Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Loyal readers of this site,

In January 2018, I officially moved my online presence to, which serves as the home of my growing guiding business and features my regular outdoor columns in The Rural Virginian, as well as my other published works. More about that in the column below, from January 3, 2018.

Should you wish to remain subscribed to my updates, click HERE and input your information in the form in the right sidebar.

Thanks for your readership. It means more than you know.

All the best,

Matt Reilly



Everyone is endowed with a calling. A passion or purpose. Something that makes you individually and definitively you. Something that makes life richer when pursued. A great many people don’t chase theirs, either for lack of opportunity or lack of action. Life has a nasty habit of getting in the way and making us lose track of the important things. But I’m making the first move.

I was lucky to have discovered my passion as a child. Thanks to my dad—who introduced me to the outdoors at the precise moment that I became efficiently bipedal—I had the opportunity to witness the majesty of a mountain brook trout stream, the wonders of warmwater rivers large and small, and discover the value of wild places and adventure before life could drag me elsewhere. I had the opportunity to become obsessed—to fall in love with a pursuit that has come to define my life.

Throughout the middling of my childhood I grew in my independence outdoors. Before I began working summers, I spent several weeks every year in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom exploring the many lakes, ponds, and streams within mountain biking distance of my grandparents’ cabin from the spiritual platform of an aluminum canoe. Every other free day was spent hunting trophy smallmouth at home on the Rivanna and James Rivers, and learning everything I could on all the other fisheries within striking distance of a driver’s license-less teenager who could think of nothing else. It was during those days that I vowed to myself and anyone that would listen that I would make the outdoors my sustenance.

In 2012, I launched my career as an outdoor writer and photographer into professionalism, and have spent the rest of my autonomous life in the business of being young and relatively inexperienced in an older man’s game. I began penning this column almost 300 editions ago when I was 15, a few months after selling my first magazine feature, and I worked doggedly to shake the tainting of inexperience from my name as quickly as possible in humble respect for the industry icons I look up to.

After working under it for years, that self-inflicted pressure has taught me something invaluable about being young and inexperienced in any field—that not everyone jumps in young, but everyone jumps in inexperienced. That inexperience is no reason not to take a leap, as long as you wear it the right way and allow it to drive you.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that writing—storytelling and instructing, really—,not to subtract from its importance to me, was a more-doable-at-the-time extension of the vocation that I have always known to be the one most true to my self. Sometime in early elementary school, we were charged with creating a business card for a business of our dreams. I made myself a fishing guide on a lake in Vermont—the place where I knew the most freedom—commissioned to help clients chase smallmouth bass daily.
The modest success that I have seen as a part-time freelance writer and photographer over the past five years has given me hope that the life I imagined in my childhood is attainable through hard work. I’ve watched many a friend and family member struggle in jobs that don’t fulfill them, that rob them of time doing what they love with who they love. And it seems to me that I have an amazing opportunity on my doorstep to avoid such a tragedy.
So I am making 2018 the year that I hang up my shingle as a fishing guide, the first stepping stone in the road towards accomplishing the dream that I have always maintained. A dream where I call a boat on the river valleys and quiet waters of our great state my office, and the variety of fish that fin them my co-workers. A dream that forges relationships with people from all walks of life on the water, where some of their happiest and most memorable moments transpire. A dream that enriches my being and gives me a daily opportunity to employ scientific understanding in pursuit of adventure and discovery. A dream that puts me in the environmental ring and expands my voice to fight for and protect our natural resources.
Like everything that I’ve done in my life, it’s important to note that none of this would be possible without community, those that believe in me. So to the readers, I thank you for following all these years, and hope you will continue to read this column in those to come. I will always continue writing, probably more than I do, now. But this year marks the start of a new venture. I hope you’ll reach out and bring our circle closer.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Thursday, December 28, 2017


For just over a year, now, I’ve been fishing for a figment. A figment of rivers large and mysterious. A dragon, in aquatic form, full of sharp teeth and angst. A figment feet long but easily hidden and sparingly seen; vicious, but only occasional moved to feed. 

Photo by Matt Reilly.

