I hardly fish anymore.
And I miss it.
Not just because I miss being near water or feeling the soft texture of the cork in my right hand, but rather when I don’t fish, I miss out on learning.
I didn’t fully realize the depth of that absence until the other day. When I was on the way back to work from the dentist.
Instead of taking the speediest path, I chose to drive the back road. The road that brought me aside the hayfields I spent too much time in haying as a kid. But not too much time in haying with my father.
If that makes sense.
The speediest path also took me past an old fishing hole.
Between the O’Hearn’s and the Lund’s trailer.
When I stopped and walked across the pavement to get to the hole, I noticed the age cracks in the road’s surface.
Had it really been that long since I had been here?
The fishing hole was as perfectly deep as it was when I was twelve: the brook feeding it running straight and consistent. Full from the October rain. And the early November rain.
The brook ran under the road through a culvert that Mr. Raymond put in while working for the Town. In 1983.
I remember because I watched him do it.With fly rod in hand. Impatiently waiting for the water to clear.
Later in life, Mr. Raymond’s son took my future wife to the prom.
Much later in life, Mr. Raymond’s granddaughter attended the school that I lead.
She is an amazing human.
Just like her father. And her grandfather.
Funny how all that works.
The rockscape in the fishing hole was still the same as when Mr. Raymond set the culvert.
So without a rod available, I simply reached under the most obvious rock, getting my shirt and tie wet in the process (I now have a job that requires both).
But no trout darted out. No trout were to be seen. Unlike when I was twelve.
Then I had a four weight Montague rod and was careful not to backcast into the road.
The experience as an eleven-year old of clipping a BMW from Quechee cured me of that nonsense.
But on that day, that twelve year-old day, I hooked a Brookie.
Flip cast. Under the ferns to the left. Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear.
That trout fought. And fought. And fought. And fought. Darting under the barb wire fence across the hole, almost cutting the lead.
And then it went home. Hard. Not to the East like Rainbows do, but to the west and under the most obvious. Refusing to budge.
Well, not without the tip of the rod bending in a ‘go-farther-and-I’ll-snap’ kind of way.
I did get the fish out, though. Eventually. And in the air. And then in my hands. Disappointed that it was not fifteen inches like the fight implied (or twenty).
But the disappointment did not last.
Again, I was twelve and being challenged in all sorts of ways, none that need exposition or extrapolation here.
But when that fish looked at me, its orange belly spots gleaming in the sun, my disappointment waned as did my intent of branching it through the gills and bringing it home to put it in the freezer.
It had given me its everything.
And that is when I learned about respect. And admiration.
I needed to learn both then.
So I put the eight inch fighter back in the water, moving it to get oxygen back in through its gills.
It was strange I did that because I had never released a trout before. They all ended up in the freezer. From there, some made it to the grill but most got freezer burned and tossed into the trash.
I am embarrassed to admit that. Knowing what I know now about giving everything, living, and fighting.
But that is the beauty of life I suppose.
And why I now miss fishing.
And also my twelve-year old self.
Despite his struggles.
But like then, I needed to be reminded, at forty-seven, of respect, admiration, giving everything, living, and fighting.