There’s Always Fishing

The world spins in chaos—wars, crooked politicians, mass killings in schools—the list goes on. But through all that disaster, at the end of the week there’s always fishing. Not baseball, as Kevin Costner says in Field of Dreams, but fishing. Not everyone can play baseball. But even if you’re blind you can fish—toss out a streamer, strip it back and catch a fish. If you’ve got bad arthritis in your knees you can sit in a boat and reel them in. If you’re missing a hand from an IED, you use an artificial one to hold a rod and…there you go. Young, old, crippled, healthy: no matter what, you can fish.

A day on the lake with veterans

A day on the lake with veterans

And the good thing about fishing is you’re out in nature, usually with someone you like, getting some exercise if you’re able, and improving your mind. Studies have shown that even watching a show on TV about wilderness relaxes us and can improve creativity. Just think of what the real thing does. You ask me, I know.

I’ve been very lucky that I had a father who loved the outdoors, and despite being nearly blind, he fished and took me with him. I’ve carried that enjoyment with me my whole life, probably to an extreme if you ask my family, though I’ve mellowed some, perhaps to my detriment.

Many years ago I decided to specialize, only do fly fishing. Not really popular in Pensacola where everyone wants to go out and deep sea fish for snapper or grouper and fill the cooler. But I’ve caught hundred pound tarpon on a fly rod, many saltwater fish you would never think a fly fisherman would go after: snapper, grouper, flounder, shark, and of course the more acceptable redfish and sea trout. There have been days of heat and sweat and lack of fish that were frustrating, true, but also occasionally touched with sights that filled me with wonder: a school of leopard rays in shallow water, a giant manta ray with a span of eight to ten feet coming out of the water like a dolphin, six feet up and flopping back down with a splash, an acre of bull redfish on the surface like a coppery burnished shield, an eight foot shark cruising the beach in three feet of water, going right towards a family about to enter the water. Luckily they heard my screams and stayed out of the water. Some things still awaken me, like the time I had been casting all day on the bow of the boat, bone weary, frustrated at not even getting a good cast to a tarpon, when one appears. I cast. It starts following my fly and I set the hook…and pull the fly out of his mouth! Dang! No. I’m sure I said something a bit worse.

The thing that always comes back to sooth is friendship. Having a friend or family share these moments, pull you out of the water after you fall, or net a nice fish, or just share a gin and tonic after a long day on the river. It’s what makes fishing take away all the worries of the day, the week, the years, and allow you to live in a moment that is tranquil, peaceful and can maybe approach what some might call heaven.

lunch on the Bighorn

lunch on the Bighorn

So, today when I knew I should be marketing my books, doing research or writing on the new one, I went out fishing. Fifty two degrees in mid January in Fort Collins, Colorado must be celebrated. And I was lucky. I hit the one hole, the one hour of the day the fish were rising, and I must have caught twenty fish on a dry fly. It was so much fun I laughed at each fish. The bicyclers and runners and walkers probably thought I was nuts.

Yes, there is always fishing. And to me it is a slice of heaven on earth.



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