Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Splendor of Fishing

"It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout...Nick's heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling."

-Hemingway, In Our Time

There is so much life concealed by water, and it is the angler's privilege to discover a small part of that life, to hold it in his hand and see the flash of its colors. The delicate roseates that mark the sides of a brook trout like gems or the green-gold fire of a pike lancing up at a lure from dark depths - these are the surprises that await us as we explore nature with rod and reel.

I've always found bodies of water to be mysterious, inviting places. We can never know exactly what's in them, and that is their wonder. We come to them as air-breathing guests, lacking the natural equipment to spend much time below, limited mostly to puttering or paddling around on top. Even the placid surface of a local pond, a submerged quarry, a suburban stream, is the roof of a realm utterly detached from ours. And when a fish noses the surface to take a fallen fly, we catch a momentary and elusive glimpse of life below, and cannot help but be intrigued. The rest is inevitable - the rest is fishing.

Half the splendor of fishing is its suspense - the play of chance. You simply cannot predict what will happen at that distant end of your line, dangling there like a lunar lander above some remote crater. You can only guess, imagine and wait. The line is your connection between worlds - a telegraph cable bringing reports from the deep - and who knows what the news will be. Perhaps an urgent call to haul in something splashing, shimmering, astonishing.

The other half of fishing's splendor is its peace - the sense of calm that wells up from the water, seeping up through waders, through the hulls of boats, through bare feet dangling from docks, to soothe aches you might not have known were there. Each time I return from time spent on the water, between sun and waves, I feel refreshed, relieved of tedious, everyday burdens, and above all, content that I have fulfilled a promise to myself.


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