A very wise man once told me it’s not the number or even size of fish you catch, but being out on the water that matters.
My father was right. Fishing is a lot more than the simple catching of fish.
It is being able to get away from everything, sitting on a lake somewhere in your boat, breathing in the cool, crisp morning air and sensing all the sights and sounds that surround you. It’s listening to nature as it whispers in your ear and being right there to witness the metamorphoses of an insect – being there as it emerges from its watery depth to experience flight for the first time. It’s hearing the sound of an osprey as it shrieks high above, or seeing a flock of geese winging their way south and sensing the changes that are about to come with a wind that’s blowing in from the north. It’s watching the sun set at the far end of a lake and hearing the call of a loon as it cries out across the water. It’s the rustle of leaves in the fall and the sound of water lapping against the hull of your boat. It’s the warmth of the sun on your face as you watch and wait for the mist to rise from the surface of the water like time lost in a shroud of its own making. It’s the sense of peace and tranquility that wraps itself around you like a familiar old, red Hudson Bay blanket.
Yes, fishing is more than catching fish – it is each and every moment between fish.
Last week, I found myself standing on the banks of the St. Mary River (here in the East Kootenays), casting my line to fish that may or may not even be there – hoping to catch but a glimpse, that momentary glint of silver moving through the runs and riffles of a holding pool that stops the breath and stirs the heart.
How many times that day did I tell myself ‘this is what fishing is all about,’ just being there, casting my line on the waters?
All I know for sure is that when I was standing there, knee-deep in the fast-flowing waters of that river, I felt happy and content and, when I did finally get a fish on, the whole world stopped for a few brief, wonderfully exciting moments.
I never have to remind myself of how many hours I have spent casting to little more than shadows, with little more than a glimmer of hope. But when I set my hook into the power and fury of what felt like a runaway locomotive, I was truly lost in the moment.
Granted, I have probably lost as many battles as I have won over the years, but, win or lose, won or lost, I have to say I have enjoyed each and every moment spent just being out there on the water.
I remember the last time I went fishing with my father. Looking back, I think he knew it would be our last fishing trip together. He wasn’t much older than I am now, but he was tired from having worked hard all his life. I was probably responsible for aging him more than I should have, but he was happy that day, just casting his line on the water.
He still had a good strong cast, far better than mine, then and now. I think he was just happy being out there. He was content.
Many times I have longed to find that kind of contentedness in my life. Maybe it comes with age. I don’t know. But I do remember watching him cast his line upstream from me, and realizing just how much I owed that man.
So it was last week, as I stood casting my line on the St. Mary that I wished I could be just a little more like that man who cast his line upstream from me so long ago.