Saturday, April 21, 2018

With Whom Do We Fish?

With whom do I fish and why?

Sometimes I ask myself this question and try to answer?  I think when I fish, I am often seeking connection to more than the fish I cast upon. Among other things, I seek connection with a fellow angler.

Of course sometimes it nothing more than wanting to share the river, its fish, and the whole experience with another soul.  To share a beautiful place with another person allows me to not feel so isolated. Therefore, I seek someone to whom I can fish and enjoy an outing together.

It can also just be fun to tease someone for not being able to catch a fish. Or sometimes it is I who cannot hook up, like an awkward teenager casting to the girls at school and there is nothing but rejection.  Together, with others,  it is easier to laugh at being rejected. And as many of us know who fish the South Platte, rejection comes often. So we learn to laugh at one another and ourselves.

Yet, sometimes it is “Something” more.  For me, it can be about sharing with another the struggle of life. What struggle someone might ask? What are you talking about?

Well, that is a difficult question to answer. I think many of us, “just know” what I am talking about whether we admit it or not.  However, I don’t believe I am talking about the glorious, joyful, blessed life of being a Christian and fishing in God’s creation as some profess. No, this is Something deeper and darker like the deep pool we fish but never see the bottom and we can never seem to entice the large, melancholy fish laying on the bottom.

My friends and many people I meet on the river are surprised to hear me speak of melancholy and a struggle in life. “Struggle” they say; “Do you know you have it made? Do you know how lucky you are?  Do you know you are living the dream?”  

“Yes” I reply.   “I know, but I still struggle.”

We make another thousand casts.

And sometimes, with a peculiar joy in our hearts, we connect, and the melancholy fish rises to meet us.

It is with such people who know Something of both melancholy and joy who I enjoy fishing with the most and connect at the deepest level of struggle, even trying to catch the large rainbow on the bottom of a deep pool and trying to believe. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Big Amy's Ant Rainbow

I caught a big rainbow on an Amy’s Ant dry fly.

My wife’s name is Amy and I am Anthony, but people back in Jersey would call me “Ant” so when we put those two names together we get an “Amy’s Ant.”  

Sometimes ‘Amy’s Ant’, that is Anthony, (using the Amy’s Ant) catches a big fish. 

When  I report to my wife that I caught a big fish on an “Amy’s Ant” she tries to take some credit for the fish.  She thinks it is her fly by name (which it is not) or that I am her Ant, which I guess, is somewhat true.

But what a catch (I mean Amy!), even if she knows nothing about fly fishing. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Fine Morning Fly Fishing at Deckers

I guided at Deckers yesterday with good friend and fellow guide Steve Gossage.  The clients were easy going and respectful individuals. They caught fish and Steve and I were please with how the morning unfolded. We even felt like respectable guides; we did our job. I complimented Steve, and he complimented me.

Yet, like any number of other guide trips there was something else beneath the waters we fished that forever lurks.  If I told you only about each beautiful fish we caught, the flies and techniques we used, we might just pass over this something else.  I usually refer to this “Something else” as a “God-thing” or a presence of sorts that we might perceive in nature. I guess you can call it whatever you want but I think it is important that we pay attention to it.

Lately, for me, I relate this awareness of Something else to the struggle of life. This is the struggle to maintain faith; to believe in Something bigger than oneself.  It is not about success. It is not about numbers or size of fish. There will never be enough fish or a fish big enough.  Knowing this truth is part of our faith journey and keeps us in the struggle of faith rather than above it. The fish we hooked struggled to remain low in their watery world, as we skillfully struggled, to bring the fish into our world. This is rather strange and symbolic of some bigger struggle and ultimate desire.  

Yesterday the crowds arrived on the river. This too is part of the struggle. There are many good anglers and guides on the river these days. It is easy to compare ourselves with one another, and on certain days to even try to place myself on “top”, but such comparisons are useless.

I am trying rather to remain low below the surface, in the struggle of life. I would rather remain in the Something else, even if that places me on the bottom, where the fish repeatedly engulfed our nymphs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Little Story Merging With A Bigger Story: Bringing Back Eden

It was strange how when I was writing my personal story of becoming a fly fisher, I perceived a "Bigger" story trying to merge/emerge with my story. This is a rather bold claim, but I could not deny that the bigger story was at least periodically raising its head, like a sipping trout revealing itself to me.

