Riverrock Announces ‘Monsters of the James’ Kayak Fishing Tournament for 2020

Dominion Energy Riverrock will hold the festival’s first-ever fishing tournament with the ‘Monsters of the James’ challenge taking place on Saturday, May 16, at 7 a.m., in partnership with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Registration is currently open for the catch-and-release tournament, where teams of one or two anglers will put in at Ancarrow’s Landing and paddle kayaks or canoes in the James River in search of catfish. The overall winners will be determined based on the cumulative length of a team’s three largest catfish.

“Dominion Energy Riverrock is a celebration of the James River and all the adventure opportunities it provides in Richmond, so it makes perfect sense to bring this new challenge to the festival,” said Megan Schultz, Director of Events for Sports Backers. “The kayak and paddle events in the James are always popular with participants and spectators and the anglers taking part will bring even more excitement to the festival experience.”

The competition will begin at approximately 7 a.m., following a ‘blast off’ notification from the tournament director, and all competitors must be back at the Ancarrow’s Landing launch area by 1 p.m. For scoring purposes, anglers should photograph any fish that they wish to enter on a measuring board, and to be eligible for scoring, all fish must be released alive. During the event, DGIF officials will handle all on-water operations taking place.

The author (left) and Capt. Mike Ostrander with a big James River blue catfish.

“The Monsters of the James fishing contest will showcase the world-class blue catfish fishery that we have in the James River. These are some of the biggest fish available to anglers in Virginia. They regularly exceed 60 pounds, and they are found right in Richmond’s backyard,” said Dr. Mike Bednarski, DGIF Chief of Fisheries. “We’re very excited to see the results and to have fishing highlighted as the adventure sport that it is at Dominion Energy Riverrock.”

The total score will consist of the cumulative length of the team’s three largest catfish. Species allowed are blue, flathead, channel, and white catfish, as well as yellow, brown, or black bullhead. All teams must be registered by May 2, and the competition will be capped at 25 teams. Click here for more!

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Just 80 Miles from RVA, Widewater Becomes Virginia’s 38th State Park

Governor Ralph Northam today officially opened Widewater State Park in Stafford County, the Commonwealth’s 38th state park. Widewater State Park covers 1,100 acres, including two miles of water frontage along the Potomac River and Aquia Creek.

Widewater State Park in Stafford County is just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Richmond. Credit: Va. State Parks

“Virginia’s state parks attract millions of visitors each year, serving as affordable vacation destinations and adding to the economic vitality of the communities where they are located,” said Governor Northam. “With the dedication of this new state park we build upon Virginia’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship and expand opportunities for the public to experience our Commonwealth’s natural beauty and renowned system of state parks.”

The property was originally purchased by Dominion Energy as a site for a proposed power plant. The property was later approved for development of 700 residential units, a resort conference center and extensive infrastructure. Dominion sold the property for $1 million less than the assessed value in 2013. The Trust for Public Land and Stafford County assisted in the transaction.

“The development of a low-impact state park on waterfront property significantly reduces the possibility of increased water quality degradation,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “More than 73,000 acres of Virginia are protected as state parks, and only a small fraction of the property is ever improved or developed. We are pleased that this land will be protected for generations to come.”

The visitor center at Widewater State Park. Credit: Va. State Parks

Funding for the $6.1 million property was from Virginia Public Building Authority bonds and a federal appropriation of $225,000 secured by Virginia’s congressional delegation through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.

“State parks host 10 million visitors each year,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Widewater State Park allows us to provide water access in one of the most heavily populated areas of Virginia while maintaining the serenity people expect when they visit one of our 38 state parks.”

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A Shad Fishing Primer: Where to Go, What to Do When You Get There

The run of hickory and American shad up the James River to the Fall Line in Richmond is truly something special. With spring finally starting to show herself a bit, the next couple of weeks are prime time to head down to the river and wet a line, whether you have five minutes or five hours.

Shad are a wonderful species for anglers young and old. They may be the perfect species for beginning fishermen and ladies. Get in the right spot with the right rig and you should soon be in business.

There aren’t a lot of secrets in shad fishing in Richmond, so I put together a map highlighting the best spots to fish for shad from the bank. When fishing conventional tackle, the best bet is shad darts or spoons. Use a ¼ or ½ oz sinker with a 14-16”, 10 to 12 lb. test leader and a shad dart or spoon on the end. Pick a spot. Throw it out, reel it in, and hang on!


Shad spoons.


Shad darts.


Shad spoon and sinker rigged with length of leader between them.


