Thursday, October 14, 2021

Angel in the Night

Angel in the Night: 

My college friend Dean and I were in downtown New Brunswick, New Jersey. The year was 1980 just before the huge downtown restoration project was going to take place. We were both in school at Rutgers and wrestling for the team. We would sometimes hop on a bus and get dropped off in the downtown George Street area, or we would drive down in his green Comet,looking for good food. A place called “Stuff Yer Face” was there and Tomaltys’ pub and a few good ‘hole in the wall’ pizza places. 

It was a mild fall night so Dean and I were sitting outside at a table sharing a huge pizza. We would often pig out, when we did not have an upcoming match. I loved to eat a good east coast style pizza and converse. 

We were enjoying our meal when we noticed a homeless man limping his way up the sidewalk slowly. He was dragging a stuffed dirty pillow case in which, I assume he was carrying everything he owned. I noticed he had a spasm in his jaw/mouth that bothered me. He also smelled of urine and body odor. So the odor and the spasm were enough to set me back and to pull away. 

Dean kept urging me to talk to this man and in fact he wanted me to offer him some pizza. I kept saying no; that I just did not want to. And I knew the scriptures; I knew the arguments. I knew I was saying no to a lot more than a homeless man. 

Dean was bolder than I was when it came to talking to strangers  And in sharing his faith. In fact, Dean was on his feet already, ready to greet this man. Dean would soon be in seminary so he was quite serious about his faith. I was a bit timid, far too self centered but that is no excuse for not feeding the hungry. And I knew it. 

I think I was trying to stall just long enough in hope that this guy would disappear around the corner and it would be over. Dean persisted, still trying to get me to feed this man, but I held my ground. He was slowly walking away from us down the sidewalk, slipping away. Thank God, I thought.  

I am now embarrassed for being so self centered. I feel a bit ashamed of myself. I kept saying to Dean, “I just want to eat my pizza and relax.” as though if I kept saying that to myself it would justify my choice. Yeah, there I was a college kid on a full ride scholarship and well fed. What a tough life!

The space between us and the lame man was lengthening. And then, just when I thought  this was going to all be over a strange turn of events took place. The man, as though he read my mind,  or God’s mind. Or both, slowly did a 360 and was heading back to me. Straight toward me. 

Slowly, step after step, limp after limp, he came right up to our table. It was Dean, not I , who handed him the two slices of pizza which he gobbled down. He did not say a word. Nor did I. 

Dean also reached out and gave the man a hug saying God bless you.” 

I did nothing. 

But I still wonder if perhaps we entertained an angel. Or the angel was entertained by my pitiful selfishness. 


Friday, October 8, 2021

Help from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451:

Books are amazing entities. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a prophetic masterpiece. I read it in high-school but was too young to appreciate it but  have reread it several times in the past few decades. 

The book chronicles the life of a fireman.  His job is not to put out fires but to start them. His job is to find books and burn them. In this society all individuality is suspect, and because books have individual thoughts, opinions, and feelings, all books are suspect. Books are hidden in secret places of houses.

How strange that everything is a little upside down in our current cultural system. Suppose we were fined or persecuted, or even burned, for merely reading or possessing a few books. Would we take a stand or would we just let the government burn them? Montag, the main character watched a woman remain standing on a pile of burning books. The image stuck with him. He concludes, and later recalls the story to others saying, there must be something in books for a person to be willing to do that. Why would someone just allow one self to burn-up with a pile of books?  

The other problem in this society is that everyone, ironically, is terribly lonely. No one really talks. They have a lot of high tech social media devices. Everywhere! Folks literally stay at home and talk to the walls. If they go to a restaurant/bar its the same story. Tv's are all over the place blaring. 

Here is Montag's complaint, "No one listens anymore. I cant talk to the walls because they're yelling at me. I cant talk to my wife (spouse); she/he listens to the walls. I just want someone to listen to me. 

Anyone ever feel that way?



Can We Talk People out of Fly Fishing?

I have, more than once, literally and with great patience, talked some fly fishers out of trying to catch "just one more". 

Of course I don't mean I am trying to talk people out of the sport of fly fishing. What I mean is we need to share the resource, slow down a bit and rise above our compulsiveness. Maybe the goal is that everyone in a party gets one fish and that is enough.

If one fish is not enough then 10 will also not be enough. Here is how I see it. If you are fishing with family and friends and you catch a fish but your friend or family member has not, then we need to allow him or her, if possible, to catch up so to speak.

