon gets the idea and we cover the long narrow pool most of the way to the dock at 12, swimming his fly in and out, dropping it back and retrieving it, moving every few minutes to fresh water. He has had a good hit and is fishing it very well when he heeds the call to lunch which is to be served at 12:30. Punctual. I jest that this group is seldom on time but when I turn he is out of sight.
I stroll out, resisting the temptation to hit a few more spots on the way. I am the last to join the lunch and the search party was about to be organized. Good friends.
The food is delicious and I sit with a bunch of Cadets. We swap some “Where you from?” tales and relax. Young men, and women, just starting out on their life’s path. God only knows what will be ahead for them. Kids in my estimation, as old as my collegiate grandson, but they are in a “trade school” as a boss of mine who graduated the Point once told me, a school of war. It feels good to support them during this respite.
As we assemble for the group photo it is announced that this will be the First Annual PHW/USMA Fly Fishing Club outing and we will see you all next year. Applause and back slapping all around but having served from 1966 to ’72 I say a quiet prayer for them all, share some more flies and remind a few of the techniques we went over.
November 11 – Saturday – Veteran’s Day
Happy Veterans Day to all of the Vets out there, no matter the circumstances. We all answered the call. We all were willing. I reflect back to my Grandfather in WWI and Father in WWII. More nostalgic at this age and less focused on my own time. Grandpa’s war was the Great One – the War to End All Wars and if the Allies had been more forgiving and less about recrimination, more about rebuilding than retribution at the end, who knows what would have happened – but that wasn’t up to the soldiers – that was the politicians. Dad’s war had to be fought and we did much better at the end – just look how many German and Japanese cars we drive today. Then there was Korea and then there was Nam and on it goes.
These men and women, these cadets, deserve better than what we had. Veterans Day celebrates the WWI Armistice signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and was to be the war to end all wars – and it just might have, if not for the politicians.
Lord please don’t let these young people down. May it be your will that we see them all next year at Connetquot, catching trout and eating BBQ.
Thank you Project Healing Waters for this event and for all the good work you do for veterans and those who will soon be Veterans.
If you are a Vet and would like to find out more about PHW contact Jim Gilmartin at (516) 241 5868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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