    In a year’s time I’ve only managed to be on the river searching for this figment a week of days. Another half dozen I’ve spent rowing others down the river, hoping they too will assign reality to the figment, and keep me company in desperation. But in a year’s time I’ve tied a few dozen flies, read a mountain of articles and scientific papers, and talked to anyone that would listen—including you, reader, who may have read my fanatical, poorly organized words about the almighty musky, the object of my obsession.

    Most of the non-angling folk are unaware of the musky’s existence so close to their safe, warm beds. 

    “That lives in the river?” they gasp, incredulously. 

    Indeed they do. I’ve seen a few dozen, but it occurs to me that if it weren’t for the historical success of anglers like me and the hands of scientists physically on the flanks of the creature, I’d have little reason to believe my sanity not drowned in the river. An appropriately shaped log, or even a shadow of the right dimension, after all, when paired with the rippling surface of the river, can fabricate a lot of things.

    But I’ve written all that off, for this figment has been realized. 

    My story is not an uncommon one. Nicknamed the fish of 10,000 casts, the musky often demands days, sometimes weeks, occasionally more than a month (in one friend’s case) on the water in order to grace an angler with its presence. They are a fish of low odds and probability. The more time spent on the water, the more likely a fish in the boat becomes, and the more tools you earn to put the odds ever more in your favor. 

    My seventh day came on a cold, blustering, mid-December day, fishing alone on one of my home waters. The mid-morning sun pushed the mercury over the freezing mark, and the wind beat it back down, shoving my raft around the river and my casts out of form in the air. The water was exceptionally clear and the sun was shining bright. I was swimming a few new flies, hoping they’d push my odds into the black. As both captain and angler, I worked slowly down the river, analyzing cover to anchor in strategic positions, and then trading oars for a fly rod in the bow. 

    The wind roared through the height of the day. Early afternoon brought a slight respite. I worked through it, stoically searching for the figment of the river.

    Cast. Strip. Pause. Strip. Pause. Repeat. 

    My eyes drifted to my watch as the sun began its decent into the mountains, and the musky sunk deeper into the river, retreating again from reality. And when the light faded to the harsh pre-dusk hue that makes the river’s surface a mirror and turns the fishing into a mindless salute to the expiring day, the world turned upside down. 

    Halfway through my retrieve I stripped my fly into something solid. But this time the flexed butt of the rod told the story not of a rock or log, but of a living thing. 

    A well-matched tussle ensued. A tug-of-war between man and beast unseen. I made my way frantically to the middle of the boat, as my net, massive in circumference, was stored in the back. My rod very literally doubled in my rod hand, I used my left hand to extend the net. After a handful of tense minutes, leverage trumped raw power, and the figment broke the surface tension and succumbed to the net bag. 

    I celebrated briefly, still in shock. Then, a working man with a job to finish, I dropped back into the rower’s seat, secured the net handle so that the fish was safely and securely in the water, pulled the anchor, and rowed to shore to tape and admire the fish. 

    The tape measured 40 inches of musky, on the dot, and I thanked my lucky stars as I beheld them and preserved them in film for perpetuity.

    Despite the hours of dedicated work invested in the fish in hand, the moment was fleeting. I lowered it back to the water and saw it off. Lazily, it slid below the mirrors surface and waved a languid goodbye, and the finned memorial to my sanity returned to the river.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


In an age of rapid population growth, LCD overload, and unprecedented cultural disassociation from nature and the outdoors, when mass marketability rules, often in favor of more traditional, refined values, outdoor television has been stolen from the everyman. A family of family and friends from Central Virginia is stealing it back. 

The Mason-Dixon Experiment focuses on providing viewers the raw experience of a family-oriented outdoor lifestyle, over adrenaline-soaked cut-shots and badassery.

    Back in 2013, hunting partners John Miller and Britton White were sitting on a tailgate of a truck having lunch when they came up with the idea of trying to put together an outdoor TV show. They conceived the idea and the name, The Mason-Dixon Experiment (MDE), but life and full-time jobs got the best of their forward momentum until 2015, when White began talking to church friend, Eric Umstead, a graphic designer, about how to get things up and running. White’s wife, Jessica White, and father, Junior White, both got involved, and the idea started to gain traction.

    “We want to bring a different side of the outdoors to TV that will show folks that it’s not always about your catch or harvest, but about the experiences you have, good or bad, in the great outdoors,” said Britton White. 

    The Mason-Dixon Experiment team, family people who promote the tagline “Shoot straight and get your kids outdoors,” also promote a strong family and conservation ethic. 

