Outdoor Explorations · Photography · Poetry · Random Thoughts · Sacred Spaces

Fishing Lesson

Fly Fishing Gear almost ready for fishing
Fly Fishing Gear almost ready for fishing

The fish know what I’m up to
You can just tell
By the way they jump
Where I haven’t cast
And rise towards my fly
Just to dive away again
At the last moment

I can almost hear him,
That big trout at river’s bend,
Laughing as he splashes
And jumps
As I un-tangle my line
From the pine behind me

Forty-five minutes
We play, he and I,
Or should I say
He teases
As he teaches me
Fishing isn’t all about catching
It’s about being present and learning

It’s time to move on
I doff my cap
And offer
A bow of respect
To today’s teacher

Yesterday, my wife and I spent the afternoon along a beautiful river just south of our home.  The Fall River is a a short river, only about 10 miles from where several springs gush out of the ground forming the headwaters of the river to where it joins the Deschutes river in it’s flow towards the Columbia, and finally the Pacific Ocean.

Fall River Falls
Fall River Falls

After a picnic lunch next to the falls, I set up my fly rod and walked off along the bank for a bit of fly fishing while Maurie had some quiet time for art and to film some video for her website and YouTube Channel.

I’ve not fly fished much before.  In fact, I can count the number of times that I have on one hand.  The fly rod and reel were left for me by my Dad after a visit this summer.  The two hours I spent fishing yesterday were a learning experience.

The first few spots I stopped and cast out were quiet sections of river with nice gravel beds underneath and a few shady overhangs on the far bank.  Good spots for trout to rest out of the sun on this hot day.  But there was no activity that I could see at all.  So in each I spent some time casting out and letting my fly drift only to retrieve it and cast again.  After 10 to 15 minutes of this, I’d move along to another spot.

Finally, I came to a large bend in the river and saw a fish jump.  I couldn’t get a sense of its size, but the splash was certainly noticeable.  A good sign, so I put down my bag and my fleece shirt and cast into the middle of the disappearing rings, only to see it jump further downstream, and on the other side of a log snag.

I spent about 45 minutes in this spot, working a section of river bank about 50 feet long.  The trout would jump occasionally far away from where I had my fly, and I’d hurry to cast out where he was, only to find he’d moved.  A couple of times, I could see him rising in the clear water towards my fly, only to push at it with his nose as if to say “you expect me to bite on THIS?!?” and dive away.

When I would manage to snag my fly and line up in a pine tree behind me, I would hear him jumping and splashing as I worked to free them so I could go back to fishing.

As I fished this river bend, I got to watching how my fly moved in the water.  How the fish responded to where I placed it relative to where he was, and how it moved towards him.  I also got a few glimpses at the flies (real) that he was feeding on, and how they differed from many of the flies in my grandfather’s old fly book.

When he made it clear that our lesson was done, I had so much respect for this fish, and the lessons he was trying to give to me, that I took a page from my time taking Karate in university.  I took off my cap and gave a bow to my teacher for the day and thanked him for the lesson.

I moved up the river and put his lessons to good use.  I finally managed to hook a fish. It would have been a keeper too, but in playing him into the shore, he managed to slip off the hook and swim free.  I had a few more nudges at my flies, but no more bites.

Many veteran fly fishers will tell you that it’s not all about hooking or landing the fish.  As much as I’d have liked to bring home a trout or two for dinner last night, I have to say, the lessons taught by that trout made every moment worth it.  I even enjoyed the laughter I shared with him as he played while I tried to un-snag my line!

One of the springs at the head of Fall River
One of the springs at the head of Fall River



4 thoughts on “Fishing Lesson

  1. I think fishing has been a form of meditation for many men for centuries. And you are right, the practice is really not about catching fish at all.

  2. I love this – it is written as an ode to a teacher, appreciation for growth as a being and the soulfulness found when wandering in nature. Reading this made me feel in the moment with you. Awesome work Mark!

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