There is a painting that hangs on the wall above my desk of a young boy sitting in a chair beside his fathers’ bed.
The boy is dressed with a hat and jacket on, holding a fishing rod in one hand, waiting ever patiently. There is a definite look of anticipation on the young boy’s face. An old-style wind-up clock sitting on a night table indicates it is 5:25 a.m. The sun is just coming up through the window. The father is sound asleep.
I could very well have been that young boy 60 years ago, waiting so eagerly and patiently to go fishing with my father. I have felt that sense of anticipation prior to each and every fishing trip I have ever gone on. Two weeks from now, I will be sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River. I can’t wait.
Words cannot possibly describe the excitement that comes when you tie into a prehistoric Fraser River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). Rod and reel in hand, holding on for dear life as a six-and-a-half foot long, 250-pound sturgeon comes sailing out of the water right in front of you. Seeing something that big rise up and splash down so close is, to say the very least, pretty darned exciting.
I enjoy fishing, in part because I just like to be out there casting a line. I do, however, enjoy actually catching fish. I am a so-called catch-and-release angler. So-called because every now and then I will harvest a fish for the dinner table and, while I appreciate the thrill of tying into a 250-pound sturgeon, I can also get equally excited about hooking a three or four pound trout on a fly line.
It’s hard to explain, but when I’m on the water I feel good about just being out there – whether I catch fish or not. Time spent casting a line, well, all I know is that it gives me opportunity to both reflect on the past and contemplate the future. Things make more sense when I’m on the water. Personal problems and complicated situations become simpler and less important— things just sort of fall into place and the burdens of my life are lifted from my shoulders.
For a few precious hours I am able to leave my worries behind. Another way of putting it, I suppose, would be to say that for those few precious hours, I simply don’t give a damn.
On those occasions when I do actually manage to get a fish on, well, all I care about is the moment. When I’m fighting a fish, it’s just me and the fish—the eternal struggle of predator and prey. In those minutes I find myself responding to some primordial instinct, some ancient need to pit myself against nature. Nothing else matters.
As for those who might ask how I can claim to respect nature and yet catch fish for the sole purpose of catching something only to turn around and release it, well, I do not feel the quality of my respect for nature is diminished by the fact I enjoy fishing. For me, the actual process of catching fish is but a small part of the whole fishing and outdoor experience. I do not take it lightly that by catching a fish and eating it, I am also taking a life.
So why then do I fish?
I can only answer by saying when I am on the water, casting a line, I feel like there is a balance to my life. It’s not at all dissimilar to the balance that exists in nature where things are in a state of continuous change, where all things must live and die in order to bring about rebirth and renewal.
I also believe that fishing is a way for some young people to get back to nature. Like the young boy in the painting, I remember getting up on many an early morning to go fishing with my father. I remember our talks in the car heading out and I remember stopping by the Half Moon Cafe for a 10-cent Coke on our way back. I remember our conversations far more than I remember any of the fish I ever caught. I cherish those fishing trip memories.
I only hope that part of me will always feel like the young boy in the painting.