Two hunters passed me on their ATV while following the forest trail, preparing for the opener of deer season. Their words echoed in my head.
I was standing at the river in the darkened noon hour. A first snow flurry drifted across the pool. The rod guides had no ice.
Their words inspired me to wade out slowly, to draw my breath and make a back-cast, then to exhale with the forward delivery of the fly.
Their words resonated, brought me out of winter meditation, my attempt to blend in with the stream’s environment. Their words pulled me from the water at my knees and got me floating on the moment like a plastic bobber on a lake. I had never been good at meditation, though I once found it useful to closely watch my breath (proverbial contemplation of the navel) and occasionally tried to shape the practice to my needs.
When I was young I dabbled for a short time with the fashionable yoga of the day and worked at contorting my back and ankles in the lotus position. I never managed to break through the thick cellular wall separating me from universal bliss– or if I did, it was nothing to write home about. I failed to pursue the roles of sage and seeker. Eastern philosophy was a fine distraction through my college years, but a sense of absolutism lurked in its shadows like a zealot with horns. And what, pay good money for a Transcendental Meditation instructor? I had better uses for that rare dollar bill.
The hunter’s words brought me to the here and now, dissipating the chill and dampness. They indicated surprise, but little more. Perhaps they were a mantra that the hunters left behind, before motoring through the woodsy cosmos.
Their words sounded strange, but why? Granted, I was out fishing, not hunting in a field or sitting in a stadium. But is fishing all that different? Their words almost seemed poetic.
A seed of light flared and grew, warming the December fisherman. I’d waited too many days to get back on the stream. Their words held the songs of springtime in their syllables. For a minute I resumed my angling meditation.
It was getting cold. I made a long cast to the head of the pool and watched the point where the line and leader meet. I picked up the gathering line and saw a rainbow just ahead– before the fly came to the fish’s gaze.
The trout flicked to its side. I raised the rod, and the fish fought back. It paused in the cold air for a photograph, then swam back to the depths.
Their words echoed in my head–
After four days of hunting over Thanksgiving, all I had to show for the effort was two catfish, so “out there fishing” was a lot more productive than over here hunting. As for the yoga, I’ve lowered my expectations. I don’t seek enlightenment, just the ability to tie my shoes without injuring myself. Great read, Walt. Keep fishing!
I hear ya, Jim. For me enlightenment at this point means realizing that I’m lucky to slip into my waders one more time as winter kicks it up a notch. I’ll bet those catfish were tasty! Thanks, as always.
I go for a walk along the river frequently and always wonder if I should go out there like I used to just a few years ago. Then the moment passes. I can wait till some time in March. It’s not like theirs trout around here. If so, I might reconsider.
What’s important, I guess, is to keep the impulse to fish/explore alive, whether we actually fish in winter or not. In my case, Ken, I think it’s what keeps me in the groove for all the rest.
I’ve been enjoying my walks along the river Walt. It is funny how the urge to fish this time of year went away, but the urge to be out there didn’t seem to wane much.
Understandable, Ken. I think the urge transforms a bit over the winter, takes on a different face. I sense it in the growing need to walk the hills, the riverways, to hike, in as much as the cold weather allows. When the season warms, it brings on the urge to fish.
If the line doesn’t freeze in the guides then it must be warm enough to fish. Forty degrees seems to be the magic number for a reasonably comfortable outing. Snow on the ground isn’t too much of a deterrent, other than to make for some slippery streamside walking. Out here, we won’t see forty today, not tomorrow either.
Forty sounds right, Les, though in a pinch, if all other signs are good, I’ll go with a 33 or 34. But now it’s cold all over, especially out your way. Tie flies, be well.
Walt, those hunters sounded like they just might be a little jealous! After all, you’re out in moving water with a measure of solitude, while they’ll have to contend with the orange clad army that invades the NY/PA woods long about now. And “fishin'” is just huntin’ of a different manner anyhow. That looks like an interesting piece of water, too …very “fishy”.
As you say, Bob, fishin’ is just another form of huntin’, but for my tastes, I’ll take the solitude of the autumn angler over the front lines of the orange-clad army. The water is the upper Allegheny, upstream of your own neck of the woods, where the river has a different face, for sure, but still has interest.
I’d be fishing if I was not looking for a whitetail.
I believe I’ll pick up the 2wt tomorrow.
Good luck Alan… You’ve got to be in a warmer clime than I am in, but I’ll look for a chance as well.
I love this post Walt.
Why thanks Steve! Good luck out there on those snowy trails.