Catching shad below the Mayo Bridge.

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Celebrating World Fish Migration Day in RVA (It’s Cooler Than It Sounds)

This Saturday Richmond will join the world in celebrating World Fish Migration Day.

On April 21 our friends at the James River Association, as well as other partners and community members in Richmond will celebrate World Fish Migration Day –  a one day global-local event to create awareness about the importance of open rivers and migratory fish.

Rivers around the world, like the James River, provide many services: water supply, irrigation, navigation, hydropower, fishing and more. However, these activities are often carried out at an environmental cost. Dams and other human activities can cause river fragmentation, water quality deterioration, and loss of habitat that collectively has led to decline in fish stocks.

In 1609 Captain John Smith wrote of the Jamestowne Colony, “We had more sturgeon than could be devoured by dog and man.” The Bay’s largest and oldest fish was abundant in the waters of the James during European colonization, but by the dawn of the 20th century the sturgeon population had nearly collapsed due to over-harvest, loss of habitat, and pollution. American shad once migrated to the James River in staggering abundance each spring. Despite the treasured cultural symbol shad represent in Virginia, American shad have suffered from habitat loss, over-harvest and construction of migratory barriers in the river like dams and culverts.

The James River is still home to many species of migratory fish that complete incredible journeys related to their spawning runs. Spending part of their lives in the ocean and part in freshwater rivers, these fish not only require healthy waters and habitat, but also open rivers where they may freely migrate. Thanks to efforts by many organizations and agencies, the James River is showing signs of some improvement in water quality, and species like sturgeon are returning to spawn in greater numbers.

A full day of activities are planned around Richmond to celebrate and make residents aware of fish migration along the James River. Click here to learn more.

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Much to See, Do at Appomattox Riverfest

On Saturday, April 29th the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River will stage the 3rd annual Appomattox RiverFest (with co-sponsor Fort Lee). This day long family event is great for nature lovers, birders, history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who wants to spend a beautiful day outdoors enjoying the scenic and historic treasures of the Appomattox River.

Fishing lessons are among the many offerings at FOLAR’s Appomattox Riverfest on April 29th.

From 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Appomattox Riverside Park – at the rocky rapids where Dinwiddie, Petersburg and Chesterfield meet – RiverFest will offer these activities and more:

o  Obstacle course and climbing wall with Fort Lee

o  Youth Fishing workshops, provided by Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

o  Kayaking workshops with certified instructors

o  Archaeological activities and demonstrations with Fort Lee archaeologists

o  For nature lovers – view rare fauna along the trails with a Master Naturalist

o  See and learn about the fish, reptiles, amphibians, bugs and birds that help keep the river healthy with Environment Education Specialists and Thunder Eagle Wildlife Rescue

o  Stroll or ride a tram along the River Walk Trail that provides great views of the river

o  Learn the history of the river and batteau with the Virginia Canals and Navigation Society

o  Food Trucks and Live Music by the Fort Lee Band and Mike Packer & Johnny Holt!

There will be plenty of parking with shuttle buses running throughout the day at four locations:

o   Bank of McKenney, (6300 River Rd., Petersburg VA 23803)

o   Matoaca Baptist Church (6409 River Rd., Petersburg VA 23803);

o   Matoaca Elementary School (6627 River Rd, Petersburg, VA 23803); and

o   Matoaca United Methodist Church (6301 River Rd., South Chesterfield VA 23803)

The event is free and open to the public. Additional information can be found at www.folar-va.org or Facebook, or email,GetInvolved@folar-va.org or by calling (804) 543-0325.

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Tight Lines, Good Times at the Va. Fly Fishing Festival

The Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival returns to Central Virginia on April 8th and 9th at Meadow Event Park in Doswell. The largest event of its kind in the country, the festival will feature over 100 vendors, including the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and fly fishing brands such as Temple Fork Outfitters and Orvis. Industry legend Lefty Kreh headlines a who’s who list of fly fishing and fly tying professionals and speakers attending the festival, such as Bob Clouser, Brian O’Keefe, Oliver White, Mike Mercer, Wanda Taylor and Joe Mahler of Nucanoe, along with well-known Virginia guides Blane Chocklett, Colby Trow and Cory Routh.

Held just 15 miles north of Richmond, this is the 17th consecutive year of the festival and anglers of all ages are encouraged to attend, especially beginners. The goal of the festival is to create a family friendly atmosphere for everyone to immerse themselves in the world of fly fishing, no matter their experience level.

