It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Fishin’)

He not busy being born is busy dying.“– Bob Dylan

The early spring day started off rainy and then turned partly sunny, all the while OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApunctuated by heavy winds. A good day to fly-fish? Following a winter of currents under ice, I wasn’t being choosy. Also I’d been wrestling with some beautiful but stupid dreams of late, for which there was nothing but fishing (and possibly some serious drinking) on order to clear the mess. So I headed to the river for a long-awaited reunion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy two hours of casting and battling the blasts of wind were all I needed. That said, the river was in lovely shape considering the recent rains and snow-melt. The river’s flow was normal for the season and only somewhat cloudy. With just the first or second cast of the little 5-weight fiberglass rod, I got a strike from a rainbow trout. I knew then that the special regulations water had been recently stocked.

I fished the wind-blown pool, with its 100-foot riffle and deep undercut bank, andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA managed to catch and return a baker’s dozen of rainbow trout, mostly standard hatchery fish. That may sound like an impressive haul for northern PA on a cold day in March, but really it isn’t (sorry Mark Twain, sometimes fellas do tell the truth). These were hatchery trout. I stumbled on easy pickings for a deep-drifting fly, and I was thankful for the action.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fish were fun and good practice for the upcoming season. Catching them was like sighting the first arrivals of birds this day: a migrant bluebird, a killdeer or two, a song sparrow uttering the first musical phrases of spring…  They helped out a guy still trying to be fully born, to be educated in the ways of Earth. The wind might have been cold and fierce, but when it calmed on several occasions, the sun shone warmly and was much appreciated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt other times I turned my face to the quiet willows and thought, okay, Ma… I’m only living. Isn’t this all about being free– in as much as I, or you, or anyone, can be free in the restrictive and conformist atmospheres of politics and economics? It’s about being free to do just this, to fish when I want to fish, to open up my senses to a fresh new day.

Recently I read the results of a survey of 2,200 adults conducted by the National Science Foundation in 2012. The results shouldn’t have been shocking, but they were. In answer to one of the questions, “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?”, only 25% of the surveyed answered correctly. Wow. Don’t we all get similar shocks all the time? I don’t know about you folks, but when piles of such societal debris accumulate deeply, I’ve got to shake ’em off like water from a dog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

I fish at the first of spring and let the winds sweep off the mental decks. I look up and know, as Copernicus knew so long ago, that our planet orbits the star, and damn it all, we are small, but beautiful when we aren’t being stupid.

I got nothing, Ma, to live up to…

I mean no harm nor put fault/ On anyone living in a vault/ But it’s alright, Ma, if I cannot please him.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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16 Responses to It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Fishin’)

  1. stevegalea6953 says:

    Very nice to read. We’re so far from fly fishing conditions here that it’s killing me. The waters might open but you’d have to wade through 3 feet of snow to get to the banks. Keep reminding me that spring is coming. I could use it.

  2. Thanks Walt for allowing me to fish vicariously from a hospital bedside while I attend to a family member awaiting surgery! The redirect is always a welcome diversion, and you do it well. Now if we coud just get that 75% of the population who are stuck in the earth-centric mentality to take the next shuttle to middle earth, wouldn’t life be grand?

    • Kent, Glad that I could help you out a bit while at the bedside, and best wishes to your kin for rapid recovery.
      You know, getting the 75% to do the fast-track therapy in Middle Earth is a real sweet dream. Like a first beautiful day in spring! Thanks for that, and for reading here, as well.

  3. Rest assured, it’s getting there, Steve. I sympathize. We had your conditions a couple weeks back, followed by sudden run-offs that were controlled by freezing temps at night. Hopefully you’ll be on track real soon.

  4. Mary says:

    Enjoyed the riverside reverie very much today. And yes, Dylan said it well, didn’t he? I so appreciate what you mean about getting out in the air, clearing out the cobwebs. My morning walks are so important to me – there is always something to see,to hear – the red-winged blackbirds, crows, all of the winged friends. I especially liked your phrase the “quiet willows.”
    Good thoughts.

  5. You got it, Mary, thank you for reading and commenting. It’s fun to watch the slow return of our winged and flowering friends, who help us “being born.” And daily walks, getting out at any opportunity, are important for those of us who want to stay in touch with our larger, biological selves. What is your home state? Here in western NY the weather is slowly improving and affording more opportunities for outdoor experience.

    • Mary says:

      I’m in northern Chester county, northwest of Philly. I love upstate PA too as that was my mother’s home – Lycoming county. And I went to college in Lock Haven, beautiful place.

      • Thanks Mary, I figured somewhere in PA. Now I’ve got a little bridge of understanding for communication purposes. We share a love for the greener aspects of the state.

  6. Tk says:

    There’s no cure for ignorance. The sad part is that the ignorant can influence the future of the world

  7. Thanks for weighing in, Tk. You’re right. I’d say the only cure for ignorance is for the ignorant to stand up and say that education is important and we’re willing to know something more, to make a positive difference in the world. That’s a tall order, of course. And yeah they can influence the future, and even command the present powers (we needn’t look too far for examples)!

  8. Wonderful words (yours and Dylan’s) to celebrate the thawing of our minds and souls.

  9. Always enjoy hearing from you, Jim. With thanks!

  10. Bob Stanton says:

    25%! Yikes! I shouldn’t be surprised I guess, given some of today’s socio-political attitudes and witnessing daily the dumb sh*t some people do. No wonder I’m a misanthrope.

  11. And here’s another statistic from the same survey, Bob. 48% of the surveyed knew that humans evolved from earlier species of animals. As an educator of sorts, I find this kind of stuff doubly depressing, maybe, because I see the dumb shit being passed along from one class to another without much effort being put into lessening the ignorance involved. At least in a lot of cases. Ugh.

  12. Alan says:

    I can’t figure out what happened to us in the northeast these last few months.
    My head is spinning.
    Nice catch.

  13. Alan, I’m hoping that the slow withdrawal of winter will have various benefits for us, including a good spring season on the streams. My coffee cup’s half full, I guess.

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