Blood on the River is the title that I might lead with if I intended for a heart felt dialogue about the familial bond between brothers and the commonality among fly fishermen. The truth is, A River Runs Through It covered that topic pretty well, and besides, my brother doesn’t really fly fish.
My brother and I are similar in many ways, but we have our differences. We have different priorities and different hobbies. But something we do share is an appreciation for quality time with each other and quality time in the outdoors. We are intentional about spending time together. Sometimes these fraternal hangs meet on neutral ground, but most recently, we met in my arena.
After departing early from work on Thursday, I picked up my brother in Georgetown and we headed up river. Two miles later, the noises of the city gave way to the soothing chatter of birds and the soft rhythmic thumping of rain hitting damp leaves. The air was thick and wet, a steady back and forth between heavy mist and light drizzle. To many folks in D.C., it was a dreary day, but to those fortunate enough to be fishing on the Potomac, it was perfect conditions. As might be expected on a rainy Thursday afternoon, the usually bustling Fletcher's Cove was empty save for a few other fishermen silently combing the water. We arrived at slack tide and watched as the current shifted, pulling towards the Chesapeake Bay. The return of movement to the water prompted a flurry of activity on the surface. It looked as if some unseen persons were lobbing handfuls of gravel across the entire river. The splashes most likely belonged to gizzard shad swiping the surface. Every few minutes, a big kerplunk turned our heads just in time to see bubbles and rings sent out from some mystery fish. I have heard that the larger splashes are from catfish jumping, but I know that carp also join in the acrobatics. Fish of many sizes jumped all around us.
I rowed our small wooden boat into a seam and dropped anchor. I quickly hooked several fish. The hickory shad dominated the catch, but a few herring also made it to the boat. Once I selfishly confirmed that the fish were biting, I shifted from angler to instructor. I handed my brother the 8wt rod and gave him a few casting tips, 10 and 2...allow the line time to unfold...let the rod do the work. I wanted to believe that my brother heard to my instruction only to be betrayed by his stubborn arm movements. He tried and often failed to maximize casting distance, repeatedly swinging the rod past the two o’clock position resulting in a finely coiled fly line plopping down on the water. But we pressed on and there were moments of brilliance exemplified by outstretched line and leader. My brother progressed, and more importantly, my brother caught fish entirely on his own: cast, retrieve, hookset, fight, land, unhook, release, high five.
Family and fly fishing are two beautiful things and I am hopeful that they will continue to overlap more in my life.