Beauty and the Beasties
I caught my first trout when I was in third or fourth grade. This was the mid-1960s, and our family had moved from the East Bay to Long Barn, up on Highway 108, in the middle of the Stanislaus National Forest. Although Strawberry Creek and its tiny wild rainbows were just a short walk downhill from our cabin, Iím pretty sure that first hookup was with one of the hatchery trout that Long Barn Lodge had put in their swimming pool to entertain a visiting club of anglers. The origins of that fish and what it looked like were of no importance to me, compared with the fact that I had caught it on my own. When I grew older, I came to realize this achievement represented an important early step out of childhood.
A few years later, I discovered fly fishing. My stepfather and I were at Lyons Reservoir, a favorite impoundment, and we were sitting beside the lake, rods propped up, waiting for the jiggle of a tip that would indicate our bait had been taken. In the cove next to us, a fellow was standing in a canoe, casting a fly. The line in the air caught the golden light of evening, highlighting its languid movement against the forest beyond. As a kid mad for fishing, I knew this was something I wanted to try. That I still recall that image across fifty years tells me I was developing an appreciation for how things look, for beauty.
It took more time before I began to appreciate the beauty of the fish themselves, seeing them for what they are, not merely as aspects of my own achievement. I distinctly remember admiring a small brookie I had caught from the Clark Fork, how its midnight-colored body so well suited the dark pool from which it came. This led to an appreciation for how fish fit into their broader environs and to the realization that the fit of particular species to their native waters had occurred slowly over millennia ó that this, too, was an aspect of beauty.
So, a child goes fishing. . . .
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