When I was young, I couldn’t bear the thought of being on the shore of a lake, pond, or river without a fishing rod in my hands. Water was there to be fished. Period.
Looking back, with the wisdom of age, I realize that “catching” was secondary. What I lived for was wetting a line, with the hope of catching fish. What might be was more important than what was.
So I fished and fished and fished, as much as I possibly could. Understandably, I spent lots of time not catching fish as I figured out what worked and what did not.
With all of that slow time, waiting for fish to bite the worm on my bottom rig or under my float, I also began to take note of what was going on in the natural world around me.
I still can remember watching a great blue heron fly by in the distance and being certain that I was seeing a pterodactyl.
I’ll never forget looking down at a bush near me and seeing what I swear was a green spider of alien proportions. Was it really there? Probably not. But I took off like a rocket, without taking a second glance. And when I finally had bolstered my courage enough to return the next day, it was not there.
As I spent more time waiting for the fish to bite, though, I saw more great blue herons and learned what they really are. I slowly recognized how light and wind can play on the tendrils of a blossom, creating an optical illusion. I discovered the difference between dragonflies and damselflies.
And I learned to appreciate all of the wonders around me.
I thought about this recently, when I walked down to the lake behind my house --- without a fishing rod. As the sun set, I built a fire and sat back to enjoy a cool spring day’s transition into night.
I watched bats and fireflies, listened to cricket frogs and whippoorwills, and realized how different it was for me now. All of those hours waiting for bites gave me time to open my eyes and see what was going on around me in nature’s classroom. They led me to recognize birds, reptiles, and mammals of all kinds and to derive pleasure simply from observing their behavior. They gave me time to watch the wind, appreciate the clouds, and study the stars.
And, over time, this enjoyment of nature, given to me by reluctant fish, has provided a pastime that requires no fishing rod--- even if I am on the water.
Oh, I still love to fish. I still get excited planning the next trip. And most of the time when I’m near water, I have a fishing rod in my hands. But with age and experience, I have realized that the pleasure to be derived from fishing comes from more than just a bite at the end of the line.