“…. 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.
Next week, you’ll catch anglers meditatively throwing their first casts of the season into local streams in quiet celebration of their beloved skill. “Trout season”, aka fishing season officially begins in the Catskills on April 1st, but the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, NY, has its “season opener” on Saturday April 11th. From their web page:
“When are you getting up? Now? Now? You don’t see me slipping over. It’s not cold. It’s fine. Can you throw the ball from there?”
It’s about this time of year that cabin fever firmly seizes us in these mountains and we do impulsive things like go hiking up a mountain when there’s only two hours of daylight left. Spring seems like it’s just around the corner and we’re so used to the bitter cold that 20F seems nice and toasty. It’s not until we’re approaching our icy ascent (in our snowboarding boots, stupidly wearing wool and cotton), passing very sensible hikers on their way down using sticks and cramp-ons that we realise what a risk we’ve taken, but there’s a happy ending to this story, and a sandwich. Charles Dickens walked 20 miles a day in his prime, stalking around town in the afternoon after a sturdy lunch, no doubt conjuring up characters en route from his observations of 19th century Londoners. Writers love a good walk. First, the sandwich: corned beef brisket on toasted rye with a dash of mustard from Arkville Bread and Breakfast with a portion of chips (that were meant to go in the Fish and Chips, but that was yesterday’s lunch). Thinly-sliced brisket, lean, delicate and not too fatty on perfectly-toasted rye. This reasonably-sized portion, plus a cup of Twinings Irish Breakfast, got me to Giant Ledge in most unsuitable shoes and down again, occasionally sliding on my bottom because of the ice.