Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I Fish, Therefore I Am . . . A Dreamer

Screw it. Writing is better than not writing.

So here's something.

I'm a fisherman. Have been since my uncle enticed me with a 6-inch perch trying to pull my Zebco spincasting reel and light-action rod from my excitable five-year-old paws. I've been at it a while.

It's one of the few things I do that makes me feel completely at ease. Wholly me. At peace. And piqued. I like the challenge. I like the hunt. I like the science of it, thinking about habitat, temperature, and season. About proper lure or fly presentation.

Most of it has nothing to do with luck.

The part that does have to do with luck is the part that makes wives and girlfriends of fisherman say "That's why they don't call it 'catching'." Speaking of luck, it's a fortunate thing that my wife, despite her able and usually fully appreciated sarcasm, doesn't say such things when I get skunked.

Because getting skunked is a piss-poor way to spend a day fishing. All the beauty of the river and the pine-scented air and the limestone-and-granite jeweled hillsides aside, not even the hand of God loosing a flock of mountain bluebirds from the junipers can make up for it. Comes close, but just doesn't cut it.

Because when you spend a day strategizing, calculating, anticipating, casting, changing flies or lures, casting again and again, walking miles along a bank, or paddling or motoring miles up the shoreline, but never eliciting even a curious strike, you are spent. Utterly spent. And empty. Then we moan and cuss and start making crass jokes about each other.

The crazy thing is that we fisherman then get up and do it again the next day. Perhaps with a more measured enthusiasm. But that little boy pulling the Eagle Claw hook with a bit of mashed redworm on it from a miniature perch jaw is still inside, simply radiating joy. So we mount up and start casting again. It's an illness.

A friend of mine just fished the Au Sable River in Michigan, a section called "The Holy Waters." Got skunked. In the presence of some of the most glorious (and glorified; this stream inspired a number of early fly-reel makers and fly tiers to create classic instruments of the sport that are revered today) brook and brown trout habitat in the world, my friend--cast after cast with his streamers, hitting all the sweet structure, submered logs, weed beds, undercut banks, dropoffs--walked away empty.

When I was on the john the other day, I was reading my High Country Angler. It makes my eyes sore for the never-ending photos of weiner-men in wide-brimmed hats with expensive fly-fishing vests adorned with the usual hemostats and line cutters holding big trout. And I mean big. Eight-pound browns from the Arkansas River. An 11-pounder from the Dream Stream section of the South Platte. Sons of bitches, I think. They're fishing waters I've canvassed with my usual full-bore dedication, they're catching the fish that have driven my dreams for years, and I'm sitting on the throne with my pants at my ankles like a guy with a cane pole asleep at a carp hole, drooling over pictures of gaggly, unshaven men holding meaty, bug-eyed piscivores.

And I'm so excited. That's what's so nuts about it.

I spend more time thinking about fishing; talking with my brother and my friends about fishing; reading about fishing; and buying gear for fishing . . . than fishing.

But all it takes is a great fish once in a while. A great hour or morning or day of fishing. A great trip here and there. And, like an addict, I'll keep throwing myself down an infinite hole, looking for more big fish. Yearning for the lunkers.

Fortunately, I have a life outside of fishing that I enjoy very much. Otherwise, I might actually become a really, really good fisherman and have to get my own show on TNN or something to satisfy my cravings. And take on a Tennessee accent and wear mesh trucker baseball caps with 2-cycle engine oil logos on them. And--gasp--catch fish every day.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Jesse said...

Great post but my mom would be a little upset with you..

she fishes with my dad and consistently catches more fish than he does.

each year they have a contest and each year my mom pummels my dad.

5:30 PM  
Blogger BJL said...

Try to remember your first line in this blog:
"Screw it, writing is better than not writing."

(in otherwords, write more interesting blogs for us less-inclined-to-write types.)

:-)

9:41 PM  
Anonymous catfish said...

Your fishing note made me wanna go fishing! My only fishing experince is from the Bhosphorus in Istanbul. You would really like it there. Miles long strecth of water bank, peppered with hundreds of fishers, trying to catch fish that drift from the Black Sea to the Eagean Sea. I caught my first fish there: an anchovy! with a fishing rod made of broom handle! how glamorus huh!!

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Lizzy McGwire said...

A fish story from any other source would be less-than-desirable. I have the square root of interest in fishing...unless someday I were to go with the Accipitor. However, when it comes to fishing, I am hardly worthy to carry his tackle box.

The account is a lot less about fishing and completely about passion. I spend a great deal of time reading about triathlon: Triathlon training, who is doing triathlon, professional triathlon, and events avaiable for me to partake in triathlon. I review the latest and greatest gear and gadgets to perform the disciplines of triathlon. It's my passion. I will spend $100 on a pair of high-tech, kick-ass cycling shorts, but I balk at buying a $15.95 dress shirt from Walmart. We actually invest much of our time researchinig and our money on our passions so when we actually have time to participate in them, it will be the highest quality experience we can have. The Accipitor...the river runs through him. Rock on and don't forget to wipe.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Quit Smoking said...

Hello fellow fisherman,

Did you know that 16% of the U.S. population goes fishing at least 16 days a year?

Did you also know that over 75% of the nations fishermen do not fish during "prime time"; fish feeding hours?

Those precious few moments before twilight can be absolutely magical. Even up until 11pm at night, the largest predators of any species feed ravenously.

Don't believe me? Check out Daniel Eggertsen's story, and a picture of a couple of his catches here : "Evening Secrets plus more"

I want you to do me a favor and try it out so I can see what you think of it, and if it works for you as well as it did for me.

You will be one of the first to try it out.

Gone Fishin',

Neil

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