Spring conversations about rivers and riders means fish stories, trout, fish come and gone and friends who’ve done the same.
April is an easy month to start conversations. With migrating stripers arriving on southern beaches, herring filling small streams and largemouth angling for new beds, this month entertains many fish stories. This week, we chose three so you can meet a famous caster, paddle a pretty river and say farewell to a good man who filled our hearts and provided a home for my words.
Rhode Island’s Trout Unlimited Chapter 225 is hosting their annual banquet on Saturday, April 22, which is a big deal for several reasons. President Glenn Place will be introducing keynote speaker Simon Gawesworth, Education and Engagement Manager for Far Bank, parent company of Rio Products, Sage, Redington and Fly Water Travel. Mr. Gawesworth will speak about “Understanding Fly Lines & How To Choose The Right Line For Maximizing Performance.” This also is a fine time to join TU. Steady readers will remember many positive interactions with TU members, from interns helping to haul away needless dam stones to President and CEO Chris Wood visiting us several times. The banquet will be followed by a session at the South County Land Trust in Matunuck for some Far Bank Casting Games. Simon will help correct common casting mistakes and introduce you to a few essential casts with help from the United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island and some FFI certified casting instructors. This day runs from 11 am to 5pm, costs just $25 per person and includes lunch. Has anyone ever seen a Glenn Place event that did not include a killer lunch? It was worth the price of admission at the word “lunch.” Please contact Susan Estabrook at email@example.com for tickets. And maybe tell her how amazing she is. See you there
Friends On A Pretty River
Friends of the Saugatucket in South Kingstown have worked tirelessly to boost awareness and improve the quality of a historic and languid river because wise people understand rivers connect and support. Mostly, the Saugatucket is ragged, shallow, warm, weedy, and slow. She is pretty in places and we love her. She’s been gagged with garbage since man (gender neutral on this one) installed a dam and clipped her pace, which is precisely why so many good people are rallying to restore and protect her. Given skyrocketing property values from NY/NJ HOV lanes of newcomers buying anything and everything, the Saugatucket is under increasing pressure to flow somewhat freely and cleanly. Spring’s rivers and riders, Elise Torello and Bill McCusker, much-appreciated Fish Wrap regulars, have done a yeoman’s job, supported by many others, to increase the presence of the FOS and recently, they helped install a kayak deployment rig to help us enjoy a paddle.
The setup allows river riders to set their boat on supports, get positioned, then paddle away safely. “It was paid for with a grant from the Appalachia Mountain Club. It will improve access to the river. We will also purchase an additional trash can for this area. The Saugatucket has a healthy population of bass, pickerel and crappies,” Bill said. Please make time to launch behind the sweet aroma of fresh bread and pan seared fluke, paddle north for a pint at Whalers and bring home an armful of careless discards from those who don’t yet appreciate the allure of a quiet fresh water ribbon meandering through a busy old village.
Finally, I’m set to burn my fine brown leather dress shoes. They’re what I wear now mostly for wakes and funerals. Growing older burdens us with seeing people die. That’s the reality this week because we lost our friend Matt Wunsch. Wakes and funerals have hardened my shoes so they might as well be stones lashed with rough leather laces for the way they make me feel when I reach for them through tears. Matt left Juliet, Vera Mae, Wayne and Diane, Kim and Andy. He left the Jungle Dogs, Orange Whip, Dynamite Shack, Kendall Green, Underestimated Prophet and Bamboo. He left countless friends and cheering crowds who never knew him.
We met at URI, in the eighties. One night, practicing some time-honored traditional pre-Grateful Dead show ceremonies in a hazy Worcester Centrum, Matt appeared through some smoke and said, “Alabama Getaway opener, US Blues closer.” Heresy, I thought, predicting the finest band in the land’s set list. Three hours later, after endlessly zigzagging my way to collapse in a rough parking lot tent accommodation, I fell asleep laughing at his perfect prediction. When Matt was editing the Narraganset Times, I asked, over a beer of course, for some help finding writing work. “Every year we hire someone to write fishing reports. Then they split when fish show up. I’ll hire you if you stay.” I never asked what the gig paid. I trusted Matt Wunsch. For almost ten years, I’ve been blessed with a home for my words and that’s a tribute to Matt. Matt Wunsch was cool and low key and hood up, like when he politely encouraged me to buy and study a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook. I understood his message.
Matt was also a musician of largely unmatched talent. He was a multi-instrumentalist. He could run a whole band from his kit then take off with running acoustic guitar solos. He was a musician’s musician who left the stage only to sit behind his board to produce music of all genres for musicians of all talents. How remarkable he was.
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer” EB White
I no longer believe in the “it was their time” hocus pocus because those following sentences include “because,” and because hardly sums up how we feel when someone we love is taken before we have fully loved them. For those who never got to say thank you, let alone farewell, Matt, please know you were loved, appreciated, respected, admired and cheered. You rocked many stages and houses and our worlds are better for the time you blessed them with your smile. Salman Rushdie wrote, “Word are the only victor,” and I say you brought music into that victory. And I know you will read this because you were always correcting my spelling.
Matt, I hope you’re riding a northbound train my friend, because “I know you rider gonna miss me when I’m gone…”