Washington, DC, October 8, 2010
All of us who worked with him knew he wasn't well but the seriousness of the situation didn't hit home until late this week when most of the department crowded into our work area with the boss leading the parade. He stopped and turned to face everyone and after years of working with him I knew this wasn't going to be good news.

" I don't know how to say this...and I guess there is no easy way to say it...but Mr.B died this morning," he said. "At this time we have no details from his family regarding the funeral or memorial service but as soon as we find out we'll let all of you know."

The heavy cough started three days after Labor Day followed by a few sick days and most of us thought it was either Fall allergies or the flu. But from that point his health quickly spiraled downwards. The hoarse voice. A jaundiced complexion. The halting, unsteady walk and the chemo belt he tried to hide under bulky clothing. We inquired about his health but he was a private man and he politely declined to provide answers. Except for a few more sick days he came to work every day and executed his duties right up to the time where he turned down an ambulance ride and instead asked a co-worker to drive him to the emergency room where he eventually lapsed into unconsciousness and passed away the following day.

That evening, after dinner, my wife asked me what I was going to do on my day off. I told her what happened at the office and said I was going fishing. But I wasn't in the mood to do any real fishing. I just had to get away somewhere for a bit to sort things out.

Second guessing and arm-chair quarterbacking is bad form and it's even worse when you're talking about someone who just passed on. I could understand not telling your co-workers and was a bit less understanding about not telling close friends, but keeping your family in the dark about a condition that eventually killed you was--selfish? Crazy? I couldn't wrap my head around it. Mr.B did not tell his ex or two kids about his declining health. They found out about his condition when the hospital called them the night he went to the emergency room.

I decided to try a spot
Todd told me about that held largemouth bass, carp and resident striped bass--an ideal place to practice with my spey rod. It was a beautiful day with unseasonably warm temperature and a cloudless blue sky. A wonderful day for a picnic, but terrible for fishing. For good day of fishing, give me some light rain or heavy overcast. Fish just seem to be more active and a bit more eager to take a fly. However you fish what you've got or don't fish at all so I quickly geared up and walked to the water. A couple of kayakers were heading out with fly rods and we exchanged notes as they prepared to launch. They also felt the fishing weather was too nice but were going to go out to give it a try anyway.

I rigged up with a weighted
Clouser Minnow and began hitting the outgoing current, throwing upstream and letting it swing out below me. I fished several patterns and pulled up some bottom weed and a few twigs but had no serious bites. Another fly fisher who was working the water above me had similar luck and he gave up around mid-day so I pulled in my line and walked up to try his spot.

The current here was much faster and closer to shore so I didn't have to air out much line. I tried several other patterns and thought I had, or maybe wished I had, a small tug on the line but it turned out to be nothing. It could have been a 26 pound striped bass mouthing then spitting the fly but in reality it probably just tickled a sunken twig as it drifted down the current.

The sun was beginning to set and traffic out of the city was getting thick so it was time to call it a day. I didn't catch a fish, but it really didn't matter to me. It wasn't important. Maybe my casting was off or the presentation sucked. Maybe I used the wrong fly or it was the wrong color or wrong size. Maybe it had too much or too little weight on it. Maybe the tide had to be either incoming or outgoing to trigger the bite or maybe the water was too cold or too warm and the sun was too bright or not bright enough. It was just fly fishing and that's the way thing go sometimes. But what mattered most to me was my family and the folks who are close friends and fishing buddies. And I also remembered that today, somewhere in an office complex at Tysons Corner, a daughter was crying as she boxed up family photos scattered across her dad's desk. She never got the chance to tell him goodbye.

Keep a tight grip on your rod but hold your friends and family tighter. Life is short. Fish hard.