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The early Sunday morning mist was hanging heavy and thick over the glassy and steady flowing waters of the Beaverkill River in Roscoe, NY. I could feel the cool water pressing hard against the legs of my waders as I stood waste deep in one of the most famous trout holding zones in the east, Junction Pool – where the Beaverkill meets Willowemoc Creek. The water rolls and swirls there as the two flowing waterways converge and create an absolutely ideal environment for fish both young and old.
The ancient art of fly fishing is often times referred to by those that do it as artful meditation because of its minimalist nature and calming tempo. There’s obvious technique and grace involved in the method of fly fishing, however its the ethos and the deep understanding of nature required to catch fish on a hand tied bug that’s unmatched. I’ve always viewed fly fisherman less as anglers and more as artists. It’s an activity that requires rootedness and a connection with mother nature. It’s not a competition between you and a fish, its a exercise that forces you to understand that nature works with you, not for you.
I shot my fluorescent fly line out in front of me and landed a small caddis beside a smooth rock I’d been sneaking up on for a few minutes now. I stripped my line in just a bit and bang – fish on! I let the fish take a little line and do some running up stream before I started to slowly reel it in. For the next thirty seconds or so I let it pull a bit more line and we continued to go back and forth. I pulled the net off my back and raised my rod tip to pull the fish closer to me and just then the fly freed up from it’s mouth and the trout swam away. I put the net back on my back and smiled at the moment and just how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful area of our planet. One of my favorite things about fly fishing is it slows everything down and allows you time to breath and think proper. On this particular fishing trip my thoughts were focused heavily on the people I’d met over the course of the two days prior.
On Friday I left my house in Cazenovia and rolled through the Catskill Mountains, eventually arriving at a unique little boutique bed and breakfast called the Arnold House in Livingston Manor. The smell of woodsmoke filled the air and created that wonderful and familiar feeling of outdoor life that I love so much. I met my Brother Ryan at the front door and we walked into the lobby together to check into our rooms for the weekend. As we were getting our room keys we looked out the back window at a rustic pavilion topped with a tin roof that sat at the back of the property. The pavilion was filled with people eating and conversing over picnic tables while a 3 piece band played by the bar. Just to the right side of the building was a large bonfire surrounded by dozens of young kids with lacrosse sticks. Immediately the scene felt right to me and I knew I was in the right place.
When I think of lacrosse I don’t think of stadiums, famous players or big games. I think of family, fun and tradition. The backyard of the Arnold House on this particular day exemplified those three elements perfectly.
After Ryan and I put our bags in the room we went straight out to the pavilion. As we stepped through the doors we were greeted warmly by the tournament organizers and the family that had invited us both down to spend the weekend, Pete and Lisa Ruggiero. I am admittedly bad at a lot of things, however I’m very confident in my ability to read people and can often times figure them out within just a few moments. Pete and Lisa shook our hands with gigantic smiles and I knew immediately there was nothing left to figure out – they were salt of the earth. The Ruggiero’s are real. I’ve noticed something about people that science may never be able to prove and it relates to the look in their eyes. People that have a deep passion for life and a truly authentic spirit have brighter eyes than most. I know that “brighter” is a broad term and not exactly a tangible thing to look for but if you see that look once you’ll know it and its easy to identify moving forward. Pete and Lisa both have piercing bright eyes filled with soul and energy.