Monday, July 12, 2010
It’s been fun, stepping outside of my normal fishing realms and exploring the deep blue waters, but my recent saltwater expeditions have reinforced the strong feeling that my place is on the smaller streams of my world. Don’t get me wrong; the sea is a fascinating environment and venturing far from the view of land helps a man gain some perspective on his place on our planet. My problem is, where the hell do you find the fish in the limitless, featureless blue that surrounds you?
Give me a small stream, with my feet planted, no matter how unsteadily, on the rocky bottom, and I am at home.
And it’s because I can see the edges. Fishing, my friends, is all about the edges.
As a kid, you probably first approached a pond, Zebco in hand, and casted as close to the center as you could. It seemed obvious to you that it was where the fish were. But, in time, you learned that you were more successful fishing closer to the bank and, presto, you had discovered your first edge.
Now, years later, standing in the moving water on a small stream, the edges are all around you. Deep-to-shallow, slow-to-fast, cover-to-open, sun-to-shade, and the myriad of others that are there to chose from. And they are usually the best locations for finding fish.
Yes, I know, bluewater has its edges too – tides, currents, deep-water ledges, thermoclimes, and the like, - but these are just plots on a chart, blips on a sonar, to me. I need to experience the edges, personally, Luddite that I am. I want to see the rock, the water, the bottom and discern the transitions myself. But I am also very much aware that these are the obvious edges - the edges most decent fishermen learn quickly.
A more complete angler begins to recognize the bigger edges; the edges between day and night, between weather systems, between seasons, the edges in the cycles and flows unique to each river and stream. This takes time and rewards the fisherman that strives to become a part of his environment and his river, works to become its friend and benefactor. Gaining an intimate understanding of a waterway’s larger edges generates a connection between man and stream that provides each of them a benefit beyond the understanding of most.
And it is at that point that the tides begin to turn, that the edges cease to be about catching fish. It is the point at which our own edges begin to incorporate as well. These are the edges of our lives through which fishing can sustain us, enhance us, and comfort us. The ebbs and flows of our lives - the losses of loved ones, the upheaval in jobs and relationships, the hard edges of our existences - may also be the times and places to fish. The steadiness and consistency of a river with whom we have taken the time to know can take our edges and help us along them, providing a respite and consistency that can be clung to in difficult times.
Which brings me full circle to the deep blue water, as wide and unfathomable as the scope of our human existence. I can no more read that endless blue expanse than I can the arc of my life. These are the big edges, the cosmic edges, and I am not yet a wise enough fisherman, or a wise enough man, to grasp them.
I wonder if I will ever be.