We need to consider the probably most puzzling and paradoxical reality that we shouldn’t be going fishing just to catch fish, which is a statement I am sure must seem to most of us like something bordering uncomfortably close to heresy and without any doubt a burning at the stake should be in order, or at least a harsh scolding of some sort.
Our desire to catch fish has to be balanced with something else and if this balance is absent or lacking, then we lose the enrichment in our lives that fishing has to offer.
So… just what is this something else of which I speak? It’s not something that you can find at your favorite tackle store.
It has to be something that is extremely strong and powerful; after all, it has to counter-balance our strong and powerful desire and urge to catch fish.
My theory is it might have something to do with the places where trout reside. If you are new to trout fishing, I hope that you have noticed that trout inhabit utterly enchanting places and if you haven’t noticed that, then maybe you should hold on to those gold clubs or tennis rackets a while longer because perhaps fishing is just not your cup of tea.
I’m reminded of the words of fly fisherman and writer Robert Traver, “I fish mainly because I love the environs where trout are found: the woods; and further because I happen to dislike the environs where crowds of men are found: large cities: but if, heaven forbid, there were no trout and men were everywhere few, I would still doubtless prowl the woods and streams because it is there and only there that I really feel at home.”
I know your goal is to catch fish. I, too, have the same goal. We arm ourselves with all this gear and don the waders and vest and hat and sunglasses, much like a knight of old donning a suit of armor preparing for battle, and amass hundreds of flies so we can catch fish and what conceivable other reason could there be for this seeming lunacy.
Borrowing something from our far eastern philosophers, there has to be a yin and a yang in our lives so that things are in balance.
The water in a stream or river has always been extra special to me for some strange reason that I have never been able to establish.
Perhaps it is because the water is always moving and I am constantly seeing new water that is eager to reveal new and exciting wonders up on the stage that nature has set before me.
A stream is like a perpetual motion machine; something that man has never been able to create but nature does with so little effort.
I like lakes and ponds but not as much as a moving stream. A stream is alive. I love the sound. I love the panoramic views; especially if there are large stones in the water creating waterfall effects.
But it’s just not the water. It’s also when I see the forest by the stream, I have the feeling that everything is all right, that everything is working as it should; maybe not with the whole world out there but definitely in the immediate world in which I am momentarily entranced.
Something as simple as seeing a deer reinforces the feeling or even seeing a tiny insect will have the same effect; a butterfly or caddisfly or mayfly, even an annoying gnat is not all that bad.
I’ll never forget my first trip to a trout stream. I stood completely in awe of what was before me. This stream wasn’t anything like the streams I had been fishing all my life.
The stream was utterly the most beautiful thing in nature that I had ever beheld. The water seemed superior in every way. It looked cleaner and clearer. The water felt icy cold, like it had ice in it but there was no ice.
I was hooked and it wasn’t just this particular stream because all the other trout streams that I have fished in Missouri also cast the same magical spell on me.
I have had good fishing days on the stream and I have had bad fishing days on the stream. That is, if you are keeping score and counting the number of fish caught.
However, that is not the way to judge or grade your time spent on the stream because I have never, and I want to emphasize the word “never,” had a bad day spent fishing.
That may sound like a contradiction of terms, but it is a fact. I have had bad fishing days on the stream but never a bad day spent fishing.
Writer and fly fisherman John Gierach also has an interesting comment about trout streams: “They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.”
Like I said, a trout stream is a living thing and I think it most assuredly knows the reason why we show up at its banks as it reaches out and comforts us.
We need to take advantage of what the stream is offering at absolutely no cost for the enrichment of our total fishing experience.
Sometimes I find an aluminum can that some thoughtless soul had dropped or a wad of monofilament lying on the ground ready to entangle a bird or wild animal of some sort.
I don’t understand people that do that unless they’re the hapless people who have invested a small fortune in fishing gear and then found out that fishing wasn’t for them, so they said the heck with it.
If that is the case, I would bet money that they most certainly fall in that group of unfortunate souls who thought that the sport of fishing was only for catching fish.
So… no matter if you are new to this sport or a seasoned veteran, I implore you to please remember, for your own peace of mind, that this whole thing is not just about catching fish.
A stream is a wonderful, magical, living thing and when you step off into the water and are getting ready to cast, you have just entered into a realm of nature that cannot be experienced or felt anywhere else.
It is true that catching fish is a big deal and it is a reason why we go to all this trouble, but it is not the only reason why and things need to be balanced.
The right perspective is what we are seeking.
Yes, we “want” to catch fish but we also “need” to enjoy the environs in which the trout lives.
We “want” one thing and “need” another.
Those two human cravings and demands need to be in balance for us to truly reap the full benefits and enrichment of our lives that fishing for trout has to offer.
(Bill Oder can be reached at email@example.com.)