Getting into It
Back in college, I spent some time in Army ROTC, and as a member of the cadet corps Rangers would occasionally visit Fort Ord for a weekend of tactical training. This generally meant traipsing through the ubiquitous poison oak with M-14s loaded with blanks, setting up ambushes and learning the basics of patrolling. Other than the ability to navigate with map and compass, a skill I began to acquire was that of being wholly present in the moment, mind silent and attuned to what surrounds me.
It was a skill I didn’t realize I had until after I began hunting birds with a friend. We would walk the edges of meadows and criss-cross draws slowly, quietly, listening intently and watching for the often minute motions that would indicate the presence of quail or grouse. This was an activity wholly engrossing, and one as old as humankind. Even when I came away unsuccessful from the hunt, I felt deeply satisfied.
The ability to immerse oneself in one’s environs, to observe well, to pay attention at both the conscious level, that of a detective noticing details, and the subconscious level, being aware without the distraction of thought, can certainly enhance one’s success as a fly fisher. The wisest anglers understand this and before tying on a fly will spend time simply watching, listening, taking it all in. From this will come a strategy, but from it, too, will come an anchoring, a grounding in the physical world that occurs only infrequently in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“Be here now” was a catchphrase popular among a lot of my generation, when we were young and trying to figure out what to value and how to live our lives. It’s ironic that it applies not just to the spiritual seeker, but to the infantryman, the hunter, and the fly fisher.
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