Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mark Foley's First Fish: New Hampshire Brook Trout

Do you remember catching your first fish?  I do, and more importantly, I remember who I was with. My first fish on a fly rod was an Eastern Brook Trout, other wise known as Salvelinus Fontinalis.  I was in the third grade, and I was with an older boy from my neighborhood, named Mike Vinsel. Mike had taken me fishing on many occasions, but this time our adventure would be different, and it forever changed my life!

We did not ride our bikes to this new fishing location, it was too far to make the roundtrip journey in one day. I remember driving past my school and shortly after, my mother dropped us off. With rods in hand, and backpacks filled with food and fishing equipment, we followed a small stream through the woods.  The hike in was a jagged transformation from my mom's huge 1970 car, to a living forest, pulsing with eye opening beauty.  We arrived at a spot, and I stood upon my very first New England small stream pool.  This was no pond or lake water, with featureless darkness.  It was crystal clear, and boy was it magical.  I could see the bottom, easily seeing the colors of each pebble and the yellow patches of sand.  The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the trees were in full green. I immediately felt comfortable, as though I never wanted to leave this cozy micro-haven. Mike did what Mike was very good at, he caught fish, and lots of them.  I can remember watching the fish attack his fly -- I had never seen anything like this.  I stood frozen, glued, trying to see where the fish were coming from.  One second, nothing was visible, and then suddenly, a Brook Trout was attacking his fly; was this a trick, I thought to myself.  Mike gave me the fly rod (fiber-glasss Fenwick) and soon I was reeling in my first Eastern Brook Trout.  The colors on that fish were like nothing I had ever seen. I stared at the rainbow of colorful dots on its flank.  I was motionless, in a trance, but my mind and heart were exploding in joy.  I still get this feeling each time I catch a Brook Trout; especially the small wild colorful ones.        

Shortly after catching my first EBT, my family moved from New Hampshire to Connecticut.  I was sad to leave my fishing mentor and buddy behind.  As I type, I have not seen or talked to Mike in exactly thirty-nine years. Well, just a few days ago, that changed -- I found him on Facebook.  We have reconnected.  I was hopeful we could meet in person, but I discovered he now lives and works in Japan.  Regardless, reconnecting with Mike via digital means, has been one of the best life moments for me. Why?  Allow me to explain.

  • First and most importantly, I finally had the chance to thank Mike for being my fishing buddy. Time spent with Mike has had a HUGE positive impact on my life.  I have never forgotten about Mike -- our shared memories have never left my mind and soul (i.e., Mike was always with me, whether I was fishing in the USA or around the globe).
  • My family home environment was not healthy.  As a result, there are just a few things in my life that truly make me feel 100% safe and comfortable. Fishing and nature are two of those things. Prior to fishing with Mike, and until I caught my first EBT, I never felt such pure safety and comfort. Something very good happened to me on that day. Again, I am eternally grateful that I had a fishing buddy/mentor who took me under his wings and brought such good energy into my life.
  • Contrary to what you may see, hear, or believe, in honor of what Mike shared with me (fishing and nature), my mission in the fly-fishing world/biz has always been to pay it forward -- to provide a safe, comfortable, and memorable experience for clients and friends.  Fishing can heal -- I am living proof!  If I can be a mentor like Mike, I am a happy soul.  

Over the past several days, Mike and I have been swapping old fishing stories -- attempting to recall events that happened over thirty-five years ago.  During this process, yet again, my fishing mentor did something that ROCKED my world.  He sent me the following hand drawn pieces that reflect our experiences catching EBT's.  Life has not always been easy for me, but at this very moment, I feel blessed and truly lucky. Words cannot begin to describe the emotions I had when I first looked at these drawings.  Reconnecting with Mike has been the greatest catch of my life!

This was a tough spot for a young third grader, but I can remember watching my mentor catch EBT's at this location.  

If I showed you this spot today, you would never believe EBT lived there.  Just a short bike ride from our neighborhood, we had many EBT streams and brooks. 
This is the spot where I caught my first EBT!  It was a magical experience that forever changed my life.  

Final Words

My story took place in the mid 1970's, in the Amherst, New Hampshire area.  It was a time when boys rode their bikes many miles, down quiet country roads, to go fishing.  Obviously, we live in a different world today.  Perhaps, kids riding bikes through an ocean of traffic and chaos, to catch fish, is not the best idea. Regardless, I hope you can find a way to go fishing because some things don't change -- friendship and fishing are still important, and both, just might have a tremendous impact on your life.  

Thanks and looking forward to reading your story.


PS.  Mike, thanks for sharing your wonderful artwork!