Friday, May 22, 2009

The River

As a little girl, I went fishing a couple of times with my father. These trips usually resulted in yards and yards of fishing line tangled in sagebrush as I ran -- shrieking -- away from the fish I just caught. My poor father.

When I met A., it was clear that if I wanted to spend much time with the man, I was going to have to learn to fish. The first time he took me out fishing was on this wonderful, jewel-like lake nestled in a red canyon. It was so beautiful: perfectly still, wildflowers, emerald grass and a ton of hungry blue gills, sunfish and bass under the surface of the still lake. My dad, upon hearing of A.'s plan to take me out on a boat to fish, laughed until his sides hurt. He was pretty certain I was going to fling myself off the boat in my excitement/terror of having caught a fish. I get my imagination from my father, so I know he had a clumsy, slapstick scene in mind.

Somehow, I managed not to fall in the lake. But I was spastic enough every time I had a bite that A. decided I should leave my lure in the water and NOT hook the fish until I wasn't so wound up. It worked, but damn if that wasn't hard to feel those little stinkers taking the bait and having to just sit there. I was as giddy as a little girl and had a huge smile plastered on my face.

A. taught me how to fly fish later that same summer. I thought it would be entertaining, sure. I had no idea how much I would fall in love.With both A. and fly fishing.

It is almost zen-like, fly fishing. Even though the water is often really, really cold, I love stepping into the river, feeling it swirl -- sometimes rush -- around my feet and legs. The energy of the river is beyond description. It is simply and profoundly holy. It is somehow easier to begin to grasp my connection to all things while standing in a river. Although my waders keep me from being shocked by the cold, I do prefer wet-wading in my sandals. I can feel the riverbed with my feet a bit better; I can get my "river legs" and know how to move within its currents. Standing in the river, I study the riverbed, become familiar with its peaks and valleys, discerning its currents and pools. Finding the best holes. Trying to cast my line in one fluid, graceful motion, using the rod as an extension of my body, my body rooted in the riverbed. It is exhilarating; concentrating so effortlessly to get my fly to land in just the right spot. Guiding it gently onto the water without too much disturbance, then stripping the line in at just the right rhythm and speed so my fly looks to be a part of the current, not something handled by a force outside the water. To get a trout to rise.

Hooking a fish in unlike anything else I know. Instantly the power and, well,  life force of the creature on the fly is transmitted through the line and the pole to my hand and arm, pulsing through my belly clear down to my toes gripping the riverbed. The world narrows to simply me and the fish. To successfully bring a fish in gives me an awareness of my body and how I can to use all of it to bring in a little fish. Holding the little guy in my hand and trying to remove the hook as gently as possible, I give thanks for the endless creativity and gracefulness of God. And then I return the fish to the river.

Thank you, A. Thank you, thank you.


  1. This is so beautiful. Now I kind of want to go fly fishing.

  2. I married a similar man. His disappointment that I cannot, cannot, cannot enjoy fishing, by fly or otherwise, is very deep.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. Reminded me of family trips when I was a kid when my dad and uncle tried to get us into fishing. Unsuccessfully.

  4. this is the first time i've ever even marginally understood the lure of fishing.

  5. I LOVE this post. LOVE IT. LOVE.

    I think I've mentioned it before, but my workplace publishes articles online and in a great little magazine (Missouri Conservationist), and this is exactly the kind of stories you read there. Thanks for this.

  6. The standing in the river part sounds great. I am not so good at the kind of meditative action it takes to get a fly to behave properly, but this post sure made me want to try.

  7. I so want to try fly fishing because it seems so different from regular fishing. Regular fishing is just plopping your line over a boat and waiting, while fly fishing seems to be constant casting and moving.

    This was beautifully written.

  8. You hit the nail on the head - it's not about the fish....


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