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.

Monday, May 16, 2005

In the Hole

It's been a few days. 11, actually. I haven't written because, well, I really don't have much to say.

That's right. Me. Not much to say.

Sure, I have something to say about just about anything. I could debate the merits of corn v. wheat tortillas. I could wax on about the anatomy of bird feathers or the beauty of football-helmet face masks. I could talk about my friend's emerging from dyslexia or my sometime yearning for big, boxy 70s cars whose summer interiors smell like humid vinyl. I could talk about my uncles and aunts and their shaping me. Or my enthusiasm for military aircraft, preparing salsa, trim dress shirts that don't blouse above the belt, my young daughter's pointing to my wife's and my noses and ears on command. I could tell you about my Grandma's porch in Michigan, about the books there, the screened windows, the sun filtering light green through the maple out front, dancing through dusty air on the 1940s paneling behind the sofa. I could tell you about how my dad grills hamburgers so they end up taller than wide, or how he sits on the porch every time it rains. I could go on and on about the Vietnam war, give you insights on the abortion debate, share all of my very sensible views on matters of importance. God and life and purpose and. . . .

But I just don't have the jam right now. Here's why. Everyone out there has something to say, and 90% of it I've either heard before or thought before. A lot of it comes from either standing on someone else's shoulders or dully commenting on commentary. That's all good and fine. There's all kinds of chatter.

But there are so few voices. So little vision.

I don't wanna be part of the chatter.

I want to be compelled to read. By the brilliance of the piece, the lucidity, the compelling, refreshing take on the subject. Really, I want to be charmed.

I have a voice. But I need to focus it and find its heart. When I figure out how to do that in a way that makes me want to read all the huckus I post here--when I feel charming--I'll come out of my hole.

Until then, thanks for your patience. Let me know your thoughts.