Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” William Shakespeare


    The lone fisherman stood and looked down the hill. There was a path that cut through the brush and rocks that lay between the road and the stream. He did not remember that it was this steep. Studying the pebbles and sticks in the path he knew that if one of them rolled under his foot, wham, he would go down and this little adventure would be over before it started.

    As he eased forward and felt the gravity push at his back, he thought of how not that long ago he would have hurled himself down the path. Whatever happened, he could have handled it. His strength and balance would have served him and he would jog down to the stream with nary a scratch. Now he feared a fall as he never had.

    Finally reaching the big rock at the bottom of the Snake Hole, he stood as in the past and studied the water. Ray felt some of the old spell wash over him. Here was the dark swirling current of his dreams, the rocks that were obvious and some barely visible, all of which he knew from a time in the past. There is a fish there, I know it, can’t be a rock like that and not be a trout there, waiting in ambush.  He brightened some, maybe he could do this, a feeling arose felt like he was getting some of it back.

    Putting the rod together and stripping some line, he glanced down at his arm and felt himself pull up short. He stared as if he had not seen this arm before. Of course this was his arm, he knew that. Not like the knotted and bronzed arms that he had once had. Not like the arms that could do anything, any kind of work, this arm was pale and thin, almost translucent. He felt a bolt of terror for an instant. Could he still cast a fly rod?

    After Ray had tied on an Adams and a dropper, he stood and held the rod forward, sighting it across the river. He gathered himself, trying to remember the steps in a process that was once as natural as breathing air and required less thought. Out of nowhere the face of the doctor flashed in his mind. The doctor, the first of many that sat and told him about cancer and treatments and his chances with no more emotion than describing yesterday’s weather.

    The demons took him to a very bad night 14 months ago when he lay as sick as he ever thought he could be. The words of his old river mentor, Rob, had come to him that night. “You got to get up Bud, no matter what, you got to get up. If you don’t, you just get left behind.”

    The first few casts were as clumsy as he expected. Rob would have growled, “Looks like a cow on roller skates.” After a few more though, the rod seemed to take over and help him, as if showing him how to all over again. For an instant he wondered if Rob was there, holding the rod for him. No, he didn’t believe in that.

    He was learning to cast again as if he was learning to breathe again, live again. He had not one thought of hooking a fish, he was watching the line slice out and descend gently to the water. Grading every cast, giving himself no leeway. One long cast and he made the Table Rock. He watched the fly land beside the rock and start with the current. Then just like that, no warning, no pretense, a brown trout over twenty inches took the fly with an audible slurp. He felt as if he had been struck by lightning. 

    Ray would have bet the farm that he would miss this fish, but as he brought up the rod, it was there, heavy and throbbing. With a grimace he applied the pressure as he knew he must. If the fish got behind the Table, that’s all she wrote. Then again, just like that, here comes the fish up and out of the water. Beautiful and terrible at the same time, he remembered to give it a little room and then whispered in a trance, “Please……”.

    When the fly came out it whizzed past his ear and he tried to duck and sprawled over the rocks backwards. He went down hard and wondered if he would wake up from a dream or if he was he dead. He lay there for a minute and took an account of what was left of him. He wasn’t dead, as far as he could tell, the rocks were hard, but he didn’t think anything was broken.

    For the first time in two years he exploded in a gale of laughter, he didn’t know where it came from and he didn’t care. It was uninhibited, forceful laughter that left him out of breath. He raised and wiped the corner of one eye, “OK Rob, I’m gettin’ up, ‘ol bud, I’m gettin’ up.




If you know what is good for you, you’ll go fishing.


 “The two best times to fish is when it’s rainin’ and when it ain’t.” Patrick F. McManus                            


    Just to be blunt about boys and girls, there is a whole bunch of you out there that need to go fishing. How long has it been for you? If you have to think about that for a minute, it’s been too long.

    I actually read about a study the other day, done at one of our universities where you know, all the professors are smarter than the average bear. The people that spent who knows how much money on this endeavor finally determined that if you go fishing it will relieve stress. No kidding, they found this to be true.

   Did you fish a lot as a kid? I bet you did. Did you enjoy it? Dumb question. So what is keeping you from trying to regain some of that wonderment and zeal you had for one of the greatest of outdoor endeavors? It didn’t used to be so hard or complicated just to go fishing did it? My brothers and sisters in camo, it could be that way again.

    I say that I like to watch all the different programs on the various outdoor related TV channels. Once I get settled in and start to channel surf on the outdoor shows though, something strange starts to happen. I start to come with down with an unusual bunch of symptoms, sort of like indigestion, dizziness, and a sprinkling of depression. All this is brought on by what some of these shows have done to simple outdoor pursuits.

    The fishing shows may be the worst. How about the one with all these guys fishing and competing against one another, but this one has referees! (Complete with black and white shirts). Referees for crying out loud! So you may very well see a scene like this.

Announcer: Let’s go over to boat number three and check on Scott and Biff. We’ll see what their referee has to say. How they doin’ ref?

Referee: Not good, as you know Scott and Biff lost time this morning when they overslept and were late getting on the lake! Now they are trying to make it up by speed casting some of these rocky points, but they just can’t seem to get connected with a money fish. Two bluegills and a perch is all they have landed, neither of which count for points. O! Now it looks like Scott has snagged Biff in the ear with the treble hooks on a crank bait! This is going to cost them more valuable time.

Announcer: Do these guys have a chance to make the cut this evening to stay in the running for the money?

Referee: Only if they get Divine intervention.

    And so it goes. When did everything get to be such a competition? How did we make something as simple and pure as fishing into a hundred mile an hour race to catch fish? Again, it does not have to be that way. I have a plan for you, and like most tasks, about 95% of it is just showing up, in this case showing up on the stream or the lake.

    First step, just go dig out some of that fishing gear you have, don’t worry if you don’t have the latest and greatest lure that you saw on TV and in Field and Stream, it probably doesn’t work anyway. Just take what you got, make it a real challenge and don’t go buy anything! (OK, you can make one quick trip to Wally World if you must).

    The rest of the plan is basically just getting out there. Some of you are thinking of transitioning from trout to bass or whatever right now. But you know what? The trout are still there, that big brown that you saw in early April, or last fall, he’s still there. Go visit him.

    You know the bass are there, some of those big bluegills are on the nest, and the catfish are there and they are hungry. Go offer them a morsel.

    Alright, I want you to look at the kid in the picture holding that trout; look at that smile. Can you remember that?  Can you allow yourself to regain that? It’s worth everything if you can.