Of course this is not a perfect system but that could be our goal. One fish, maybe two for each one of us. One or two is enough. Its going to have to be if we want the fish to survive.    

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Injury Upon Injury: 

I have been injured in the past to the extent that I could not wrestle or run for weeks. Torn ligaments in my ankle, torn cartilage in my sternum, Plantar fascittis issues in my foot. These were injuries that left me sidelined. Being an exercise junkie it was very difficult to carry on without the endorphins in my system and in my brain. Very, very difficult.

However, I don't think I was ever injured to the point of not being able to fly fish. Until perhaps now. I currently have two bad hips. I can still bike, do gobs and gobs of pushups, but that is about all.  

There were however injuries to my soul where I felt spiritually paralyzed and did not want to fish or still worse, felt I could not fish. 

I have had a few friends speak of such injuries to the soul. My friend Mike and coauthor of this book spoke of a divorce that was so painful that he was unable to lift his rod up to cast.  No doubt getting out and at least making the attempt to fish and or hunt has helped him recover.

D.H. Lawrence spoke of such injury to his soul and how those wounds have made him ill and how they take a long long time to heal.

I'm not sure if I am currently injured due to some deep soul injury. When I was in high school and college, if I lost a match, I felt beat up and lost. I felt wounded to my soul. Or perhaps that was all in my imagination. Its difficult not to take such wounds and losses deeply and personally.

I do know that at age 61 plus I have bad hips, mainly from over running. I have had one complete replacement on my left side. Second replacement on the right hip is coming up in two months.  Oh, how I miss running. But how stupid of me to pound my body to death for all those years.

Besides running in some crazy races (ie. Pikes Peak) I mainly did half marathons along with a few full marathons. If I had an area of specialty it was to cut loose and fly down hill. I called it free speed. My favorite race was out in Buena Vista called the Autumn Color Change. They bused us part of the way up Cottonwood Pass, dropped us off and then we ran all the way down to the downtown intersection in Buena Vista, and then  down to a small park with a pond.If I got there early I looked for fish.  It was 13.1 miles of pounding down hill. Maybe that is why I do not have any cartilage left in my hip joints.

Did those fish I went after with my clients take a pounding like I have? I have had fish that my clients caught so wrapped up in leader, that their fins were wrapped so tightly to their bodies that they were un able to move; unable to wiggle even a little fin! 

The image of injured fish can keep me up at night. Along with images of hooks lodged in the gills and eyes of fish leaves me trembling with fear. There is currently an ongoing debate with in the fly fishing community, or at least among the sensitive ones,  considering if fish feel pain.  

I don't think the issue of pain is the issue or at least its not the whole issue. To me the question is more of do we want to treat our fish so badly?  There has to be another way; a way to lighten up?  

I have said it several times in this book, on my blog and elsewhere. We need another way, something "beyond" catch and release. It does not make sense that catch and release fly fishing means we are without limits. We cant keep pounding the fish without limits. 



Sunday, September 19, 2021

Stuart Iittle On The River With Miss Aims:

Stuart Little was born looking like a tiny mouse.  I think we can assume he was a mouse living among humans searching for someone who was his size.

In his travels he meets a gentleman who owns a general store and the owner knows a young lady who is the same size as Stuart. A date of sorts is arranged for Stuart to meet Miss Harriet Aims. 

Stuart works on the plans for the date. He buys a small souvenir canoe at the five and dime store and spends the whole day in preparation rigging up an anchor, fishing rods, and paddles. For paddles he decided to use paper ice cream spoons.

The time arrives. Stuart meets Harriet and takes her down to the river to get the canoe. But the canoe has been vandalized. Stuart is beside himself, running around screaming. The rods and lines were all tangled up.When one finally meets someone who is the same size one can imagine there is a lot riding on this date. Talk about the pressure.   

This reminds me of a fishing trip, perhaps a guide trip that has gone south before we even got started. Sometimes things happen on guide trips. Rods break, everything gets tangled up. Waders and shoes go missing. One time, I sank in such deep sticky mud that I pulled my foot out of my shoe. My shoe was gone.  

Another time we brought two extra rods and both got broken. 

People get upset, clients forget their fishing license. Often we have to back track and start all over. 

