The plan was to paddle our kayaks into the West River for bass. Jason and I made the same trip last year and have fished a handful of times in the past, including our practically-epic smelt trip. The last time Dave and I had fished together though, we were 10 or 12 years old. We had ridden our 10-speeds to Holiday Harbor and traipsed the muddy trail through some woods to fish for bass from a shale beach-point on the north end of Canandaigua Lake.
Dave and I were cousins by friendship. Our moms were simultaneously-pregnant kindred-spirits. Dave’s older brother Phil and I were actually the ones born in consecutive summer months, but we all grew up together. Some 26 years after our last time on the water, here we’re both married with kids and homes and jobs and other grown-up obligations, fishing the opposite end of the same lake from kayaks instead of shore, and still chasing the same quarry. It’s crazy how much life goes on in almost three decades, but how little things actually change.
By mid-summer this end of the lake is thick with lilly-pads and milfoil making it difficult to fish, even more so out of a kayak with a fly rod. This year however, a record rain-filled spring had awarded us with a couple extra feet of water which held the weeds to much smaller surface-clogging amounts.
Manageable weeds. Blue sky. Early-evening 70-degree temps. A few cold beers stashed behind the kayak seat for later. We shoved off to meet our piscine destiny.
Under the watchful eye of an American Bald Eagle, one of a few nesting pairs in the area, we paddled from the lake into the river–Jason and Dave with spinning rigs and me with my trusty 5 wt. It took us about half an hour to figure out what was getting the fish to look up. We traded bright top-water patterns for dark and the water instantly turned electric…well, for Dave and I anyhow. Every cast, every pop-strip and retrieve had the hair on the back of my neck standing like a jumpy kid watching the first Friday the 13th, waiting for Jason Voorhees to jump out of the water with a machete.
The Jason who was out with us, however, was a little slow out of the gate. So, he headed for another good-looking stretch of water back around a bend and promptly started sending texts with pictures of his catches.
“Should we head over that way?” Dave asked.
“Let’s get one more cast in here, they’re all over us.” I replied.
So Dave cast again and immediately hooked up. I elected to save my cast and get his battle on video. After a successful release and about a dozen more casts each, we paddled off to locate Jason.
Later, over a few dozen wings from Wally’s and the requisite beers to wash them down, Dave and I got talking about his dad, or Uncle Phil as I always knew him. He had passed away a bunch of years back now, and we reminisced about the funny stuff that stuck with us about him. I didn’t say it then, but I miss Uncle Phil. And I know his boys do too. Our laughs wound down to a short silence, then Dave said, “You know, one thing he always use to say is I‘ve always got time for one more.”
“Always,” I said. “That’s how you got that last nice fish. One more cast.”
“Yea, that was a good call, bro.”
The bartender stopped in front of us, nodding at our chicken-wing-boneyard and empty beer mugs, “You want another one?”
Without missing a beat, Dave smiled, “Always got time for one more.”
Music credit: Etta Baker with Taj Mahal (Poem & Cripple Creek)