Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quitting Time

When I was a boy and went fishing with my dad, I never...ever...was ready to quit. Our times together were never often enough or long enough when we were on the water.

From my eighth year until my thirteenth, Dad worked nights and attended school during the day, as he prepared for the ministry. He was great about spending what little free time he did have with his family. He came to school plays and glee club concerts when he should have been sleeping. He came to my baseball games (even though at times I wish he hadn't been there to see me strike out or make a throwing error), and sometimes even came to practice.

But the times spent with dad that I remember most were the times he and I spent hunting and fishing together.

For those who fish, you know that part of the sport's pleasure is derived from the planning and anticipation of an outing. When dad announced he planned to take me fishing, I spent hours re-reading my meager collection of fishing magazines, and going through my tackle box to make sure all my gear was ready when the time came to load the car.

The nights before the trip, my dreams were filled with images of large fish caught in picturesque locations, just like in my magazines. Some mornings I awoke with such certainty that the dreams had been real, that I had to search the house to verify that no fish fillets were in the refrigerator.

Usually the reality of the trip fell short of my anticipation with respect to the size and number of fish caught, but I always had great fun. I was never happy to hear Dad say, "well, it's about time to go".

When he inevitably did, I would shoot off casts as quickly as I could as he readied things to go in hopes of catching just one more fish.

The intervening years haven't changed me much. I still can't sleep before a fishing trip. I still spend significant time in preparation. There are flies to tie, leaders and tippet to attach, and reels to oil. Weather reports receive intense scrutiny, as do fishing reports. If fishing saltwater, tide charts are consulted. If fresh water is the medium, I check the flow rates of the river.

One of the things that has changed is that today I am usually the one who signals the end of the day.

The onset of darkness is normally my nemesis. But recently, on my home water, a friend and I fished one evening until the moon came up, and illuminated the water such that we were able to continue fishing an hour after it was fully dark. We caught sunfish and bass on poppers and caddis flies until we finally agreed we should give the fish a rest.

It was a great day on the stream, and we could not complain about our success. But I still hated to quit, even though home and hearth awaited.

Maybe it's because while on the stream, weightier issues seem to drift away like a caddis on the current; at least for a time. Perhaps it is just being out of my cube and in nature's bosom that refreshes and recharges me. Maybe the camaraderie of a friend or loved one is the magic elixir.

I don't know if it is one of these or a combination of them all...but I do know that time spent with a fly rod in hand in a favorite stream allows me to face the routines of life with a little less rancor.

"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." ~John Buchan


tdillow said...

You still wow me my dear. And yes, you are now the one to call that it's quitting time and now I'm the one to quickly try and throw a few more lines out before days end.

Love ya ;)

momma p said...

As a child, I would go fishing with a neighbor man. I was about 5and he was in his fiftys. He and his wife had no children. While my older brothers and sisters were in school, we would walk the creeks between our farm and his. We sometimes caught enough for supper, sometimes not. Your story reminded me of those times. Even though I have developed other interests since then, and left fishing behind, it's still a great memory. Thanks for sharing. You stories always make me smile.

Mark said...

Thanks Momma P...your comments always encourage me.