We Love to Fish’s 2013 Season Highlights

Lews Fishing
Power Pole
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Atlas Jack Plate
Strike King
Lews Fishing

by Rob Lever- We Love to Fish

Mike with a Nice Crappie - photo courtesy of We Love to Fish

Mike with a Nice Crappie – photo courtesy of We Love to Fish

This is the time of year that we all reflect on what we are thankful for most in our lives.  Most are thankful for good health, family, and many other combinations of things.  What are you thankful for?  This year at We Love to Fish, I’m grateful for the opportunity I get on a weekly basis to share my passion with others on the water.

The 2013 season was amazing on so many levels.  Each trip’s success could come from a good catch, overcoming fear, or even driving the boat to each fishing location.  That was the most important step we took this year with our trips.  Last season was purely getting on the water and fishing.  This year with the help of many people throughout the lives of our guests, I was able to build a different plan for each trip.

While I’m grateful for the hard work that was put in to make each experience one of kind, that’s not what I’m most grateful for.  This year I took 31 trips with an intellectually disabled adults, five trips with a disabled child and two with a wounded warrior.  Out of those 38 trips one guest is what I’m most grateful for this year.

I got an email last winter asking if I would take Michael out fishing and was excited to learn that he already knew how to fish.  Michael’s family spent many summers together and over the years they saw fishing as a good way to get away.  The day of our trip came and we could not have asked for a better day.

Mike (as I got to know him) got on the boat and was excited about the beautiful weather we were having on that late spring day.  While he was raving about the weather, I was busy salivating knowing that we had the perfect conditions for a post spawn day of bass fishing.  This was the perfect day We Love to Fish is always searching for.

Minutes into our day it was apparent how special it was going to be.  A flurry of strikes led to five different species of fish being caught in the first hour.  Each catch brought Mike out of his quiet shell and he started to open up to me.  Stories about family and life showed me a glimpse of someone who had overcome a disability to become an amazing man and friend to many.  That trip ended with him catching 25 fish, and I knew Mike would be back to share other days with me.

Mike on His Dream We Love to Fish Trip - photo courtesy We Love to Fish

Mike on His Dream We Love to Fish Trip – photo courtesy We Love to Fish

At home that night I raved to my family about our trip.  This after trip ritual has become standard in the Lever house.  My wife sits there as I show off pictures of the day’s catch and talk about the impact my guest make on my day.  The joy each trip brings me is second only to the joy that the guests get from them.  That night I marked off a date for next season for Mike’s next trip.

After the season was over in October, I had my normal follow-up meetings about my trips with my guest’s social workers.  Each meeting generally is put into place to build fishing into their everyday goals, and in almost everyone I’m asked to plan another trip.  Michael’s meeting was no different when the first thing I was asked was to plan that trip.

 

Everyone in the room looked at me funny when I said that I already planned his trip for next June.  I had misunderstood them because they wanted me to plan a trip for the next day.  The reason blew my mind and I’m still blown away with the reason.  Mike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and only had weeks to live.  When they asked him what he wanted to do in his last weeks he said he wanted to fish with me again.

You could imagine my shock when hearing the news.  I’m not joking when I say that a wave of fear come over me when I realized that the next day called for 32 degrees with a heavy north wind.  It basically meant that our next trip would take place in the complete opposite conditions than our first.

The next morning had the chill that late fall mornings tend to have in New England.  When Mike and his aide pulled up to the ramp Mike sprang out of the car with more energy that I had ever seen.  He had a bounce in his step and he was so excited to find fish.  I took my time getting to our first spot to catch up and see how he was doing.  Right before he took his first cast Mike looked at me and said that he has been watching the Patriots and they aren’t going anywhere this year.  “They stink” he yelled as he tossed out his bait.

We Love to Fish Director Rob Lever Displays one of Mike's Big Fish - photo courtesy We Love to Fish

We Love to Fish Director Rob Lever Displays one of Mike’s Big Fish – photo courtesy We Love to Fish

The next three hours were just like our first trip.  The sun came and again he put five species in the boat.  We laughed, ate snacks, and had a once in a lifetime experience.  That trip was about a group of friends enjoying their time and not caring about anything else going on in their life.  I was in the middle of planning a big fundraiser that was taking place the next day and was stressed out to the max.  It took my time with someone living his last days to relieve my stress and teach me to enjoy the moment.

Our trip ended with me walking Mike back to the car.  I hugged him and he told me he couldn’t wait to see me again.  That trip started on a cold windy day in late October during the last part of the fall migration.  Most of us know how hard of a time that is to find fish never mind catch them consistently throughout the day, but that’s what we did.  The funny thing is that we caught them in the same exact spots we did on the perfect spring day we shared before.

The weekend before Thanksgiving my wife and I went out with some friends.   My phone buzzed to let me know I had a new email.  The email was from Michael’s social worker to let me know that Michael had passed away earlier that day peacefully.

The day before Thanksgiving I went to his house to check on everybody and was able to see his room.  On a shelf above his computer was a picture of our first trip and the Duckett Fishing hat he got in his We Love to Fish swag bag.  Just like I had gone home and bragged about our day to my family, so did Michael.  That’s what I’m most grateful for.  I was able to share one day with someone and make so much of an impact that when he could do anything else in the world; he chose to spend his time with me.

Next season I plan to honor Mike by still keeping the date in June for his trip.  Instead of putting someone else in that spot I will go out to the same lake with Mike’s aide and we are going to enjoy a day of fishing.  He and I will talk sports and enjoy a drink in Mike’s honor.

I tell each guest on my boat that once you fish with someone you are friends for life…  Thank you for being my friend Mike.