Fishing the Morning Lonely

By Lenny Ackerman, July 8, 2021

I have only recently returned from camp after spending Father’s
Day week there with my eldest daughter Kara and her husband
Peter. The weather at camp was in and out every day – partly cloudy
in the morning and a bit of afternoon rain. Weather notwithstanding,
there were plenty of fish—trout and bass.

Sharing a 20-foot grand canoe with one of your kids is a great
opportunity for communication—neither of you has anywhere to
run. But those few moments in time when father and daughter talk
to each other looking directly into each other’s eyes are worth all the
effort. This floating trip was a first for us both down the
Mattawamkeag River from Danforth to the Bridge at Drew
Plantation. Kara and I had done a similar float trip in Montana when
she was a teenager.

Casting to the shore and that instant take on top of the water is
very thrilling. Keeping my balance is a bit of a challenge but I did
not fall in this time. Greg, our fishing guide, paddled most of the
way with a bit of help from the 8 HP motor to get us home for
dinner. The day ended with a few casts off the dock and to my
surprise I hooked a fat bass right off the rocks no more than 20 feet
from camp.

The flight home from Bangor was calm and uneventful–the cell
turned off and the NY Times in hand catching up on news after a
week of withdrawal. The weather on my return was cool and
unceremoniously dismal for July 4th. I thought of making a fire in
the library. I went down to the basement and sought out the wood
pile that had lain unused during Covid, hidden in the corner behind
cartons of stored clothes. The warmth from the fire was a charm and
reminded me of so many evenings at camp, ensconced with a good
book in front of the hearth. I looked among the shelves in the library
for something to read.

On the shelf to my right was a collection of books on fishing that
I had accumulated since the early 1970s. Scanning the titles I came
to a small book of poems, Fishing the Morning Lonely by George
Mendoza. I glanced through it and fell upon the title poem, which
so beautifully captures the serene sense of perspective one gains
when immersed in nature:

“Fishing the morning lonely
I’m looking up at the sky
telling myself
why I’m who
and how do you do
black and yellow waxwing
why can’t I fly like you…
Fishing the morning lonely
is dreaming in the sky
and looking at your face in a milkweed ball
and packing up all your possessions
in the petals of a flower
Don’t look for me
for I’m clear through
when I’m on the river
fishing the morning lonely”

I often fish the morning lonely at camp, in the very early hours of
the day. Before anyone at camp arises, I head out to the dock and
cast off among the rocks where the bass rest. Always a short cast
with a yellow hopper. A ratty old fly tied by a fisherman of old,
handed down to me by his grandkids when they cleaned out the
garage for a yard sale.

There are plenty of these yard sales in my town now that many of
the old families are selling off to New Yorkers who want a piece of
the Hamptons. Grandpa’s old grease-covered fly box filled with
handmade rusty lures and some flies—his grandkids remembered I
fish and they dropped the box off at my office. What an amazing
gift. I use them all the time. In fact, I am trying to duplicate some of
them with a beginners fly-tying kit from Orvis.

I will fish the morning lonely for as long as I can fix my early
morning coffee and walk unassisted down to the dock for the first
cast of the day.

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