In the Eye of the Beholder
When I fish, I often find myself responding most deeply not to the hookups, but rather to the beauty in which I find myself immersed. This beauty takes several forms that anglers, especially, can appreciate. One form of beauty, the form most familiar to us, is the charm of the physical setting. We’ve all heard the saying that trout are found in beautiful places, and it’s true. Trout need cool, clean water, which in turn means stable slopes with trees and leafy plants that shade the stream or a gentle meadow with long, uncut grasses that overhang the bank and provide cover and a source of food. The landscapes trout are native to are almost always pretty, and the less untouched and disturbed, the more attractive they become. If wildness is one of the qualities we seek in our quarry, then it is also a quality that we desire in our quarry’s habitat.
This wildness brings a second form of beauty, which is harder to see, because it involves relationships and natural processes that reveal themselves only through the flora and fauna around and in the waters we fish. Every living element of this landscape, each species of plant, insect, fish, amphibian, bird, and so on, has a role that has taken millennia to define and that will continue to evolve until the sun goes dark or catastrophe occurs. It is a slowly but always shifting balance between parts, and, visible to our eyes, can be appreciated as such.
We, as anglers, can also appreciate this dancelike beauty in another manner, which is as an embodiment of the ceaseless urge of all living things. The rock we’re on, our world, spinning through vacuum, has managed somehow to be placed and composed in such a way as to allow life to form. That a mayfly lifts from the water, that a trout seeks that mayfly, are wondrous phenomena that by all odds shouldn’t exist, but do. How utterly extraordinary, to be here, and to have caught that trout and hold it glistening in one’s hand.
How lucky we are.
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