    “The Mason-Dixon Experiment is all about the next generation of outdoors-person,” said Umstead. “Our children and grandchildren are becoming more dependent on a system that might one day let them down. Being self-sufficient—hunting, fishing, camping, cooking, etc.—shouldn’t be dying skills, but basic human rights that enable us to provide for our families no matter what comes to pass. Our goal is to promote outdoor pursuits and to educate everyone on the benefits and enjoyment of a sustainable outdoor lifestyle.”

    Right off the bat, the team started filming every time they went out in the field.

    “We got some good, some bad, but again, it’s about the experience,” said Britton White. 

    After filming for a full season, they had compiled enough footage for five episodes—enough to start—and each subsequent season brought more and more footage and more episodes. Today, The Mason-Dixon Experiment can be viewed on Gen7 Outdoors and The Hunt Channel, both online, digital media platforms. 

    “We chose digital media because we found that the majority of our followers—males 18 to 44 years old—were consuming information differently than back in the 80s and 90s,” said Britton White. 
    “It seems all signs pointed to streaming and digital media.”

    The show airs both live and on-demand on Gen7 Outdoors, airing live Mondays at 11 AM, Tuesdays at 7 PM, and Fridays at 11 AM. The Hunt Channel is currently on-demand only. And short episodes will be airing on CarbonTV starting in 2018. 

    Though the show’s primary subject is hunting, the team does film fishing and other outdoor content, too, often in the form of live videos from the field. 

    “We have aspirations of adding a food preparation aspect to it, too,” said Jessica White. “We want to show that this is not just a sport to us, but that we use it to provide for our families. Britton and I haven’t bought beef in four years.”

    Along with the success that The Mason-Dixon Experiment has seen in its short time, there have also been the quiet struggles that face any entrepreneurial endeavor. 

    “Another aspect of this is money,” said Britton White. “It takes money to do what we do, and it’s not cheap. Trying to manage personal expenses with the expenses associated with MDE can be stressful.”

    “In the home, it’s difficult because Britton and I both work full time jobs and MDE takes up additional time,” said Jessica White. “Ultimately, we really feel like we have something special, so to be able to put the time in is worth it.”

    “MDE has been a blessing to all of us. Our pursuits with MDE have become an extension of our daily lives, our interactions with each other and with those we come in contact with at work, school, church, and community,” said Umstead. “We have made strong connections with other outdoor teams, our sponsors and followers, and the benefits far outweigh the challenges.”

    To support pure, local outdoors, follow the team on social media, watch the show, and reach out and give feedback. And take a kid hunting. 

    “We want to build a community around what we are doing,” said Britton White. “The tradition of hunting and the outdoors goes back further than any of us, so trying to keep that legacy going is our main goal. Our youth is our means to keep that tradition alive and moving forward.”

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The allure of the outdoors has many different flavors, angles, reasons people strike out over land and water.

Photo by Matt Reilly.

    There are the fish that live in striking settings. An eastern small stream devotee will hike miles through mountainous terrain to meet the spritely brook trout, a species whose trophy specimens could, in most cases, be measured with a standard caliper. They’ll invest many late nights tying imitations of insects onto hooks, fold maps into oblivion, and purchase four-wheel-drive vehicles just for the chance.

    And I like to believe that most who set their sights on the brook trout do it equally for the chance to tangle with one of the Earth’s most beautiful creatures and for the associated opportunity to explore through the senses the East’s most quintessential setting. Appalachia, the hollows and springs and wild foliage blazes, are in the flanks of the brook trout, and if you’re the kind of human I’m talking about, you understand my logic.

    Similarly there is the game. The whitetails that Americans so highly tout, both for their cunning and their beauty. Hunters infected by whitetail fever will spend the better part of a year making purchases, scouting, and dreaming, all in an attempt to make more decadent their existence during the few weeks or months that pursuing their infatuation is legal. Biology is important in any game that requires the participant to become a part of it for a particular species. And so there are the books and papers and camera trap surveys that hunters fill their off-season with, if only to make themselves more familiar with their quarry, to become more capable predators.

