A few weeks ago, someone asked me why I fish in a way that went something like this:
“Why do you like fishing? It’s sooo boring, and what did the fish do to you to deserve that anyway? It’s really stupid.”
I don’t remember not knowing how to fish. I may have learned to fish before I could speak in sentences. I don’t know really, because I could fish before my brain was mature enough to remember before I knew how.
I’ve had an eventful life so far. I’ve gallivanted around Norway in kindergarden with my crazy Grandmother and been blown to the deck at 3am in the pouring rain by jet blast on an aircraft carrier. I’ve been on CNN during a riot in Red Square, and watched my wife get whisked away when she and my son easily could have died during his birth only to be left alone in a hallway holding an empty blanket.
Like many people who don’t sit around watching TV and eating ice cream all day, I’ve got a list of these stories a mile long, but very few experiences I’ve had compare to what I get to do the first week in July every year.
My wife, two kids and I head to a tiny lake in the middle of nowhere that my family has been going to for 50 years. Every morning, unless it’s pouring down raining, my dad and I leave the dock at 6am to fish a lake that we know every inch of. We’ve done this thousands of times together. The same lake, the same person every year. Until 1999 when he passed away, my Grandfather often joined us in this mini adventure.
In a boat, my dad and I know each other so well that we often communicate without words. He taught me to never ever take a thing like this for granted, and I don’t.
There is a smell on that lake at 6am while the first glimses of the sun start to burn off the morning mist that you cannot descibe to someone without actually being there. I’m fairly certain it’s a tiny little glimpse of heaven.
The doves coo, the kingfishers screech, the bullfrogs croak.
Often on a lake that two seasoned fisherman could navigate in the dark, the morning quiet is interrupted by the sound of a 3 foot Northern Pike burning line off of one of our reels. The Northern Pike as a surprising fish for such a tiny lake. An aggressive predator with hundreds of razor sharp teeth, landing one with rod and reel is like trying to wrestle a mountain lion with butchers twine.
Out of a deep respect of this fish and it’s strange presence in such a small lake, we try to keep them in the water while we remove the hook to let it go, holding them with our hands instead of a net. In the water, they are the masters of their domain. Out of water, they are like … well, fish out of water. At boatside, we often remark at how marvelous they are, note the general condition of the fish and check to see if it has any tags or clipped fins.
These fish are a sure sign of how the earth was not just created yesterday to me. This is an ancient species of fish and it really feels ancient when you’re with one. It makes me feel small in the same way that standing on the ocean shore does. It makes our 80 years or so on earth seem like just a blip.
At 8am, we head back in for breakfast. If my son hasn’t joined us that morning, he’s often waiting on the couch with my mom who is sipping a cup of coffee, waiting to ask how we did.
More often than not, I look back over my shoulder as I enter the house and in my memory I can see my Grandfather standing on the end of that same dock. His hands on his hips, with some goofy baseball cap on, and that’s when I remember how precious every moment is, and that every second counts if you make it count. I fish, because it’s the thing that helps me remember all of that.
If you think that’s stupid, then you probably need to put the ice cream away and get your butt off of the couch. Life is so much more than what it seems like in our busy lives. It’s all waiting there for you in what looks like ordinary places.