I learned to fish, up here on the Gray's river, within eyesight of an old wooden covered bridge that's still here today. The waders and equipment are still stored in Dad's garage if the urge to go out on the water, arises. Steelhead fishing isn't for the impatient, or the truly hungry, for we would come home without a fish more times than with.
I've had more than one female friend say" "Aren't you bored?"
I've fished both saltwater and freshwater salmon, the freshwater moving in from the oceans of their life into the rivers to spawn. There's nothing like it, that fixed spot in space when you think maybe you've snagged a rock on the bottom and suddenly the whole bottom begins to move and shake and you've got a freight train on your line. While your vision is clouded with bacon wrapped salmon and the hickory smell of the smoker firing up, your muscle memory is having a boxing tournament with a fish as big as a 3 year old, jumping out of the water, dancing on his tail like a washed out celebrity, then diving back into the water.
The male salmon is, as they say, all show and no roe, cocky and overambitious, The female, though, not inclined to bite, when she does will lie in with a heavy and placid stubbornness that begs you to start something. Like arguing with any female of strength and persuasion you had either be prepared for a long drawn out test of will or simply get out the scissors, cut the line and admit THAT was a mistake
As I waited, the call of a loon brought me back into the moment and I thought things happening back at home, rather than why I came here. And then the sound of it reminded me. "Can you hear that?" I whispered to the old dog sitting by my side, poised to strike in case I reeled in a pound of bacon. "That" being the sound of a small bass jumping on a small span of water on a planet spinning through space. This is what fishing is all about, not catching anything for supper, but simply a time with nature to be savored, when delight imbibes through every pore with the gossamer cast of a line. I really don't care if I catch anything tonight. I just enjoyed the communion of elemental waters.
camping was a fire built with magic and swear words, burned wienies and good beans, wood smoke and bug spray, paper plates that fell apart. My camping was the sound of a hoot owl as the sun sets, itsFsteadt dying rays reflected in a cup of beer as a black lab snoozed happily by the fire. I'm here, for those times when I don't wish to sacrifice the wonder of the present moment to work, society or noise. A loner always, I want a broad margin to my life. I can sit in the fading sunlight of a doorway between two trees from dinner til dark fall, rapt in a revere in undisturbed stillness and solitude.
As dusk settles in, I wonder about the lapse of time, the evening seeming like a mere moment, time like a season in which I grew like flowers in the night. Philosophers talk about contemplation and the forsaking of work and out here I realize what they meant. The day advances as the light comes into it, it's morning, and now it's evening, and nothing memorable is done. My days are not minced into deadlines of a ticking clock or the perusal of things no longer breathing. Let mornings be lazy, afternoons pass by in long walks or a flip of a fishing pole and if the day becomes wasted in the warm rapture of a sunset as nature sings its song in my ear - what's the harm?
I thought back to fly fishing in Montana, watching the fly fisherman standing, rod in hand, in the rushing water. His movement the languid strokes of a lover, making the most beautiful movements, a ballet of line and wind and hook. A ritual of the chase, the cast like a tease to the unsuspecting trout, content in their world, until he pulled them into his. As the trout took the bait, the man would smile, that quick knowing smile, and pull with a quick flick of his fingers and hands, like light strokes on a keyboard, touching yet pulling, desire planted, hook in place. Then after reeling the trout in, he ever so gently pulled the hook from the mouth of the trout, gently cradling her in his hand, a tender goodbye. Without a sound, just a quick unemotional tickle of her belly, he released her back downstream. He never looked back.
Catch and Release.
This was the outdoors. Splashes of daylight that recharged what you came here with. This was our outdoors. Unidentifiable sounds in the darkness that made you hold your breath at the bottom of your sleeping bag. A good book read with a dying flashlight, shadows dancing on the wall of a small canvas tent, and the musty smell of freedom and adventure. A quiet prayer to my God over a meal garnered by my own hand and cooked over a campfire. A time when growth may not be on the surface but may be internal, and the weekend quietly drifts by in the warm embrace of the woods. But even in the woods, any good day must end.
As the last of the daylight seeped out of the sky, I thought back to work, but only briefly, for my mind now is rippled, not storm-tossed. These small ripples of water raised by the evening's wind are the only hint of turmoil in the calm. As the day pulled out of the sky, taking the wind with it, I cast one last time out into the still center of the water. There, utter and complete stillness, holding my breath, because even inhaling and exhaling was like a cacophony. The animals of the day were hunkering down for rest, and the night creatures not quite yet stirring, there was no breeze, no recognition of air even; it was the sound of nothing and everything. It felt like all my life past and present was contained in one space, and I was not just casting into it, I was part of it. Where for just a brief moment in the universe, the clock stopped ticking, and the world hushed.
This was my catch. Some nights in the woods, where I was able to pull the barb of civilization from my lips and swim rapidly to where the wild called to me. Where my heart is always at home.