    Through this comes the oft misunderstood paradox of hunting. How could one love the animal it intends to kill? Love, in my experience, is largely made up of respect and appreciation, with a little bit of chemical obsession for longevity. The whitetail hunter comes to love the whitetail and the place it lives—the field edges and hardwood groves—and learns to live for the day when breathe becomes opaque, when dream becomes reality.

    These traditions are often solitary endeavors—exercises in individuality made richer by the absence of people and the elements of the unnatural world we imbue ourselves in daily. But collectively, there is a community of individuals who walk on the same plane, who love the brook trout and the whitetail, the hollows and fields, and the sight of ripe persimmons and yellow hickory leaves and breathe condensing into a fog in the morning. There is a conglomerate who feels and hears the same things.

    And in those people there is another angle to the outdoor experience. For the more I come to know and love my own waters, and the more I travel and explore others’, the more I find myself pondering the stories of the people who call these places foreign to me theirs.

    On a small spring creek in western Montana, I encountered a group of college friends, long since graduated and geographically dispersed, reunited over beers and the nostalgic potential of their home water. Some brought their kids. Some wished their fathers could be there.

    I fished the evening away thinking of those relationships, with each other and the river. I thought about the slaving fly shop owner and guide I knew in the town over who invests his time on the bigger rivers for his customers, but yearns for the soul-refreshing joys of wading alone the small creek that dissolves the stress of small business ownership into something worth it. I thought about the kid not much older than me who was cutting his teeth on the river as a part-time guide for a local outfitter. And my evening was richer for it.

    I’m reading Hemingway, currently, as I have several times before. I’m re-reading his short stories, actually, as an appreciative courtesy to a friend with whom I’ve shared water in spirit, who sent me the collection just the other day. I met Irv in a pizza joint parking lot after I noticed our vehicles shared similar stickers from far-away waters. He grew up on a river in north-central Pennsylvania I’ve grown fond of, a place I’ve learned lessons and made stories. We’ve shared other waters, too, it turns out, but his story is most rich in north-central Pennsylvania.

    And so I was driving to my own home water, thinking about Up in Michigan and Irv’s river and mine. A hulking, white-nosed fox squirrel darted in front of me, but made the last-minute decision to scramble up the nearest post oak. And then I thought about fox squirrel hunting and how fall was coming, and the way evening autumn light looks in an old farmstead being reclaimed by oaks and maples, and the people who would have lived there and done it and thought about it all before me.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Thursday, September 14, 2017


“I’d just like to learn something, get a better bearing on what these late-summer fish are doing,” I said over my right shoulder, delivering a passive prod to Jared Tuck, a seasoned smallmouth angler from Wytheville, as he slung another cast to the bank from the back of the raft.

The author releasing an trophy smallmouth to fight another day. Photo by Matt Reilly.

    “Yeah, it’d be nice to catch one, though,” said Tuck.
    “We’ll catch a couple,” I said, attempting to anchor the fate of the day with the optimism and confidence necessary in hunting trophy fish.

    An osprey launched itself into flight from a prominent pine along the long, rocky shoreline, the rhythmic sound of air under large, beating wings syncing with the whirling baseline of oar strokes pushing up-lake against a light but steady breeze.

    Zach Taylor, also of Wytheville, and a virgin to the smallmouth bass that famously fin the New River near his home, cast from the bow, silently wishing too for that first fish of the day.

    On the first day of our junior year of college, Zach and I met as roommates, and quickly established common ground in fishing. Upon learning of his uninitiated smallmouth career, I made his introduction to the hard-fighting bronzeback a priority, and we endeavored to float the New at the next opportunity.

    Tuck, who grew up fishing the waters of the New, was our across-the-hall neighbor, and one of the 20 freshman residents I was charged with advising. We talked about fishing and smallmouth and the New River more often than not when we didn’t have work to do, and when we did.

    But it was a year before the three of us found time to fish together, and, ironically, we weren’t on the river, but a foreign water of which little is publicly known. Its potential as a smallmouth fishery made me eager to discover its secrets, to learn to catch its fish so as to be able to guide anglers to trophy smallmouth on it. When I pitched the fishery to the boys, they were eager, too.

    Tuck swapped to a topwater lure. It landed with a splash next to the bank, and he began working it to the boat in a zig-zag powered by short, upward jerks of the rod tip.

    “My dad caught a nice smallmouth on this thing on the New,” said Tuck, without confidence.

