Renewing friendships on the water
Forty-eight years ago, Tim Holden of Pendleton was concentrating on a 90 miles per hour fastball against one of the league’s top pitchers for the Akron High School baseball squad. His Starpoint Spartans team was in an unusual position – trailing at the end of the game. His Spartans were undefeated and leading the league once again, a dominating position they held for 15 straight seasons for Coach Hal Ruppert. None of them went undefeated.
I had the best seat in the house, on deck behind Holden. The pitcher went to his best pitch, a fast ball. Holden was ready for it. From that point on it seemed like it was slow motion. With 2 runners on base, Holden’s swing connected perfectly and the ball sailed over the right field fence to score 3 runs and take over the lead and what would eventually be another win on the way to a perfect season in 1974 in the Niagara-Orleans League.
Fast forward to April 2022: Holden was once again standing next to me, but this time it was on his 21-foot Chaparral boat (a compromise vessel with his wife Joni). He was trying to connect on a striped bass, a “wiper” (hybrid between a white bass and a striper), or a largemouth – swinging for the fences on Lake Anna in Virginia.
Holden is now living in Mineral, Virginia, a cast away from Lake Anna. I was surprised to find out Lake Anna is one of the largest freshwater inland reservoirs in Virginia, offering 17 miles of lake from end to end with 200 miles of shoreline and depths to 80 feet. It was created in the early 1970’s when the North Anna Dam was formed on the North Anna River to complement the Lake Anna Nuclear Facility. There are now over 30 species of fish that feature largemouth bass, striped bass and hybrid striped bass (wipers). Other species include walleye, crappie and bluegill.
There are two distinct areas that make up the lake. There is a public area, which happens to be the cooler area away from the power plant. The private area, which is the warmer area, is closer to the plant. The water is used to cool the plant and the discharge becomes warmer. As a result, this lake does not freeze over and fishing is available all year long by boat. You can still fish the private area by boat.
We had a bit of a family vacation planned to Lynchburg, Virginia and I reached out to Tim to see if he was up for a fishing adventure. I should have said a “catching” adventure! Unfortunately it was one of those “you should have been here earlier in the week” stories. It didn’t matter though. While it would have been great to catch a few fish (and maybe cook up a few stripers if we caught any legal 20-inch fish), it was all about catching up with each other. I mean really catching up.
Nearly every year, Tim and Joni make it back up to Western New York to visit family and friends and that usually means meeting up for lunch, dinner or “wings.” However, where there are four or five other couples involved, the “catching up” part is very limited.
On the water in Tim’s boat, we had each other to ourselves. We caught up with our lives and he was a near-perfect guide showing off Lake Anna on a beautiful Friday morning with limited activity on the water. It doesn’t get much better than this.
We talked about our families, we talked about our former jobs – we were both retired now – and we talked about baseball.
Holden ended up with a Masters in Environmental Science, working for Atlantic Research Corporation, Aerojet, and Aerojet/Rocketdyne. It was a pretty cool work history and it’s hard to believe he has retired from it already. In fact, one of our topics of conversation was that we would be celebrating our 50th Starpoint High School reunion in two years. Where has the time gone?
I have been pretty fortunate in that a fair number of the people I graduated with I still maintain contact with them. Social media has helped in that regard. Every two months 5 couples from the “good old days” get together for dinner at a different restaurant each time. A couple times a year we have cookouts or parties with many more of them. And a bunch of them I still fish and hunt with. We are never at a loss for words.
Our fishing techniques didn’t vary too much from back home. We tossed swim baits along the shoreline, focusing on points, rocks, fallen trees and other structure. When that didn’t work, we tried some trolling with deep-diving Bandit stickbaits to try and scare up a fish. Holden had a network of contacts that he touched bases with, but it was slow for everyone except for a local charter who was fishing live bait.
We headed in for lunch around 12:30 p.m. Tim’s neighbor decided to take a 17-mile run to Dike 3. The gamble paid off. He caught three stripers casting swimbaits, including a 21 inch fish that was over the legal 20-inch limit. Maybe next time we will have more time.
The outdoors is a great way to extend friendships and maintain contact with one another. Whether it’s on the water fishing or hunting in a duck blind, a goose field or chasing turkey or deer, the success is in the experience with family and friends. Reach out to someone and set up an adventure to renew your connections. With the way time is flying by, make the best of the time you have left.
The past week I lost three friends, all joined together for a love of the outdoors. It helps put things into perspective. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today. Swing for the fences!