15 May 2010

A River Runs Through Me

This comes from a collection of writings I did while at University in Wisconsin.
These are "Tales From the Tundra, circa 2000:

During my last semester of college, I needed to fill two missing PE credits. So I registered for a weekend fly-fishing course that took place out in the woods of central Wisconsin, and in the Wisconsin River.

I was excited! Fly-fishing had appealed to me for several years. I have always known it to be one of those pastimes that requires a significant amount of devotion in both time and energy to be good.

Growing up, I went fishing with my father fairly often (by a city-girl’s standards), but always with the classic fishing pole.

Okay, so I have to admit, most of my knowledge and romance with fly-fishing came from watching Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It”. I still remember those scenes because they were so gorgeous--the scenery, I mean. Anyway, just the idea of being out in the middle of a river so stunningly beautiful, alone with only yourself and your thoughts is very romantic. But those majestic images of a serene river at the base of the gigantic Montana mountains were quite different than the experience I was about to have.

On the first evening, we had classroom time were we learned the mechanics of the rod and tying the different knots. I enjoyed the discussion about fly-fishing: the history of it, the tradition of it and how it can become a way of life for some people. I also learned how much scientific information fly-fishermen have in their head. These guys learn all the different larvae, invertebrates and other bugs and memorize them not only by size, shape and classification, but also by the hatching season. It blew me away. The fact that they know what time of year each insect is out, and which fish prefer which type is very impressive. I’m sure all that information makes catching fish more successful. Personally, I think it's a bit extreme, and so much technical information takes away from the visceral experience.

Yeah, well, actually standing in the middle of a frigid river with swamper overalls up to my chest wasn't really the visceral experience I was expecting.

Unfortunately, it was early March, the water had just thawed and it was raining. Did I mention I don't handle cold very well? It was utterly miserable. I really wish we had nice weather that weekend, as I might actually have enjoyed myself.

I did love being out in nature and learning the proper techniques like keeping my wrist straight and “watching my back cast”. But by Sunday, I was so cold and wet and my silly plastic pancho was not keeping me dry.  I had finally had enough of being a good sport. It is hard to stay positive when after several hours, the only thing I caught was a head cold. But that's just as well, because I'm not interested in tricking fish into biting a sharp, metal hook only to rip it out their mouth and throw them back in. I'm sorry--I don't care how much we were told it's the humane way to fish--I don't agree. Therefore, I was not really wanting to catch anything, anyway.

All suffering aside, I do have to admit, there was one brief moment when I experienced that thing--that moment of complete Zen. There was a point when the wind died down, I was watching the movement of the water and hearing it ripple around the rocks...as I cast my line, it made that little thwip sound and it flew out so smoothly and glided down, as if in slow motion, right to the spot I was aiming for. It was as if in that very moment everyone else disappeared and I felt so present and focused on what I was doing. It was fantastic--that serene moment I had romanticized for so long (minus Brad Pitt, of course). But, shortly after it started, my serene moment was rudely interrupted by the chattering of my teeth and pieces of my wet hair slapping me in the face. So much for my moment of zen.

Overall, I did have a great experience. Fly-fishing didn't sweep me off my feet, but I can understand the attraction. I know that I would love it for the peace and tranquility of being enveloped by nature, hearing nothing but the sound of the water rushing past me and the birds singing in the trees...

But for that matter, I could just randomly stand in the middle of a river without the fishing pole.

Do you have any fly-fishing stories?

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