Hooking and Looking
Peter’s a fan of small streams — creeks, specifically — and each summer, he makes it a point to fit at least one creek-focused fishing trip into his busy life. As the recent drought worsened, he noticed that the condition of the waters he fishes was declining, so last year, rather than fish, he visited four small Sierra headwaters and never rigged up. Looking, rather than fishing, he wrote me, was “quite the different experience when the predator instinct is damped down,” and Peter discovered aspects of these waters and their environs that he told me he would have missed or ignored if he had been “on the hunt.” He appreciated that not having a rod broadened his perspective and his regard for these small streams, although he also noted that he would not adopt this approach permanently. “The hunt,” for him, is too powerful an imperative.
The hunt is a powerful imperative for a lot of us, perhaps an echo (or more than an echo) of our Paleolithic history, which spanned millenia. Unlike Peter, I don’t believe I’d have had the strength of will to leave my gear stashed when visiting a favorite water — or really, any water that might hold fish. When I drive across a bridge, I always glance upstream and down, trying to gauge what species might be found in the channel below and whether they might take a fly. Learning the answers to questions like these requires action, and through that action we attain satisfaction . . . and joy.
I admire Peter’s willingness to immerse himself more deeply in the places that we fish. As the seasons pass, I find myself taking time from the act of angling to just sit and watch, listen, contemplate. I don’t know whether what I attain from this can in any way be thought of as “satisfaction,” but whatever it is, it enhances the pleasure of angling and brings one more fully into the richness of the world. Which, I suppose, is a form of joy, as well.
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