“If you’ve ever wanted to try out fly fishing but didn’t know where to begin, this event is for you,” said Festival Director Beau Beasley.

To help introduce beginners to the sport, Orvis will be offering their “Fly Fishing 101 Class” throughout the weekend at no cost.

“We are especially interested in teaching kids about fly fishing and fly tying which is why we let kids in for free with paying adults. We have to get them off their cell phone and computers, and on to our streams and rivers so we can raise the next generation of sportsman and conservationist,” Beasley continued. “We even have the option for Boy Scouts to earn their fly fishing merit badge here at no cost to the scout.”

Beasley has even arranged for a sneak peak at a rare fish in the James River waterways. “Another attraction for kids is a live sturgeon display provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”

Festival interest has grown so quickly that this year Beasley doubled the space in the convention center to accompany all of the vendors and expected visitors. He also added a second pond for fly casting instruction and the newest attraction, a kayak demo pond for guests who would like to try out kayaks and standup paddleboards from the likes of top brands NuCanoe and Bote.

Gabe Beverley, fly fishing manager for Green Top Sporting Goods, the oldest fishing and hunting store in Virginia, sees this festival as a great opportunity to reach new customers.

“We are very pleased to be part of this unique festival. Our current customers love the festival vibe, and it also draws new customers into our store who might not know about us.”

The highlight of the weekend event is the VIP After Party, where guests will have the opportunity to rub elbows with many of the festival’s fly fishing personalities and exhibitors in a more intimate setting. Sponsored by Steam Bell Beer Works in Chesterfield Co. , the VIP After Party will occur on festival grounds at 5:15 p.m. after Saturday’s events and offer tasty hors-d’oeuvres, brews from Steam Bell, live music from Amber Waves and of course, more fly fishing. Beasley said this event is attracting folks from up and down the eastern seaboard. Last year attendees traveled from as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as Georgia.

Not only do the guests come from all over, but so do the vendors. The Fly Shop from Redding, California, Gangler’s North Seal Lodge from Canada and Tailwaters Lodge from Pulaski, New York headline out of state exhibitors. Other vendors in attendance guests may recognize include Patagonia and Costa Del Mar.

“Thanks to the support of long term sponsors like the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, Temple Fork Outfitters, Green Top and Orvis, among others, we’ve grown into a real powerhouse in the fly fishing community. We’ve introduced fly fishing to thousands of new folks who might not otherwise ever go into a fly shop. We’re also pleased to have the support from vendors from all over the county, and some international vendors as well,” he added.

This festival concept has gone over so well in the fly fishing community, Beasley recently launched the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival, which was held March 11th and 12th in Plano, Texas. The inaugural combined fly fishing and micro-brews crafted in the Lone Star State and the event drew nearly 1,000 attendees the very first year.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased at the gate or online at www.vaflyfishfestival.com. Tickets are $20 per day or a weekend pass for $35. Children under 16 are free with a paying adult. After-party tickets also are available on the website for $25.

Doors to the festival open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

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Voting for Green Spaces in Henrico

A boardwalk in Henrico's Cheswick Park.

A boardwalk in Henrico’s Cheswick Park.

In the Op/Ed section of Tuesday’s Times-Dispatch, Sports Backers Executive Director Jon Lugbill clues us in to something all Henrico voters should keep an eye out for in the ballot box next Tuesday.

“A bond referendum package for parks projects would include an 87.1 million investment over six years, without an increase in the tax rate,” Lugbill writes.

Among the natural areas in the county that would see improvements: Greenwood Park, Tuckahoe Park, Taylor Park, Cheswick Park, Tuckahoe Creek Park, Dorey Park, Deep Run Park, and Three Lakes Nature Center.

I’ve hiked at Cheswick and Deep Run parks, fished at Three Lakes, mountain biked at Dorey and bird watched at Tuckahoe Creek. The idea of those green spaces getting even more TLC is an exciting one.

“Henrico’s bond referendum elevates its support of active-living infrastructure for its residents and maximizes the benefits of sports tourism,” Lugbill adds.

Give Lugbill’s column a read, Henrico voters, then do yourself a favor and vote for increased resources for Henrico’s nature parks.

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Here’s Your Chance to See a Dinosaur Jump Out of the Water

It’s that time of year again — time for the James River’s Atlantic sturgeon subspecies (or at least many of them) to swim from the ocean into our beloved river to spawn. In fact, they’ve been massing in the lower James for months. But starting pretty much now the females will head upstream toward Richmond looking for a rocky substrate to lay their eggs on. A very few of these prehistoric fish might make it as far as the city. Most will use spawning grounds in the tidal James from Hopewell to Varina.

