Hope Is At The End Of Every Cast by Mark Usyk

A small river I had never been on before, far from home. Out the back door of a roach motel and through the woods, the map on my cell phone had shown me the water that you would never know flowed through otherwise. What was its name? Not important. It was a river. A small river, my favorite. I knew by the satellite picture which way the river flowed simply by zooming in and seeing the turbulent water coming off the downstream side of the rocks, so I traveled in a direction that would put me downstream of a section that looked to have enough width to give me room for my back cast, and one that had lots of large boulders. I love traveling upstream and fishing pocket water.

Passing under tall second growth evergreens lined in perfect rows, the carpet of rust colored needles was like walking on sponge, a couple small forests of ferns mixed in here and there broke up the well-ordered pines. The trees stood at the cut out bank like soldiers standing at attention, guarding the water on both sides with honor. I stepped from the high bank down to the dry coble stone river bottom. If it were early spring or after a good rain I was sure I would already be knee deep in the current.

The water was clear, but moved very slowly, swirling around boulders, the pockets behind them looking to be the only place deep enough to hold fish on such a warm summer afternoon. Small little Black Gnats were hovering in swarms above the water and every now and then I would blow one away from my mouth or swat one from my eyes. Not seeing any fish rising anywhere I tied on the old faithful black Wollybugger and picked a pocket to cast to. The short 3wt fly rod, perfect for such a place, knew right where I wanted the fly to go, and cooperated, coming just short of the pine branches behind me, and still reaching the first pocket water.

I expected nothing, but hoped for something. Hope is at the end of every cast, and nothing is better than hope. Because even if the line goes tight and you bring a fish to your hand, once that fish goes back, the hope of another is always there, prodding you to cast again and again, stacking up experiences and memories to carry with you and feed more hope.

I’ve never been a big fish hunter. I’ve never targeted river monsters or lake lunkers. Instead, I’ve always targeted waters I have never fished before and scenery that calms my thoughts, quiet and void of other people and other voices. I think that’s why I enjoy every outing I go in search of fish… Because I’m not really searching for fish. I’m searching for hope, and searching for hope feeds the search for more hope, and hope is at the end of every cast. Whether it be a 10” Bass, an 8” Trout, or a hand sized beautifully colored and marked pan fish. I guess I’m not targeting big fish. I’m targeting hope.

My wife says I’m a pessimist. She’s right. I’m not a guy that views a glass as half empty or half full. I’m the guy that figures the milk in the glass is sour. Except on the water. On the water, every fish, big or small, is a good thing. Every cast is a chance to hope. Hope, is at the end of each and every cast.