Gone is the innocence. The bliss of ignorance was long ago taken under the float of sublime realisation, so sweet, so brief.
Yet not so brief that to taste it again is not merely delectable, but divine. Godlike the fish, godlike the strike of the fish, like lightning from a blue sky, mead where I expected water, wine where I thought there would be only dust.
In the short space of the great battle I lose myself in the maelstrom of jeweled fishes' armour, foaming waters, fins flying like wings, like the feet that walk on the water wherein it dances, struggles, darts. Ersatz, panacea, Eulalie, Tinuviel! Tinuviel! I am myself and not myself. I watch myself even as I live through the combat, the tug of war against the shining, unpredictable, powerful silver thing that pushes throbbing pulsations through my line, the graphite, the bone, to the heart, the mind in a resonating hum.
Then comes the realisation that this is all and that this is not all, it is everything you want and nothing - for you will want more, endlessly more.
I cannot sleep without a vision of the bright red slender sliver of balsa, waltzing on currents, over seams, over riffles, over slow deep pools filled with deep, portentious green water. And when consciousness glimmers in through the morning fog, as somnolence recedes, and before I turn on the light, I see it still in front of me in the morning gloom, the river, beckoning, flowing regardless of whether I am there or not; and an echo of a dream somewhere that says I fished all night.
Friends come and go in the storm, others like me who number among the afflicted, who have seen the passage to Kubla Khan and know not the way back, and who search as I search, even in waterless summer, for that time again, that first time, when the wild fish first took the bait, scythed line through water and splintered it into fragments of cobweb. Leaving only the thunder of a heart beating away its innocence with every breath, every thought of what was that? how big was it? where did it go? and will I ever see it again? and the wrenching knowledge that we will not.
Miles upon miles we travel, to find the trout. We will eschew sleep, good stout common sense, logic. We throw them overboard. Sobriety, duty, despair. We launch these from our minds and join the search for the pixie creatures that scintillate in waters far away.
Cold wind, rain, sleet, snow, ice and frigid waters are merely unheeded companions, minor irritants, necessary evils encountered along the way. They are not serious obstacles, nor do they deter the seekers of gleaming Mykiss. Hills we climb and we brave the fast water, we ski on the mud, we trample wayward brambles underfoot; for at the end of the journey is the drug, the prescription, the heartsfill.
Help me! help me!
But no, I don't want your help. I am happy in my dependence, my addiction, I do not want you to take it from me.
Because it is not really a drug, but a deep connection to the quiet of the way things were, the excitement of what they can be again and again, and the hope of another day - on the water, with friends, with sons or fathers, or alone. To see again the gleaming fish, before the end.