VCU researcher Matt Balazik with an Atlantic sturgeon in the James River.

VCU researcher Matt Balazik with an Atlantic sturgeon in the James River.

There are now so many sturgeon making this annual pilgrimage that our good friend Mike Ostrander — fishing guide, naturalist, photographer and much more — books trips on a large pontoon boat for people to watch the sturgeon spectacle. What spectacle is that, you ask? As they swim upstream, the giant fish will from time to time launch themselves out of the water, crashing down with incredible force, creating a huge splash. It’s quite a scene, one well worth Ostrander’s price of admission, which includes an all-you-can-learn buffet of sturgeon information, too! Here are the details:

Sturgeon Tours on the James River

2.5 hour tour: $55 per person

The fourth annual series of sturgeon tours take place on Thursday evenings this September. Listen to a leading sturgeon researcher and learn about the amazing story of the Atlantic sturgeon on the James River, while riding aboard the Spirit of the James. These prehistoric fish can be seen beginning in late August and all through September breaching the surface of our amazing river.

Contact: Capt. Mike Ostrander, Mike@DiscoverTheJames.com, 804-938-2350. For more information: www.DiscoverTheJames.com

Thursday, September 1, 5:00-7:30pm

Thursday, September 8, 5:00-7:30pm

Thursday, September 15, 5:00-7:30pm

Thursday, September 22, 5:00-7:30pm

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Local High Schooler to Stage James River Charity Fishing Tourney

There are some pretty cool kids bouncing around Richmond. Kids that are passionate about a particular corner of the world they live in. Take Nick Fowler. Born and raised here, Fowler is 15 years old and attends Glen Allen High School. He loves to fish and loves the James River. That probably describes a lot of kids in Central Virginia, but Fowler takes his love of fishing and our fair river further than most.


Local fishing legend Mike Ostrander with a good looking James River smallmouth. Credit: Bay Journal

Nick Fowler recently started an organization called “Fishing for the Future,” and this weekend the group will hold the its first fishing tournament. Funds raised will go to the James River Association to aid their mission to champion and protect the James. Pretty cool, right?

Fowler said the idea for the tourney came to him when he was in VCU’s Service Learning program. His teacher, Amanda Hall, inspired him to find creative and unique ways to help the community that he lives in.
“I have a personal connection to the James River,” he said. “Ever since I was little, my family would go canoeing and fishing on the James multiple times a year. I always look forward to spending time outside on the river.”
Fowler said he decided to put on the event “because I love the outdoors and I do not want to see it become polluted and its beauty lost. Also, I want to help the Richmond community to take pride in the James River. I partnered with the JRA because I felt that we share a passion for protecting the outdoors, especially the James River and its surrounding environment.”
“I would encourage people to come to this event to have fun being outside and on the water, enjoying nature and seeing why it should be taken care of.”
The fishing tournament will take place this Saturday on May 21st from 9 a.m. to noon. It will start at Powhatan State Park and will end at the boat ramp in Maidens (click here for a map of the area). Participants will fish, and the winner will be decided by the total length of fish caught. The first-place winner will receive a 100$ gift card to Bass Pro Shops; second place a 50$ gift card; and third place a 25$ gift card. Click here for more information.
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48 Hours

The current of life is unrelenting in an East Coast metropolis. Even as I vainly grasp for an isolated moment, the urgent flow pulls my attention downstream. In full servitude to the Western mind I’ve inherited, I become so focused on the flow, and the relationship between where I’ve been and where I’m going, that quiet suspension in time and space is difficult to achieve. Seldom is it that I truly understand where I am. The fully present me becomes an illusive phantom.

My friend Jeff is a gifted fly fisherman. He drove down from his post at Colgate University last week to guide me on a fly fishing expedition to the headwaters of the James, deep in the Appalachian Mountains near the West Virginia border. I am not a fly fisherman, or at best an awkward and clumsy one, but if I’m going to fail at something, I figure I might as well fail in a rare and beautiful place. Anyway, I like to watch Jeff’s gift.

