This Side Up

So much to catch with a fishing tale


John Boiros removed his pin-studded cap to reveal, just as he said, that he doesn’t have much hair. He does have a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard, so that obviously was where he’d found enough hair to tie a fly that his fishing buddies claim is a killer. They’re out to snip a bit of John’s hair to tie what has become known as the “beaded bald bastard” or the BBB.

Maybe that’s how John became bald in the first place.

I met John Sunday at Addieville East Farm in Harrisville. He was joined by Bob Greco, another avid fly fisherman who had called to let me know they were introducing veterans to fishing and fly tying and might I be interested in learning more.

He had me hooked.

For starters, I’ve enjoyed fly-fishing ever since I was introduced to the sport by Joe, the janitor at the high school I attended in Connecticut. Joe also showed me the basics of fly tying. But there was more appeal to this story than watching some fishing pros teach vets fishing techniques.

I hadn’t been to Addieville since Anna Minicucci wrote the Beacon fishing column more than 15 years ago. She and her husband, David, were members of the hunting and fishing club that has about 900 acres. She brought me up on a June afternoon and as the shadows lengthened, there was a hatch of flies and the pool at the base of the lodge was pock marked by feeding fish. It was a fly fisherman’s dream and the three of us frantically sought to match the hatch before the feeding frenzy suddenly came to a stop. We tricked a few fish but it wasn’t anything like I thought it might be with so many feeding.

Both Anna and Dave have long left this world, so I was also looking to this story as a means of reliving that trip so many years ago. Who knows, I might even find the fish more cooperative.

What I discovered was – Beyond the Battle – a group with a core of three people who love the outdoors and look to share that with veterans. You’ll read more about that in a future edition.

John’s story of the BBB rekindled memories of Joe and the big rainbow trout I caught on a Goliath. Goliath was a collie that hung around school at lunch for handouts. He had long white hair that I decided would be ideal material for streamers – flies that are tied to resemble small fish. I tied up a couple of streamers and when word of my catch spread the question naturally followed as to what I’d used. My response was a “Goliath.” There is no such fly, but I insisted there was. It wasn’t long after displaying the fly that the word got out on the secret ingredient. Poor Goliath looked mangier and mangier as fly tiers snipped at his coat.

I told the story to John and we laughed about his noggin. He pointed to his beard that looked a little uneven. It surely had more hair than the top of his head.

John went back to casting. The black water of the pond once again pock marked only this time it wasn’t from fish, but rain. John was a Marine. He served in Vietnam.

I asked where he had been and he named off what seemed like a dozen locations as readily as if he visited them last week.

“Did you see a lot of action,” I asked.

He nodded.

“I went out and came back in a stretcher,” he said.

I didn’t ask about his injury or what it must have been like to get home. The rain picked up and we headed up the hill to the lodge. The lodge was warm, cozy. John and Bob got out the fly tying kits they’d brought for the three veterans being introduced to fly fishing. As they got started, John pulled out his phone, scrolling through some photos. I imagined he was going to share a picture of a giant trout, but rather it was a document with the heading “A reel family.”

John had written the story and rather than pausing to read it at the moment, I suggested he email it to me. It is a story of a fishing trip to Maine with nine other veterans he had never met. It was a fishing story for certain but one like I’d never heard. It was about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

“We were mustered together to fight our common enemy, our disabilities, seen and unseen. We had seen things in combat we can’t describe and felt emotions we didn’t know existed. We saw the dark side of mankind. It cost us our innocence and changed us forever. Now we are on patrol again, brimming with a ‘can do’ attitude. We’re not casualties of war, because we are survivors,” it read.

Before heading back from Addieville, I asked Bob if I could make a few casts on the pond.

“Let me get you some flies.”

He and John went out to their cars. There were still a few raindrops. Nothing that could get you really wet.

John opened his hand. There was the beaded ball bastard, a tiny fly with a red bead head and a grizzly gray body. There was no doubt, I had to try it.

I made no more than a dozen casts before leaving. The fish ignored my efforts to fool them, but that didn’t matter. I left with so much more.


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