When I re-told the story of being a boy learning to fly fish a pond I could not but help feel "Something" reminding me of the bigger story of a people wandering in the wilderness looking for the promised land. Is this the story of stories that forms the fabric and foundation of all our personal stories? Was I called to that little valley in New Jersey to learn of a new life?  Was I invited there to experience something of Eden? These are some of the questions I tried to address in "Bringing Back Eden." 

Such connections to a bigger story ground me and allow me to hope. However if we are going to look at more of the big story, then we are going to have to consider, that at least for some of our life, we will wander and feel lost. The big story in the Biblical narrative states quite clearly that we are in exile, wandering like aliens in a foreign land, awaiting a new kingdom. 

Do we feel this alienation? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Learning From Writing My Own Story

I learned a lot from writing my own fishing story titled Bringing Back Eden. I think it was worth the effort, even if not many read it.   

It took courage to put my thoughts down on paper. It took more courage to commit to placing those innermost thoughts into a book. It was humbling to consider the fact that most people would not want to read it, yet even more humbling that some people did read it and connected to my story.  

Soren Kierkegaard said “The crucial thing is to find a truth, to find an idea for which I am willing to live and die.” I have to get to the place where I hold to my ideas, my truth, and be willing to “die” for that truth.  If I take his comment symbolically it seems I have to be willing to believe in my own life story, my own ideas, even if it does not bring status or financial gain or so called “happiness”. This is not easy to do in a culture that highly values status, financial gain, and happiness.

When I first started writing people asked me, “Who is your audience? Who are you writing for? ” but, I could not respond. I could not answer. I just wrote what I had to say. I stuck to my truth.  And I knew I could not please everyone. In fact I knew I could perhaps only please a few, if anyone.  

I knew many of my Christian friends might be offended by my comments about the church.  I came right out and said I believe, in many cases, we would be better off on the river than being in church on Sunday morning.  I complained that often church is the last place to go with one’s own serious questions and struggle regarding the faith.  And God forbid if I disagreed with what was going on in church or what was being spoken. Could I dare raise my hand and politely share my truth?

At the same time I knew I could not please those who had little spiritual interest or commitment and who only wanted to know how to catch more and bigger fish. They might find all my “God talk” offensive. They might think I am crazy talking about loneliness, struggling to belong and the possibility of  a comforting angel.

My story presents Something in between these two poles. Somewhere in the middle of the river lies a large beautiful mysterious fish. The fish surfaces now and then but just as often, quickly vanishes. I think I see it but I am not sure. I have some skills but they are limited and the cast must be placed on a narrow seam line.

And sometimes I contemplate the amazing possibility if God, in some small way might help me bring a fish into my cluttered vision;  help me make a cast that brings that fish to my fly, and then, eventually into my hands that always grasp too tightly. 

This is an idea, a truth, for which I am willing, symbolically speaking, to die for.     

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fish that Matter the Most: Contemplating What Tugs

When I was younger and learning to fly fish many of the fish I caught meant a lot to me because I was learning new techniques and refining my skills.  If I fooled a fish on a tiny dry fly or a streamer fly, or if I caught fish using a particular fancy cast such as a reach-mend, and made the perfect drift, these fish had special meaning. I felt accomplished and I had a deep conviction that my new skills and techniques were the precise reason I caught fish.  

However, as I got older, it now seems that only a few fish really matter to me.  These are the fish that for a variety of reasons (and that I may only know), ended up on the end of the line when I was doing most things wrong (if not everything!) and I know the fish I “fooled” and that tugged on the line, had nothing to do with my skills.  In fact, at times I was not even paying attention. Such fish are humbling to me, and yet, now, bring me a greater satisfaction and meaning because such fish hint at something we might call “luck” or perhaps even something of God; which ironically, seems to be, not really about me.

The other fish that matters immensely to me is the one that gets away. This elusive fish is held in between my hands as I say, “It was this big”, and is somewhere in my heart and soul. Such fish stretch my imagination and give me hope that the elusive God I seek is not to be held or caught or controlled by my own effort or skill and is not to be grasped in my clingy hands.  
So, it is the fish that suddenly tugs when I am not doing much right, and the one that gets away, that reminds me that the best things that come to me in life are those that I know are gifts. Is there any greater satisfaction? 

When I wrote my fly fishing story, "Bringing Back Eden" I noticed that these were the fish that kept rising to the surface of my heart and mattered the most to me.