Dan Wardbait fish

How to fish for healing waters, patient guides & 400 lbs. of largemouth. Yikes.

Project Healing Waters and Stars and Stripers teamed up for a second year to give veterans a day fishing on Narragansett Bay. Blessed with a perfect Saturday, the non-profit group of passionate volunteers matched a few dozen vets with local captains to find blues, bass or anything they could catch on a fly rod. Vets were treated to breakfast at Allen Harbor before splitting up onto boats also volunteered by their owners.

A shore lunch followed because you can’t tell fish stories on an empty stomach.

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Rods at the ready courtesy of TFO

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing has helped veterans with their healing by putting them outdoors, on the water around supportive folks. More than 8,300 members of the armed services have benefited from their commitment to those who served our country.  In this confusing world, these people ensure our veterans continue to enjoy opportunities the rest of us take for granted. Regardless of how they came to this day, these veterans are the reason we are so free and they deserved a day on the water, getting to appreciate how thankful we are for all they have sacrificed. 

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The Bay was a few degrees warmer than last year and talk around the dock was that the fishing would be great this year. Last years event was later in the summer and the fish just weren’t feeling it.

We’ll get an update on how the vets fared in the next edition of Fish Wrap but for now, let’s just say they caught more and the weather was very obliging.

One of the Captains who volunteers his boat and time to the Stars and Stripers day is Rene Letourneau. Rene has been covered in these pages over the years because he’s the real deal and finds fish. For the second year in a row, he was one of three finalists for the Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year. Certainly it’s always an honor to be recognized for your work. Their finalist decisions are based partly on reviews from Rene’s clients, many of which return year after year and some come four to five times in the same season.

“One day it’s been really good, then one day it’s really bad,” he said. Consider that for Rene, a day with less than ten fish is a bad day. Captain Rene runs On The Rocks Charters and typically is one of the first boats on the stripers each Spring. He’s been fishing long enough to know their arrival timing and first haunts. He’s been finding stripers and a few blues in the Bay this season from his 21’ Mako and watching water temperatures rise about two degrees a day. When the water reaches the 65-68 F range, he heads for south of Newport to fish the boulder field. 

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Proud Veteran Dan Ward, setting the hook

“If you’re afraid of a little wind, you’re going to lose days on the water,” he said. On board, Rene is a gentleman, he’s patient and all business. Rene works hard. Last year, a client insisted on fishing in seven foot seas in a storm surge and was rewarded, thanks to Rene’s boat handling and experience, with a few hard earned bluefish. He left Rene just a four star review because he thought they should have caught more, despite all that rough and dirty water.

To some degree, his relationship with Orvis hinges on those client reviews but for perspective, this year’s winner fished almost 280 days while Rene fished around 50. Orvis Captains hope their clients will leave a positive review; in a modern age of online everything, that review is a window into their day on the water.

Rene is more focused on finding fish and helping his customers improve their casts, enjoy the fight and land the fish safely to get it back in the water.

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Captain Rene Letourneau guiding veteran and fast learner Dan Ward

“I consider it an honor just to be nominated,” Rene said with typical modesty. Considering Orvis’ very long reach, Rene was chosen twice in two years as the best of the best. Rene has drawn clients from as far away as California and Italy because after 16 years guiding, he offers his sports the best opportunity to get on the fish, maybe improve their casts and make a memory. Rene is a professional, a gentlemen captain and guide.

From this desk, Rene Letourneau was the absolute best choice for Saltwater Guide of the Year.

The RI Saltwater Anglers Association once again helped the Town of South Kingstown take 50 young anglers fishing for their Annual Kids Fishing Derby on a Wednesday afternoon. Elisa Conti Cahill provided boxes of wiggling worms, as she always does, because she’s awesome.

Kids at Old Mountain Field got hooks caught in the grass, which is harder than you might think, in weeds and on people casting next to them. The whole deal is a ball. The first fish was landed by six year old Hope Downing who had that fun, familiar face of little kid who didn’t quite know what to do with that thing on the end of the line. It weighed a whopping six ounces. William Robinson brought up a sweet five ounce yellow perch to get things rolling.

One young fisherman weighed in a nine ounce perch which he quickly proclaimed to be nine pounds.

Classic.

The first catfish was landed at 6:01 pm by the very cute Averie Shaw. Averie’s younger brother Mason caught a fine little, with emphasis on little, pumpkin seed, which made him pretty pleased. Once the fish was safely returned to the pond, Mason broke out in a freestyle bouncing dance in his little blue sneakers. His worms must have had some secret magic dust on them because as soon as his bobber hit the still water, it was immediately pulled around by hungry fish. When asked how big his fish was, Mason raised both hands over his head and said something like, “This big.”

For perspective, this very young fisherman had exaggerated the size of a fish he caught in front of three very grown men by approximately three thousand per cent.

Mason is going to take my job one day.

Kids sat crossed legged, kindergarten style, on their knees and in that squat position that older fisherfolk can’t quite get back up from. A few moved around the pond’s edge swinging fish nets, hoping for the occasional butterfly. A few walked around kicking the grass in the cutest pink boots or playing with trucks while their Dad’s kept up the fishing. A few sat on the ground with their arms crossed, apparently pouting over siblings catching more fish. Such is life, little fishermen, such is life.

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Bob getting it done on the bow in a fog

On the freshwater side, South County’s Bob Buscher has already caught and released more than four hundred pounds of largemouth bass this year. That’s amazing.

Bob fishes from atop a new Ranger boat as he works ponds from South Kingstown to Maine for competition and fun. He’s an ace when bass are hard to find, on their beds or moving around late summer ponds searching for cool waters and regular meals. A tip of the camo hat to Bob for his perseverance on his way to catching and releasing one thousand pounds of largemouth bass in 2019.

This is shaping up to be an epic year for fishermen of all ages and backgrounds. We all just need more days on the water.

 

 

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