So early on Friday morning we fight our way upstream on the human river known as Interstate 64. The tapering of the massive strip of asphalt mirrors the tapering of the James as we travel west. Five lanes wide leaving Richmond, then three, then two, with smaller traffic tributaries fanning away north and south into the Virginia piedmont. Somewhere east of Charlottesville, the blue wave of Afton Mountain rises and slowly crests above the western horizon. Our 250 horses groan a bit as they pull us over the swell, but then relax on our descent into a large valley surrounded by blue waves of earth on all sides. More tapering, until we find ourselves on a narrow ribbon of pavement allowing the passage of only a single vehicle in each direction. Ample room, it turns out, because west of the Shenandoah Valley and into the Mountain-Valley region beyond, the flow of humanity reduces to a pleasant trickle.

The human tributaries in the high country aren’t typically named on the whim of some real estate developer. In Bath County if you turn onto Johnson’s Farm Rd you can be fairly certain you are on the way to Johnson’s farm. The place we seek is Warm Springs, named for the warm springs bubbling from the earth there, and located at the terminus of a narrow ribbon of hardened petroleum known as Warm Springs Road.

Rare is it to sight a human separated from a vehicle in these parts, though human dwellings are common where gravity pulls water into the narrow valleys between ridges. I suppose the occupants are either working or are invisibly not working. They aren’t playing soccer in the front yard, or walking dogs, or at coffee shops, or out shooting money at the big red Target. Nothing seems to be happening. That’s good. That’s why we came.

Warm Springs is a special type of ghost town. The residents eat and breathe like you and me, but are lifestyle ghosts of an older, simpler America. In Webb’s Store we encounter the first pedestrian human we’ve seen for many miles. The thin, pleasant looking clerk is sweeping when we walk in. Slow, quiet sweeping, and by the lack of swept things gathered in the dustpan I gather for myself that her sweeping is more a routine than a necessity. The store is empty. The streets are empty. There is more room in the store than is needed, and long shelves are sparsely stocked. In her quiet, measured drawl the young lady asks, “You boys going fishing?” After the affirmative she offers, “It should be real nice when the rain stops.”  We grab some supplies, and on the way out I say, “I guess we might be back in for ice tomorrow evening.”

“I’ll be here,” is her simple prophecy. No guess. Jeff and I look at each other and share a smile. More of what we came for. Tomorrow is mostly the same as today in Warm Springs, Va. Past, present and future more stable, and homogeneous. The calm, predictable float of the Webb Store ghost wheedles us away from the awkward downriver tumble of our modern American lives. She was here, she is here, and she will be here. Tomorrow too. Now I am here, in this quiet spirit world. It feels good.

Tangled line on Back Creek. Credit: Scott Turner

Tangled line on Back Creek. Credit: Scott Turner

We pitch our tents at the Blowing Springs Campground, where most of the sites are invitingly empty. The campground is just through a valley and over a mountain from Warm Springs, reached by following the Mountain Valley Rd.  We camp beside Back Creek at a place where water tumbling from a mountain takes an erratic 180 turn back on itself.  The air always seems to be blowing through this deep groove in the mountain, and there are springs oozing and exhaling from hidden sources to join the surface flow of air and water.  Jeff and I have been here twice now to fish, and we both find it to be a place of rare earth magic.

Our fishing the first afternoon on Back Creek is unsuccessful if measured by the contents of our creel. I splash the water a lot relearning how to cast, and my streamers are so unfaithful to their design that a fish would have to be either really desperate or responding to some double-dog-dare from a friend if he were to touch his mouth to it.

Mostly I watch Jeff.  He is using a rod with a long line attached to the tip, but no reel.  Bare angler necessities. On the end of the line is the imitation of an aquatic nymph, made with his own hands and things you might find in your grandmother’s sewing box. Jeff ties his own flies, an entire art unto itself, wholly independent of the art of infusing them with life on the river.

When watched from any distance the work of an expert fly fisherman on a mountain stream seems more the work of a sorcerer or maestro than that of a common angler. After a stealthy approach to a pocket in the stream where these easily-spooked fish make their food selections, the wand is raised, waived through the air, and finally the fly and its tether are made to fall simultaneously on the surface without so much as a ripple to betray the landing. Hunched in a predatory stance, Jeff trolls the streamer through one pocket with slight flicks of his wrist, then lifts it quietly from the surface and in one beautiful wave of the wand drops it just as softly into another. This all done with such precision, rhythm and beauty that one almost expects to hear the response of violins and flutes rather than the appearance of fish. It is in this way that Jeff is able to conduct one beautiful, translucent rainbow trout into his hands on Back Creek. It is an early catch, and the only catch of the afternoon. Later we hear from other fisherman that the fishing is real tough right now on Back Creek.

