Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Again

It is always very disappointing to spend hours writing something that you feel is important, only to have it vanish into the ether. I have no idea how it happened, but I know now that all my posts will go to Word before they come here. At least, there is no way I'm not saving a backup anymore.

Also, because I thought I'd work on it through Isaac's iPad, I wonder if that wasn't the source of my torture - as it has proven to be so many times before. Slow, unresponsive, incompatible with seemingly endless applications and websites, the iPad doesn't do well with Blogger. It may very well be that it accidentally blanked out the post when I tried - in vain - to access it with the device.

Anyway, when you love fishing
as much as so many of us do, all that time on the water lends itself to thought. And being individuals, our thoughts meander, like the rivers we so often stalk, through the same course, more often than not, and they only change after some cataclysmic event. We come to the same conclusions and re-enforce them with our experience, until the day when something big happens – or a conglomeration of small things – and we change our minds. But this is rare – as rare as changing something as insignificant as one’s blog venue.

However, something significant will do the trick, such as when you have children and one of them, like my son, is born with Fragile X. This is the equivalent of an earthquake, or of the foundering of a great cliff or, better yet, the opening up of a great chasm that sucks the river up and leaves the downstream riverbed dry. Things that you used to take for granted just don’t apply anymore; and things you might have hoped to expect will now never come to pass.

I can go into a long discourse, with examples, of all the challenges that exist in a life like this – or I can tell you simply that I have a 6 month old baby of 6 years. Speech is not yet a reality, independence is unrealistic, and there is a hefty diaper bill (and load) at the end of every week. This is not a complaint. My baby is very charming and usually quite a lot of fun; but he creates a reality that few other parents – and maybe none who read this – can truly understand. And unfortunately for this fisherman, part of that reality translates into watching fishing opportunities from afar, reading other people’s blogs and emails, watching TV shows…

But I do still get to go. It would be foolish, in my opinion, to give up on all the things that bring you joy, for any reason – especially the things that constitute a main tenet in your life. From the river that slipped into the crevice, there is still water and it can still flow somewhere. With luck, that somewhere leads to fish; and sometimes I do get lucky. Sometimes I end up on a real river somewhere, with a real rod in my hands, and I sound the seams and depths for my scintillating and favourite quarry, the charming and beguiling rainbow trout.

I do it with friends or acquaintances, alone with strangers or by myself. Sometimes I watch as others catch fish, and sometimes they watch me. I may stop fishing a while and look around, at the world as it moves on regardless, sun rising, sun setting; watching the surface of the moving, breathing stream and the foamy wisps of confidence that shred themselves apart in its turmoil. How the questions can rise Will I catch any fish today? Am I doing something wrong? Should I fish here or further down? Am I fishing deep enough? Is this the wrong colour? Is this the wrong day? Has my skill wholly left me?

Exacerbated by the rarity of the occasion, my fishing is always caught in the same grand ebb and flow, meandering and twisting through winters and springs of confidence; anxiety rises and falls, and the questions come and go. New things come up sometimes by accident; and then sometimes because I acted on a hunch they happen as I wanted them to, as I’d hoped they would, and they re-ignite me and quell the doubts for a while. There is no better feeling, especially after a dull morning, than to happen upon a section of stream, full of hungry “chromers” who are only too willing to take on the challenge of my offerings. And then there are good questions: “how long will this last?” “Is today THE day?”

And always in the back of the mind, how are things at home? I hope Isaac isn’t driving anybody crazy. Fat chance!

But it is only recently that I’ve come to the full cognisance of the fact that the insecurity of the angler doesn’t belong only to me. Just as success itself is shared and passed around like a bottle of wine, failure and the insecurity it brings almost inevitably follows – like a morning in the doldrums.

I don’t know how I came to this realisation, because I don’t remember a single event that could account for it. Rather, I think a conglomeration of smaller events took place that helped turn on the light. I finally listened enough to fellow anglers, watched them succeed and fail – and the effect this has on them – and then compared to my own successes and failures (trips to the Salmon river, where I can still dream of catching a steelhead vs. odd-chance exploratory visits to nearby rivers that produce surprisingly well). And I can see, now, that we are all as enthralled by the mystery of the fish, we all fear fishlessness in the same fashion. That little red dot at the crest of every float holds so much promise. When, at the urging of a fish, it vanishes beneath the surface – great glory ensues. When it meanders aimlessly over the surface for hours and hours – “drifting, drifting, endlessly drifting” – it’s like watching your own heart slowly crystallising in a freezer.

That little phrase – “…endlessly drifting,” is something that Mike said to me once when we fished the Cattaraugus together, long before I picked up a centrepin reel or even a decent float rod. At first and for many years thereafter, my insecurity took it as “aimlessly” drifting and a comment about my skill (or lack thereof). I was a little bit irked, but went along with what he obviously thought was funny. Now, years later, I know my obloquy was quite out of place as Mike’s words were just the mirthful bubblings of a happy subconscious, at work on what it knows best. I've now gone so far the other way as to acknowledge that, if he had really said "aimlessly," then it wouldn't have been totally uncalled for.

And it was Mike who introduced me to the line of thinking that many who claim that a day fishing is better than a day at work – or who go by the old saying that the gods do not deduct from a man’s allotment those hours spent fishing – are merely trying to squeeze even an ounce of silver lining out of an empty day. His quixotic belief in this has relaxed over the years, even as I’ve witness his skill and – shall I say it? – “supremacy” on the rivers wax and flourish. He emails and calls out of the blue, to see if I will go with him because in truth a day spent fishing successfully does take a back seat to something, which is a day spent fishing successfully - with a friend.

All of which has now become my refrain, especially if you look at the posts I’ve written over the past year – another proof that the epiphany didn’t take place in a moment but was sculpted by many events, not the least of which was fishing with my son, Samuel and a recent winter’s trip to Pulaski with my friend Oliver.  I caught nada on both occasions, but I wasn’t overly disappointed in either case. Both times, I was fishing with someone for whom I have high regard; spending time with them, seeing how they worked out the day, and what it is that makes them tick. Although my object was not achieved, both days were fishlessly successful, and I not only knew it but could feel it.

There was a little quivering voice that whispered to me that I am getting complacent. And, though this may yet bear itself out, recent successes have quelled that voice completely. There is no reason to worry about your lack of success today, because there is always tomorrow and if you keep watching and learning, expectation of success is not only reasonable but inevitable. You WILL succeed. Keep at it. Keep enjoying your time out there on the river. Find all the reasons you need that make you want to return, including catching fish. Make it a positive place to be, a quiet place; and eventually, the fish will reward you for your patience and tenacity - as with anything else in life that's worthwhile.

Worry about catching fish?

Such minute fretting is nothing compared to the genuine anguish I sometimes feel about Samuel’s twin’s future. Poor Isaac!

Poor Isaac! Everything is golden now, and lovely statements from friends, family and acquaintances alike – that he is lucky to have such good parents – deck his path through life. It all works today. But the fingers that animate this space will not always be here to do so. What then? Nobody knows.

All the better reason, then, to make my periodic pilgrimages to the swift shores of the rivers that will give me trout. Lining my own life with worry will not benefit anyone, and – here’s a good and realistic hope – he will grow to be ready to come with me, and there is still a chance that he will be my best fishing buddy someday. But until then, there’s no excuse for letting myself go soft and losing touch with the beating heart of one of my most compelling passions. Continue, I must, to keep it all in balance; never lean too much on Laura, but always keep the equipment ready. Because you never know when the next chance will come, and –

Oh when the float slips under the surface, and the returning hook hits true – what a moment! Joy!

Well worth the wait, the worry, the work!

p.-
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