When Life Gives You Lemons …

There is no disputing that this year will be one unlike any other. Between the cloth strips covering our faces, the evenly spaced markers at checkout lines, and the lack of students at our nation’s schools, it will be a year for the history books. However, the world took our new situation in stride, and many of us thrived during this time of unrest.

Masks are now an everyday part of life, even when fishing. Photo credit: David Belson

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I celebrated my birthday without friends or family. This past Tuesday I enjoyed food, gifts, and attention, but wasn’t able to share it with my friends in-person. It also just-so-happened to also be the first birthday of Covid-19. Next time I’m asked if I share a birthday with any celebrities, I guess I’ll have to reply, “does a pandemic count?”

All in all, though, I had a great time. Instead of locking up inside my house to sulk about all the lost opportunities, I seized the moment. The chilly 40-degree air didn’t stop me as I giddily walked to one of my favorite local spots. And I was even happier when I raised a small bass into my hands after only one cast. It’s not too often you have that kind of luck, and I took it as a sign that things would soon get better. Honestly, what other year would I have been able to sneak away to do some fishing on a school day? With homework, sports, and other activities, I probably wouldn’t have been able to even take a single cast. There is no doubt that an increase in fishing time was one of the major positives of this year, and I’m continuing to take advantage of that.

Unfortunately, Covid isn’t all positives. My family was enthusiastically awaiting the two-and-a-half hour car ride to Maine to visit some family we haven’t seen in a while. But, when the day finally arrived, so did a new order from the governor that made it nearly impossible to even enter Maine.

We were devastated, but my mind quickly drifted to the next-best thing: fishing. I unrealistically had visions of nymphing the gorgeous Squanacook River for some trout, the nearest river to me that gets stocked during the fall. That night, I spent some time tying a new nymphing leader and attaching my two-fly rig.

The next morning, I was met with another surprise: my mom simply wasn’t up to making the nearly hour-long haul to the river. I was disappointed, but completely understood. It gave me some time to reflect on how grateful I am to have such supportive parents. Week after week, they are willing to take me on these grand adventures to target far-away fish that they have zero interest in. Instead of getting to enjoy the excitement of fishing, they sit in the car, take a walk, or become my private camera crew. I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now if it wasn’t for them.

On that note, my dad once again came to my rescue. When I offered to instead try the much more local Shawsheen River for some most likely non-existent holdover trout, he hurried to the car to take me over. I knew my chances of catching a fish of any size, or even a fish for that matter, were very slim. Nevertheless, I knew I would enjoy honing my fly-fishing skills in a low-stakes situation. At the very least, I would get outside, and maybe gain some information for next season’s trout.

They day was a success! Although I never caught one of those elusive holdovers, I did learn the ins-and-outs of creek chub fishing. After catching about five in the first ten minutes, I lost count. The bigger one even put a decent bend in my five-weight. I found it very interesting that the larger fish always took my larger fly, a red fox squirrel nymph. The smaller ones consistently ate the smaller fly, a partridge and orange soft hackle that seemed to perfectly imitate the large midges sporadically popping off the water’s surface. Even though this information will probably never come in handy when targeting game fish, it was still fun to learn.

These little chubs provided some excitement during this otherwise boring time.

In addition to my victory over the creek chubs, I also got to see some pretty amazing wildlife. As I was walking up to a juicy looking pool after a fast riffle, I spooked a large red-tailed hawk from one of the overhanging trees. It gracefully swooped through the sky before touching down on the bank just upstream. Not a minute later, a great blue heron silently flew from it’s spot on the opposite side of the river where I had somehow failed to notice it. The presence of both these fish-eating birds should have tipped me off to the fact that there were at least some chubs in that stretch of river, but my dismal fishing skills kept me from catching them.

Red-tailed hawks are often a beautiful part of the scenery while fishing. Photo credit: David Belson

It wasn’t the day that I was expecting, but believe me, I still had a blast. As we head into the holiday season, keep in mind that things won’t always go to plan. Be grateful for what you have, and don’t take these newfound situations for granted. Take some time to reflect on the bright spots of this past year instead of focusing on the uncountable negatives. We may not be able to see our loved ones in-person, but there are ways to work around this. Kids, this is the time your newfound knowledge of Google Meet and Zoom will come in handy. There are ways to work around the obstacles. I think everyone has learned to be very flexible this year, and hopefully it’s a skill we’ll carry with us into future years. As more and more challenges get thrown our way, just remember that there will always be ways to make lemonade.

It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I still enjoyed my trip to the Shawsheen.

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