Sometimes Catch and Release

By Jim Sollecito

Jim Sollecito: “Knowing when to release is a skill refined with age.”

It was a rough warm season this year and those endless smoky skies didn’t help.

For health reasons we were advised to stay indoors. But I like to be outdoors, where I feel like I’m wearing the weather. Not so much this past summer, I’m glad that has moved downriver and out of view.

Crisp fall mornings are my favorite, when it’s just chilly enough to throw on a jacket.

I love smelling nature while listening to the sounds of moving water. It quiets my mind and reminds me that as in life, once something passes, it cannot return. We are left with memories and perhaps a wistful smile slips onto our visage. All rivers run into the sea, taking everything with them for the ride. Yet the seas are not full; that amazes me.

Where you spend time in the world forms a pretty good self-portrait, I think. I am really not a city or shopping mall kind of guy. My wife recently had to drag me to buy a tuxedo for our daughter’s wedding. Although I will spend plenty of time deliberating over high quality Orvis or Cabela’s clothing for the time I spend in nature. Waterproof pro-grade armor for work and play.

Working a river, seeking a salmon willing to play is a lot like looking for a lost object. Zig zag. Wander. Meander. Backtrack. Investigate seams in the water. Scour. And, of course, pause and observe. Think pace, not race. Seek microhabitats. Look through the water. Think like a fish. It is a form of hide and seek.

I live for many things, among them fly fishing. On a journey of nearly 70 seasons, along the way I have garnered five International Game Fish Association World Records. Not that I was pursuing them, it just worked out that way. If you want a lot of good fishing days, then you have to fish a lot of days. Some end quietly with a big bagel.

No matter what, I try to get as far from the fishing herd as I can. Fishing etiquette and ethics are derived from experience and education. Each time out I learn new lessons, while reapplying old ones. Reviewing what is worth repeating is time well spent.

Every season has highlights, things we can hold onto. Growing up, I wanted everything to be a keeper. Sometimes I held on too tightly, and my prize escaped my grasp. As I aged, I realized the value in not holding on, but in letting go. That has not been easy for me, but one advantage of age is experience.

Eventually, everything heads downstream. And guess what… we are downstream!

Wonder and joy are headed our way. As we look toward 2024, let’s let go of what we did not enjoy, and cast far and wide for good things yet to come.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in New York State. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 315-468-1142 or