Sometimes it’s not about the fish at all. Most of the time it’s just having a shared memory of the day, the stream, and the camaraderie of being outside with loved ones. Thankfully, I have a fishing partner in my wife or is it my wife and then fishing partner? Regardless, she’s just as quick to suggest that we pick up our gear and go on a road trip somewhere; and it might be the journey that contains road trip playlists, the laughs, and gas station coffee that always seem to accompany my smelly old truck. Btw—she can throw down with Salt N Pepa, Kid Rock, and Lil Kim, spitting lyrics going down the road at 80 mph, with the best of them.
The luck of having of a wife who fishes is immense; gone are the snide and darkly sarcastic comments that accuse an obsessed fisherman of having extra-marital affairs, liking their fishing partner more than their matrimonial status, or the worst: being called emotionally unavailable. She’s just as invested in it as I am and her focus often exceeds my own which is simply amazing.
But there are also the benefits of simply being outside which, in my view, is something that most Americans are lacking these days. I had a chance to recently witness a group of grown adults fawn and express incredulity when they were given the opportunity to see a skunk, otters, and an eagle up close.
“Shoot,” I thought to myself, “we see those things all the time. What’s the big deal?”
It is a big deal, though, because so many people are removed from the patterns of flora and fauna while living in our fast food culture; they never slow down enough to watch how the creeks rise and fall or the seasonal coming and going of the trees and wildflowers. Too many people drive cars with tinted windows and pass on the opportunity to get to know their neighbors as they drive up into their garage-in-front house with manicured lawns (as dictated by their home owner association); they never allow for the time and/or the chance to establish any sort of personal relationships with either their environment or neighbors. All of these repercussions of isolated urban living are a damn shame.
Is it weird that our house is a collection of things found outdoors? We don’t take fish home and it’s been 3-4 years that we’ve eaten a trout we caught, but we do tend to surround ourselves with items that we found in the woods. Paper wasp nests (at least two) hang inconspicuously in a dining room corner; wood-ear lichens sit on the windowsills, and an assortment of feathers (ones that aren’t used for tying) and paper-thin pieces of an American beech tree grace a side table. These items were gathered through careful observation of a hallowed space and time with a thoughtfulness that treasures memory and acknowledgement of the hills and holler we call home.
The fishing is just an enjoyable excuse to solve another of the myriad of nature’s riddles and the road trips are simply reasons to enjoy each other’s company. As I’ve learned the nuances of fly fishing (and its been a long process), other larger-than-life subtleties appear to me and I feel the inclusion into a world that I don’t feel in other spaces that are inhabited by some of my fellow humans. Sometimes, it’s not really about the fish at all.