Late Winter Largemouth

Nighttime temperatures here in the south are still damn cold but the days are getting warmer and the bass are moving a little bit.

I went to the Eno River. It’s clear and full of warmwater fish. The locals do a great job protecting the riparian area, making sure the watershed stays healthy.


The air temp was 60 degrees, and it was sunny. I held a fly rod in one hand and had my therapist on the phone in the other, like some asshole out of a New Yorker cartoon.

I find myself standing at this intersection a lot, where desires collide and create problems.

I’ve started using tarot cards to get a sense of where my blind spots are. I asked the day before, “What happens if I go fishing tomorrow?”

I saw cold, high water. I saw my choices would mess me up a bit, but not disastrously. I saw the fish I would catch might be big. No divorce, or car wrecks, or financial ruin, at least immediately foreseeable.

Every angler I know is a magician trying to read the future, to communicate with the unseen. We try to see how reality works, and then make it work for us. We create a moment when predator and prey collide, and then reverse that moment. We tread the boundary of what is acceptable and unacceptable.


The river is crawling with snakes. Seems like it’s always doing that. Queensnakes drape their coils over dried stems, warming in the sun.

It feels like there are snakes in my mind. One wants something, another something else. They’re tied together, knotted somewhere in the middle.

I think about why I’m here on the water.

I keep going over it, and the answers I give don’t feel quite right. But I’m trying to explain it to myself.

I’m drawn to the idea of wildness. What is wild and what is not, and what’s the difference? I think it has to do with relationship to your surroundings.

Beings in the wild are built for the world they live in.

For us domesticated creatures, our world is built for us. Like a pen.

And in the presence of wildness, you can feel like you could walk away from all of it.

This society we’re all white-knuckling to hold together for another generation… Who needs it?

I swallow my rage. I wouldn’t survive long without a CPAP or an air fryer. I bring my digital friends with me to poop because I’m scared to be alone with my thoughts.

But being close to something wild lets the blood sing in my own veins.

It’s like if I could connect with one of the really wild largemouth bass in this river, I could look this creature from the other side of the mirror in the eye and be seen as an equal as an adversary.

We have this desire for meaning. The easiest way to find meaning (at least how my brain works), is through story.

You can get lost in a story. You can sacrifice a lot of things to get that story you tell yourself right. A lot of these stories are told with good intentions.

Every time I reach a good-looking piece of water, a pile of river cooters jump off their logs, creating a huge commotion. The trees along the river are tight to the bank. It’s like casting in a jungle. I have a short (7’10”) Redington Predator rod that I’ve been able to cast below the grabbing limbs. I still lose flies all day. But I’ve come to terms with it.

The gamechanger streamers are so effective. I’ve never fished anything I feel this confident in. That in itself makes a huge difference in how I feel on the water. I pulled an olive feather-changer along the seam of a deep pool and the main current and a big wild bass jumped on the line after a few hours of trying to find one.


The fish had a huge dorsal spines, felt longer than a normal bass, almost looked like a dragon. It ruled this river I find so enchanting.

I held it in my hands, like a relic. The way you might have held the fingerbone of a saint, to heal you of something, as if some quality of that individual might be transferable.


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1 Response to Late Winter Largemouth

  1. Jan Stafford says:

    This is beautiful, thoughtful and plainspoken writing, Matt. Gives me food for thought and peace in my heart. Thanks.

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