“Today I have fished again in France. Oh, but that sunlit hour was wonderful.”
Those were the words of Romilly Fedden, a weary soldier away from the carnage of the front lines during a brief respite from the First Great War. Fedden was an English painter, solider and the author of “Golden Days,” his account of trout fishing in Brittany during and after World War One. In “Golden Days,” Fedden wrote in his prologue: “Only those that have endured these weary times will fully understand to find forgetfulness.”
Fortunately, most of us have not had to confront the terror of the battlefield, although many have, to find their golden days. Those days come to us for many reasons and in many forms, depending on one’s mindset and the season of the year. But like Romilly Feddon, most of our golden days revolve around fishing—fly fishing in particular. Looking back and listening to many friends over the years, there is no question that fishing was not only a fun challenge for them but also, in many cases, an escape from the pressures of work and life in general. Those were their golden days.
I guess that I have been fortunate in that I never looked at fly fishing as an escape—a need for me to get away from the day-to-day hubbub of work or life in general. Unlike Romilly Feddon, I haven’t used fishing to seek sanctuary from the life-threatening stresses associated with combat conditions. I always loved to fish. Even as a young lad, I was driven to water, especially the brook across from our house, by some underlying power that I never questioned or understood. Was it because I was born under the water sign of Aquarius? Who knows? Anyway, I looked at fishing—all fishing, not just fly fishing—as a challenge, a way for me to be by water, accompanied by great anticipation and excitement of the prospect of hooking a fish on the line. Perhaps early on, in the formative years, those were my first golden days, and I just did not know it at the time?
In more recent times, when I reminisce, there were soft June evenings at the Camp Pool, where my boxer, Molly, snoozed on her mat while I fished the evening rise. Molly is gone now and I miss her terribly, so those times there, with that beautiful little dog, were indeed golden days (or nights?). Anyway, a week or so ago, we all met at the camp: Dave and Dave, Rod, Jamie, Galen, Russ and myself, to talk of the seasons’ fishing, cast a cane fly rod and, if somewhat subconsciously, dread the end of another year on the river and the coming Catskill winter. It was a sunny, early fall day with bright colors and a soft breeze—a golden day, indeed.
It is also at this time of year that I think of my good and dear old friends, long gone but not forgotten: Frank, Willie and Heidi, my fishing companions, and our golden days and many years at the Rivers Edge in Shinhopple, NY.
And now, as another trout season draws to a close, with the rods cased in their little coffins one last time in 2019, dramatically emphasizing the end, we await early spring and new beginnings. For those of us where father time is knocking, will there be more trout seasons to come and more golden days? We can only hope.