“…. but when I’m alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Black Foot River and a four-count rhythm, and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman McLean.
The ethereal magic of fly-fishing had hitherto failed to capture my heart or my interest until I recently gathered that it’s akin to Buddhism in that one desires the fish, but if it is not attained nobody (literally) has suffered. In fact, I stand corrected: remove all desire for the fish and you have the Buddhist ideal: it’s all about the joy of nature, being in the moment and not what you catch. No, it’s about standing knee-high in a stream, as fast as a boulder, while the water bifurcates around your legs and babbles past, twinkling in the early morning sun like a handful of glitter was tossed downstream with it. You’re meditatively casting, casting, casting… You are one with the line as you tempt the fish with the best flies you could find. Come late Autumn and the close of the season, fly-fisherman I know have, in conversation, wistfully lamented their absence from the stream, nodding their head ruefully, staring into the middle distance and conjuring the great Esopus in their minds. Don’t think I exaggerate.
Watch that fly-fishing scene in Legends of the Fall in which Brad Pitt’s line gets tugged and he is pulled downstream by his tethered trout and takes a long dunk into foaming falls for a few seconds while his co-stars hold their breath, watching with admiration. When Pitt hauls himself from the water lugging his trout, the film’s narrator says, “at that moment, I knew, surely and clearly that I was witnessing perfection”.
When I watched Legends of the Fall, while a vehement city girl, Montana and its picturesque pebbled brooks seemed to me a million miles away, but now I live within such a landscape, I’m compelled to record it. Like skiing, which I embraced last year with gusto and loved, fishing is the enjoyment of spectacular mountain scenery without having to hardly move. All you need is warm pants and strong thighs.
April 1st is the first day of “trout season” and a modest handful of fishermen were at Junction Pool in Roscoe, “Trout Town USA”, for first cast at 7am, but it was too cold and froze their lines rendering their reels immobile. As the day quickly warmed up to 30F by 11am, more fisherman were dotted around. One fifty-year fishing veteran, up to his waist in Junction Pool at 10.30am (the water was 38F), described it as “relaxing”. Another: “it’s the joy of being still in nature, watching the birds swoop around and the fish swim past. If one day your friend doesn’t want to come with you, you don’t care.”