On fishing

If anything came from our vacation this past weekend, it’s the rediscovery of fishing – as sport and as pastime. It used to be boring. But now, in my introspectively directed mind, it’s a time to think. A time to reminisce and enjoy life, watching for every small detail that I understandably miss while rushing through the day.

Fishing is relaxation. It’s the thrill of the hunt. There’s a pull of both chance and circumstance. The fisherperson is not in control. On the contrary, the fish is in charge of the situation. We’re the one throwing a line out, reeling it back in, and repeating, while the fish sits back and idly watches, nibbling at the scraps and trying not to get caught. Each throw is like a lottery ticket, each cast representing the ultimate in hope and belief.

“Just one more toss. I know I’ll get something. I’ll stick with this rig because I know it will create good luck.” Optimism at it’s highest. It’s worked before, so maybe there’s some magic left. It’s addicting; a drug for the wilderness lover, a narcotic in an ecosystem-saving vein, with worms as junk and a fish hook as applicator.

What started as a quiet day fishing quickly became a momentous outpouring of feeling, of relaxation and nostalgia. I used my grandfather’s old fishing pole all weekend, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see some significance in the act. I never really understood the idea of fishing, but I learned it – second hand, at least – through this fishing pole that still had lures ready. For all I know, it was the last lure he ever used. I didn’t see the pole as mine. There was too much history wrapped up in the line, too much dedication attached to the hook.

That is, until I caught a fish. It was nothing special, a rainbow trout from the middle of the lake. It was one part grandfather and one part father – the Rappala I used was a gift from an overzealous father, one who loves fishing more than nearly anything else. It will take along time to shake my grandfather’s name from the title, but the fishing pole became mine – if just a little – the second I caught something on it, my first fish worth keeping. Maybe it’s the start of a new legacy.

Did my grandfather – a great fisherman and an avid sportsman – know that his final fishing excursion was truly his last? I wondered that when I was out on Bismarck Lake this weekend. I wondered if he realized that he’d never be able to do it again – the sport that had become his personal pastime over the past 65 years of his life. Did he catch anything? My rainbow trough was good enough for me. But was it ultimately meant for him? Could he have left some of his magic – his fishing “spectacle” on the pole – enough to make one of my few bites good enough to keep?

Would he have fished any differently if he knew it was his last shot? Would he use different lures? Or would he be too wrapped up in the act of fishing, the beauty of the lake and the rush of the catch, the patience and reward, the variety of lures and techniques and the trials and tribulations of new styles? Would he have even cared?

I did. I learned to fish this weekend. I always had known how to throw the line in the water and reel it back in. But this weekend, I picked up the mindset that’s always been missing.

This was lovingly handwritten on July 6th, 2006