On the Jackson. Credit: Scott Turner

On the Jackson. Credit: Scott Turner

We cross back over the mountain to fish the Jackson River on the second day. The Jackson flows through Hidden Valley and is joined downstream by Back Creek. Far east of these high places, and much increased in stature by the watery suggestions of many other tributaries, this same water flows through our great town under the surname “James” (named to honor the home base for one of the greatest real-estate ventures and developments of all times). The previous name had been Powhatan, or PowWow Hill. Indian names are always better.

A mile or two up the Jackson River from Hidden Valley, deep in the backcountry, and after nine hours of fishing over two days, I catch my first and only rainbow trout of the weekend in a bubbly, white tumble of water that probably serves to conceal my lack of prowess. Anyway, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fish feels clean, like congealed water, and leaves my hand smelling strangely fresh. I place the tangible fruit of my whole weekend of fishing back in the stream. It floats upside down as if dead for a moment, or maybe just embarrassed, breathing in water as a man breathes air. A slow twitch starts at the tail and wags life into the body, and the fish disappears back into its element.

We do revisit Webb’s Store on the way back to Blowing Springs. The streets of the town are still empty and quiet. Ghostly. As was foretold, the pleasant-faced prophetess is there, and is again the only flesh and blood human we see.  She asks, “How ya doin out there?”  I tell her how l haven’t had much success, but my partner is doing ok. Peering into the future again, she offers the consolation of her smile and predicts,  “Ah, you’re just waitin for the big one.” I smile again. Whenever she speaks it makes me smile. When she speaks I believe her.

I would indeed catch the big one on Saturday evening — the one that’s hard to catch, and even harder to hold onto. Jeff and I take our camp chairs to the edge of Back Creek and sit them down on the beach of smooth rocks facing upstream and west.  Jeff fumbles with rocks, fascinated with the varying textures.  Jeff’s hands, I think, are more important to him than his eyes. We notice small, grayish white insects beginning to swarm slightly above the surface. Jeff identifies them as mayflies, and digs under a rock in the stream to find a nymph. He knows their life story, as any successful fly fisherman must. After fighting the current underwater for as many as two years in the form of rock-crawling nymphs, they emerge to the surface where the underwater bodies must be shed, and an adult, flying form assumed. Their wings are still soaked, and must be flapped and dried before liftoff is possible. It’s the most vulnerable moment of their lives, and one that many will not live through. Rainbow trout are watching for this moment, and snatch the flies from the surface, sometimes even launching into the air to snatch a mayfly just lifting off.   The ones that escape the danger have no mouthparts. Their only purpose above the surface of the flow is to fly, mate, and reproduce. After mating, the females descend to the surface to lay eggs and surrender themselves back to the flow. Their whole adult life transpires in a fleeting, 48-hour period. The weekend of a man is the lifetime of an adult mayfly.

At Back Creek on Saturday evening, these short-lived romantics hover in clouds above the stream, adding vibrance and shimmer to the mountain gloaming. The sinking sun turns the river we face into a sparkling carpet of gold. A cool ooze of air following the water down the mountain brushes over me. All is in motion — insects, river, sun — and yet all seems enduring and purposeful. There is a serene stillness in the motion.

And it is here, squinting my eyes into an irresistible brightness, that I meet my own ghost. The me that isn’t striving and trying to change things. The me that isn’t confused by the past or anxious about the future.  My ghost is quiet and content about this existence. My ghost whispers to my flesh, “Just Be.” I listen. I comply. I am where I am, and catch the big one – my own ghost.

We make a last stop in Webb’s Store before descending. I wish my new ghost friend was here, so I could tell her about my catch, but in her place is a much older man. Also, thin, also tall, also very pleasant, and something about the voice suggesting to me that the younger spirit has been nurtured and calmed by the older. I am certain it is her father. He offers advice to improve our fishing, but it’s not new information to Jeff. Anyway, our time is almost up. Time to descend.

Already joined by multitudes of our fellows, we surf down the eastern face of Afton mountain and into the smaller swells of the piedmont. A merge of traffic. Another merge. The radio begins to receive XL102. When tumbling along in Richmond I enjoy that music, not always recognizing its true nature. But on re-entry from higher places, I find the angst and dissatisfaction splashing from the surface of our society unsettling. The pavement widens. Gaskins Road (don’t know why). Broad street (broader all the time). Parham Road (unknown). Staples Mill Road (historical). I-195 (???). Exhaust, concrete, glass, and heavy human turbulence. 48 hours after our hopeful separation from the surface, we surrender ourselves back to the flow.

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