Um, about my last post. Peace and patience? Well, the two were seriously tested on Sunday, when I got skunked, again. Translation: I didn’t catch a single fish, despite 7 hours on the stream (up at 6 a.m., out of the house at 7, on the stream at 8, done at 4). I can't help but feel like a chump. Perhaps it’s in my blood, some fishy resistance to catching my aquatic brothers and sisters.
There is something about fishing that goes against logic: walking upstream to catch something, gawk at it, then release it back to its habitat, gasping for air. You have to want to fish enough to withstand some annoyances: the mosquitoes--any body part not covered in deet is toast, e.g. your butt when you need to use “the loo"--and bushwacking through stinging nettle and wild berry canes. Focus is of the utmost importance. Case in point: I was clomping through the stream, while my mind was off in some all-too visited annoying corner of my mind, when I stepped into water that was much deeper than I thought, and suddenly I was on my stomach, up to my neck in water. Typical!
Fishing requires strategy (never been my forte): figuring out where the trout are likely to be resting on a hot day, usually in the shadow of a rock, by a riffle of water. Then there is skill that takes years to master: being able to land the fly in the hole, but far enough ahead so as to be unnoticed by the trout. Say, 15-20 feet. My ability to land the hole seems some what happenstance. The fly always follows the same arc, back to the same spot. There is stalking (hiding behind some rock, quietly…) There is more focus: you have to watch the fly intently as it bobs downstream towards you, and wait for a strike. Sometimes its impossible to see from the glare of the sun, the white foam on the water. A trout can jump on the fly in an instant, and you need to be prepared to set the hook. I did get a few strikes, but my mind had wandered (bored perhaps?), and unprepared, I missed out.
Not catching fish brings up all of my other failures and shortcomings to the surface. I stomp and pout and feel my insides tighten up in a tangled up ball of stress, then wonder why the hell I’m even trying. Part of my frustration was that I had enjoyed the taste of success on our previous fishing trip, having caught three trout. One was by accident: I thought my hook was caught on a branch underwater, but it fact it was a fish mouth. Since I didn't yet know how to kindly release it from the hook, I had to walk upstream with it, like a dog on a leash, until I could catch up with Nelson for a demonstration on freeing it with a pair of scalpels. (This brought up a bit of a moral crisis. I felt bad for the little fish and wished it well as it swam away, nursing its wounds.)
So, fishless on Sunday, I was left to contemplate the royal blue sky, the kingfishers cawing around their nest, winging up and down the stream to warn us off their territority, the nature of expections and effort, perfectionism and disappointment, the challenge of being in the present moment.
Indeed. there was a reward at the end of the day that made me forget about my inner turmoils. We returned back to where we started, to a delightful swimming hole, 5 feet deep, and dove in. The water was so clear, you could see right down to the bottom of the pool: rocks in pinks and browns and blues, elemental patterns etched into their surface. Relaxed and purified, we had a little picnic on a rocky beach: two Red Stripes, pita, hummus, goat cheese, and veggies. I don’t know if I’ll ever be good at fishing, but give me some clean cold water on a sunny day, away from the crowds, and I think I can ease up on the complaints.