The writer enjoys being the first on the water, even if it means rising well before sunrise.

It is 3 o’clock in the morning. A Saturday. No work looming. Warm sheets. Swollen, tired eyes. The iPhone’s alarm pulses in my ears. Even though the vast majority of the world will remain soundly asleep for the next four or five hours, it has never been easier for me to wake up. I peel out of bed. Toes kneading the carpet, I take the first few strides toward the door. There’s fishing to do, and I have three hours and nine minutes until sunrise.

As the coffee maker gurgles on the kitchen counter, there is a wrestling match occurring between my brain, running on four hours of sleep, and my body, running on adrenaline. I have a checklist to get through: rods, tackle boxes, water, sunscreen, snacks. My two hounds clamor for an early walk because, in their minds, I’m awake, and their walk must be the reason.

When I open the front door and the damp warmth of predawn summer rolls across my face, I begin to feel truly alive. This is my day, because as far as I can tell, I’m the only one awake for it, and I’m going to wring every last minute from its fabric that I can. The dogs are walked, the coffee is hot, the kayak is on the roof, and I have two hours and 36 minutes until sunrise.

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I live in downtown Baltimore, roughly the distance of two home runs from Camden Yards, and these streets never sleep … except for right now. They look like the opening scene of a zombie movie. I’m catching all of the green lights through an empty, silent neighborhood. The quiet of the typically buzzing city is cathartic, and then I speed south on I-295, with nothing in front of me but a blank slate of yet-to-be-made memories.

The hour and 10 minute drive lets me take stock of the morning’s plan. Days ago, the momentum of this trip began building, and I picked the target species and boat launch based on the season, wind, temperature and desire. Now the micro details are fine-tuned: the first shoreline to work, which lure gets the opening cast. Just like that, everything is set.

Interstates dwindle to side roads, then narrow into back roads, and then, underneath a moonless sky pinpricked with stars, I arrive at the water. The day’s first goal is accomplished: Mine is the only car here. I am not entirely sure why, but being the first car at the boat launch is important. Maybe it’s a small reward for the recklessly early alarm I set, or the satisfaction of knowing that, despite the huge expanse of fishable water, no one has caught fish before me on that day. I have 58 minutes until sunrise and a kayak that needs rigging.

Bungees hook into padeyes, rods slide into PVC cylinders, a life vest is clicked snugly around my chest, and it’s time for push-off. Right now. This moment. The one I’ve been waiting for.

Clumsy carp leap and splash as I paddle into a space devoid of a horizon, somewhere between sky and water. The paddle dips in sync with my eager heartbeat, cracking the water’s glass surface. I slow, glide, stop and look. Splashes of creamsicle and lavender bleed through the silhouette of trees, hinting at the coming day. There’s enough light to cast by.

The braided line peels off smoothly, launching my lure into dawn’s gaping chasm. I hear a satisfying plop as it lands. I don’t know what will happen next, but it’s my day, and there are still two minutes until sunrise.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Anglers Journal magazine.

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