Talking Heads by Mark Usyk

I had the church pew off the porch and sitting in the driveway, Wood glue pushing out from in between layers of oak glamped tight together with a 2x4 and some wood clamps. A couple years of sitting outside exposed to the elements had the clear sealer peeling and curling up like a dry desert lake bed after a rain, edges curling and flaking. I wanted to fix it back up, reseal it, because it was where I sat to put waders on and took them back off after fishing the creek. The problem was…I hadn’t been fishing.

It happens every spring, except that last year it didn’t because of Covid… Baseball season. This year it was back, and I was still coaching Little League. One last season. And with Jake playing varsity baseball while Carter was into his last season of Little League, it pretty much took all of our free time. There was a game or practice or both overlapping six days a week, occasionally seven. Next to the Church pew on the porch had set a deer skull found in the creek a couple springs ago, and now the odd baseball sat there with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they both love to play, but this is me, and me not fishing is the universe on the verge of chaos. And no one likes that hanging over their head. So as I brushed over the last bare patch of oak with sealer I looked down the porch to that sun bleached deer skull and I could’ve swore that it spoke.

“Hey… remember when you found me in the creek while you were fishing? And you brought me home to remind you of that day on the creek? When was the last time you cast a line out there? You know it’s just behind the house right? And you’ve got no baseball to get to today. You know that right? Just look at yourself…you probably don’t even remember how to cast. You’re even wearing you lucky fishing shirt for crying out loud.”

I swear I heard that deer skull say all that, and it was still talking as I dropped the paint brush and walked into the garage, found my waders, rigged up the 4wt, and headed out the back door.  I caught a couple decent smallmouths that evening and two fat and angry rock bass that tried to fool me into believing they were something bigger at first. The water was clear that evening, my boots stirred up clouds of silt and sand in the muck of the slow outside bends, and the mosquitos buzzing around my head and arms, I almost wanted to welcome them. It wasn’t the fact they I hadn’t seen them yet this year, because I had of course. But it was the first time I brushed them away from my face on the creek. Probably only born two or three days ago at most, I felt like they were old friends somehow. Not the best of old friends, but the old friends you’re happy to run into in public where you get to say high quick and then break off the encounter before you’re trapped in a conversation you’d rather not be in. You know, you like them, but in small doses.

I spent a solid three hours walking, casting, and thinking. The catching was a sporadic bonus hear and there usually when I least expected it. But the most valuable time was the last hour, give or take. I tend to lose track of time while out on this kind of evening, which is also kind of the point. At the end of the evening, I spent that time sight fishing to some carp on a sand flat in a good bend. I knew they wouldn’t eat, because they were just cruising around, and while I’m sure there are some anglers out there that can convince a cruising carp to stop for a bite, I’ve never been one of them. But I still practiced my presentations, switched out flies, leader lengths, and did get them to stop and look a few times… I think they were trying to just make me feel like my efforts weren’t going unnoticed, and I appreciated it.

After a while I was content with my time out, and I realized the sun was behind the trees, and that I still needed to walk back out the way I’d come in and back into town. The street lights came on as I reached the bottom of my street…

Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks, both books full of stories about life, where fishing happens. They can be found here on as signed copies ready for purchase or in e-book format on Amazon. He’s currently working on his third book, titled Not All Trout Are Geniuses, scheduled for a release some time in the future when the deer skull on the porch tells him it’s done.