    As we approached a small creek mouth, Tuck fired his lure to the bank under a small overhanging limb. Before he could begin his retrieve, a V-wake pushing parallel to the bank sprouted a bucket mouth and inhaled it with a loud splash.

    Tuck cranked down and set the hook. I dropped the oars. In a few seconds we all saw a large flash of bronze. I grabbed the net, and, being in just a few feet of water, hopped out of the boat. A few tense seconds passed before we saw the flank of the fish again. Tuck raised his rod tip, and I shot the net underneath of the fish and around its head and lifted.

Jared Tuck with an 18-inch smallmouth taken on topwater. Photo by Matt Reilly.

    We all celebrated as I pulled the fish from the bag, handing it to Tuck. The first fish of the day—about 18 inches—was the fish we were looking for—a day-maker, and a trophy fish in just about anyone’s book, especially for a foreign body of water.

    Tuck traded me my camera for his fish, which he held up for me to photograph. We measured the fish and I snapped more photos as he lowered it back to the water.

    Zach caught my attention with an excited grunt from the front. I looked over my shoulder to see his rod bent statically. He was snagged.

    But he was reeling. Then the rod throbbed and the fish jumped. As I stood in the water dumfounded, Tuck tried to hold on to his fish to complete a double, but lost his grip in excitement. Zach’s fish bull-dogged around the boat for almost 30 seconds before he succeeded in turning the fish’s head towards the surface. As the brute flared its gills in preparation for another head shake, I caught it with the net and pulled it from safety.
Zach Taylor with a 20-inch smallmouth--his first ever. Photo by Matt Reilly.

    “Dude!” I yelled at Zach as he stared in disbelief at his first smallmouth ever hanging in the net.

    Catching up to the events that had unfolded, we shared fist bumps all around. We measured Zach’s fish, which taped at just over 20 inches—a trophy smallmouth, a citation certified by the game department, and a hell of an introduction to the species. I took my camera back from Tuck and handed the fish to Zach, his hands shaking.

    We snapped photos and released the fish, and celebrated those fish for the rest of the day, made complete in just a few short but memorable moments.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Thursday, August 24, 2017


On the evening of Monday, August 14, after a day full of training for my position as a Head Resident Advisor for Emory & Henry College, I went fishing, to wash away the day, and to take back the part of me that becomes diluted when I spend more than a few days in town and on concrete. The only difference between that evening and all the others I’ve spent doing the same thing, is that it immediately followed a human tragedy of the highest degree that unfolded in my hometown of Charlottesville.

    In the days following, I watched the documentaries and photosets and interviews that erupted around the explicit demonstration of violence-provoking white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies in town over the weekend, which resulted in the loss of Heather Heyer, and the injury of several others. I was initially thankful that I wasn’t local on the day of the protest. I then became somewhat hardened and disappointed that I was not local on that day, and in the days following, to stand with the shell-shocked and the threatened, those who know and love my home for what it is—a home and a community. I remain not frightened but appalled at the capacity for hatred in my fellow human. Perhaps I knew of the racial hatred that still lingers in the dark corners of our society. Perhaps I’d never known its true power.

    I call this a human tragedy of the highest degree because organized hate, when allowed to prosper and fester, leads to action. As it was demonstrated in Charlottesville, hateful action leads to murder and death. Genocide—and genocide is a human wound infected. Each is just a limb of the same sick, murderous beast, and should be identified and opposed, as such. 

    “We greatly outnumber the anti-white, anti-American filth, and at some point, we will have enough power to clean them from the streets forever,” said Robert Ray, a writer for the neo-Nazi publication, The Daily Stormer. “That which is degenerate in white countries will be removed.”

    On the day that I went fishing, I did so as a white person—a white, heterosexual male in the twilight of my college career. And so I went fishing safe. Not explicitly threatened by the agendas presented in Charlottesville on Saturday. My individuality—my ability to freely go fishing in America, to freely pursue happiness and comfort, and to freely exist as I was born—has not been held as an obstacle to the greater good. I am white. I am American. And I am proud of who I am. 

    And it is because of this identity—my racial identity—the same identity of those that stood on the side of hate and racism in Charlottesville, that I feel a burning and paramount need to renounce and condemn, with the utmost potency and sincerity, the evil, bigoted actions, beliefs, and agendas of the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that revealed themselves in my hometown over the weekend. 

