Don't Fish The Past!

Fishing Stories
Roger Gricius
Roger Gricius

We hear this fishing cliché often. Most take it to mean that you need to adapt to changing conditions. But, what does it mean? What are we doing when we “fish the past?” We’re taking things for granted, not living in the moment.

This isn’t just good advice on water. Its advice for life. My friend Roger Gricius used to talk about what used to be a good spot, what was nothing, and what it is today after every trip we made. He didn’t take much for granted. He often remarked that it came back to haunt him when he did. We fished together often, usually from our kayaks. The last time we fished together, we didn’t catch anything remarkable, but we did find fish where no one else was finding them. The spawn was over, and everyone on the lake that day was throwing flukes and small finesse lures to deeper outside weed edges, with little success. We fished shallow with big swimbaits and wake baits and caught plenty of straggling spawning bass. That was a week after our shared birthday, May 22nd.

I never exactly took our trips for granted, but I always looked forward to the conversations on the ride home. I didn’t get to fish with Roger again, but we talked on the phone weekly, trying to get our schedules to line up. I remember telling him that we’d figure a time someday, and we laughed.

We figured there would be time. I was busy with club tournaments and fishing clinics. Roger often took his weekends to take family, friends, and sometimes physically handicapped anglers out on his bass boat. He was more about enjoying that moment on the water. His focus was building relationships and developing a fishing community than honing his fishing skills. That isn’t to say he wasn’t a good stick. He always caught and caught big. Most of our best fishing stories involve something unrelated to fishing, like when he fell off the boat in the launch parking lot. The attendant asked if my father was alright, eyes bulging out of his head. Roger dryly replied, “I’m not ugly enough to be his father,” as he calmly got up and brushed himself off.

Roger passed away July 13th, in his sleep. All I have left is the past with Roger. I take none of it for granted. Neither did the many anglers he brought together. It was an honor. We all share a common bond with him, and he taught us that a good fishing buddy was so much more than a good fisherman.

I was on a trip to Upper Saranac Lake the day Roger passed. It was a bragging rights-only, fun get-together of anglers that only knew each other through online message boards. Fishing that day was horrendously tough. Afterward, my friend Mike said he saw numerous bass on wood laydowns in very shallow water but couldn’t get any of them to bite. We decided to check out the spots in the afternoon. Sure enough, several bigger fish were milling about in crystal clear water. I pitched my bait right into the tree's crown, the line lying over several branches. I thought to myself, "This is never going to happen. These fish can see me!" My mind quickly switched gears as I felt the tap of a solid bite. I set the hook, and the fish launched into the air, wrapping my line around several branches. It was hopeless. Without a second thought, I jumped into the water and freed my well-earned fish, holding it in the air like a proud Labrador Retriever. I got the fish and swamped my wallet and cell phone. The rest of the day went on like this, me hooking several “uncatchable” fish while my buddy Mike looked on in amazement.

Later, I learned that both my wife and Roger’s wife had tried my cell phone all afternoon to give me the bad news. Somehow, I get the feeling those fish were Roger’s fish. I would have been on the road and headed home with a heavy heart if I had gotten the news on time. Instead, I got to fish the moment.