Sometimes as a guide I just feel like quitting before we even get on the river. Delays often mean we don't get in the water we want. So we have to move around and try to find the fish and in recent years this can be tough. 

Stuart is not handling this well. Stuart and Miss Aims are both looking at the fishing rods and lines. Stuart says "Look at that mess, I could never get that undone." 

I also have not always handled such situations well. 

Miss Aims makes the suggestion that they could just allow the lines to drag behind the canoe and pretend to fish. Well, Stuart would have none of this. He yells, "Look at that mess, I could never get that undone".

After a few other gracious suggestions from Miss Aims, Stuart cries out, "It just wouldn't be the same." Miss Aims does not understand, "The same as what"? 

"The same as the way it was going to be in my mind."   

Again, I can relate. Often I picture things in my mind and those pictures are like a perfect movie and if I cant have it that way then I don't want it at all. 

I remember, the night before one of my first guide trips my car was broken into and in their search for money they made a mess of things. Luckily, for me, none of my fishing gear was stolen or broken and I distinctly remember being able to utter those all too powerful words, 'Thank God';  However, I do remember feeling like Stuart.

It was not often but, sometimes in a wrestling match I would make a critical mistake in the first minute  and had to play catch up. One time I got penalized for a point or two. Another time I thought the ref blew the whistle calling us out of bounds but we were not. My opponent took advantage of the situation, shot in on me, and took me down. Again, I had to play catch up. 

Sometimes, on a guide trip, I had to play financial catch up.  It was so windy one day that when I opened my truck door the wind caught it with such force that it bent back the hinges. 

Some "come backs" are psychological like the time on the very first cast my client hooked a big big fish. We chased it 200 yards down stream only to lose it in the last moments. We never hooked a fish again that day. I remember feeling tense when I was trying to net that fish. There was the feeling of knowing it was going to happen but I couldn't do anything about it. Sometimes ones worse fear cannot be avoided. Sometimes, or so it feels, one is better off to never have hooked or seen such a fish. 

Another time while pulling a rod out of the truck it got caught in my net and I thought I could just "un-wiggle" it,  if, I just kept playing with it. I was wrong. I was wrong by $900.

Sometimes one has to bounce back, psychologically, financially and emotionally but its tough. 




Friday, August 27, 2021

Just Sitting:

I was sitting at the bottom of my dirt driveway waiting for my friend Mike to pick me up to get some coffee. Sometimes, I love these little segments of down time.

While I was waiting, I pulled out from the back of my truck a small fold away chair. I had a great view of my house and mountain. To say I was praying would be too much. I was just sitting and reflecting. Even calling it reflecting is saying too much. 

The only thing I was aware of was that I was at peace. Perhaps I was content. Being at peace and content are big things for me.  Perhaps for anyone.

I enjoy looking up at where I live. The forest up on the mountain marks the western edge of my property. The trail we built switch backs its way up the mountain. 

In a strange mysterious way these boundaries help me feel contained and secure. 

The same thing happens while fishing. However, sometimes it is not so easy to share the water or realize when we are crossing boundaries. Often we do not have clear cut boundaries on such matters.



As Fly Fishers We Have to Guard OurSelves From a Sense of Superority:

Back in the 80s when I really got into fly fishing for trout I had a sense of being on a mission. And that mission was to convert every bait and spin fisher to a fly fisher. This mission was real in that there was a religious component to it. I was good at selling the notion that fly fishing was superior to all other forms of fishing.

I did this while guiding and while I was a teacher at school and with folks at church and with family. I loved to tell people how much more rewarding and fun fly fishing was compared to the other forms of fishing. I grew to hate big lures with those stupid treble hooks and fish swallowing bait hooks. Yuck.

And of course like any good salesman I sometimes had to push it and beg. "Please let me teach you how to fly fish. Once you catch a fish on a fly you will never go back to picking up a spin casting rod again."  And usually I was right. 

But here is the catch, fly fishing can be so much fun, so rewarding and so productive that we end up hurting a lot of fish simply because we we catch a lot. We catch tons,  When we become good at something it is easy to become addicted. Part of the addiction is the sense of superiority that wells up inside of us knowing that we have mastered an art. Or at the very least, we figured it out. 

I remember wanting people to watch me. It was like I was wearing a sign on my hat or shirt, "Look at me."   

In my last years of guiding I shied away from that kind of thing. In fact I started to hate being noticed. I didn't want anyone to know I was guiding.