    My America, my Virginia, my Charlottesville is a place of inclusion and diversity, where a rich blending of cultures and understandings stands in favor over a homogenous, outwardly discriminatory and ignorant society. Despite my privilege, and my inability to truly sympathize with those who have had their identity and lives rhetorically threatened, I hold individuality as a unifying feature of our collective existence, as a country, a state, and community. For as long as one of my fellow countryman’s individuality and freedom is threatened, so will I consider my own. Much blood and sweat has fallen to place this kind of racist behavior in our past. We cannot regress now. We cannot.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Kids, they sat there waiting. Just three—an unbalanced number. One can talk to the other two but not with complete comfort lent by another on the periphery. They checked their phones nervously, sipped drinks and chatted half-heartedly, saving the fully robust body and flavor of spirited camaraderie for the arrival of the fourth. One fretted over a woman gone silent. The others sat idly by, grave in muted support, each on the cusp of change.
Photo by Matt Reilly
    The hallmark neon glow of a Mexican restaurant sign cast an electric hue onto the glass table, feigning the air of the high school Friday night lights, less the buzz. It was close to closing time, perhaps a bit past, but the group had held the doors unlocked before, and the owner and waiter are accommodating. Perhaps they empathize with the romanticism of the ritual. Maybe they’re just polite.

    The fishing in the rural countryside during the summer months is best at dusk — and the sun sets late. So, dinner is set aside, displaced by fishing, and either takes an early hour or a late one. Late is the preferred option, as it provides a time for reflection. Food tastes better with the mind stimulated by the spirit of activity and even more when it is heading to a hungry stomach.

    A bell sounded faintly as the expected fourth in the party cracked wide the restaurant’s front door. Two of the heads at the booth against the outside window swiveled, and the third looked welcomingly on. Changed from wet shorts and a dirty fishing shirt, he celebrated the novelty of a cool summer night in the South with weathered blue jeans, a flannel shirt and a seasoned trucker hat that tamed dirty brown hair, greased by humidity and the seemingly vaporous concoction of fish slime, pond water, and algae.

    He wore a retired, victorious confidence like that old fishing shirt. He’d spent years fishing the same pond the four fished that evening, casting poppers with a fly rod from a canoe or from the bank long into the night, listening for the telltale splashes of feeding largemouth to alert him of their presence on the end of his line.

    Taking the inside position at the booth, he assessed the attitudes of the others, as they were altered slightly after leaving the carefree world of the evening’s fishing and entering the world of the continuous ebb and flow of issues, problems and solutions. One continued, still, to glance at his phone nervously, worried over the stance of a girl on a recent dispute—his heart and mind battling with neither gaining the upper hand for any long interval. The other, a periodically ill-tempered but altogether nice guy reassured the other, comfortable in his own relationship with a girl, whose fickle deviations are met with his scoffs and temperamental dismissals. The other, more reserved and whose demeanor most closely matched that of the fourth’s, had no horse in the race, and so interjected none.

    By the dictation of the culturally instituted formula for success, the four were staring down the beginnings of college educations. Having completed the seemingly monstrous task of surviving 13 years of school, a short period of irresponsible and unhindered celebration was followed by a heavy sense of the unknown. School was a known. Leaving home wasn’t. By pure necessity of physical distance, some girls would be left behind in a hazy memory of life’s summer. Others would be clung to until strife and stress eventually eroded affection. Families and familiar places would become distant relatives and vacations. Local ties, as they were then, though they forwardly denied it, would be lost.

    The fourth worried, then, over no such things, but had previously, and knew fully of their power. He too would lose a girl, would move away and be distanced from all things familiar. But he had spent the evening teaching the kid whose demeanor most closely matched his own how to cast a fly rod and the student learned and caught fish. A large fish fell to his own efforts in the last shade of light before darkness. The fish sounded and buried itself in weeds, requiring a wading retrieval, as he had performed dozens of times before.

    In those moments he found comfort, ambition and fulfilled purpose—and a dream for a lifestyle built around those ideals. Unsure of the path forward but intent on the end goal, he made the decision to delay formal education and revel in fish, personal realization and what opportunities might come.

    The waiter delivered food and all deep-thought processes were derailed. Smiles were passed around. Life went on.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian