October 30th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Memories
By ~ Jed Proujansky, (Jed)

An email from a friend started me thinking about writing this piece. It is about my tenth attempt to make it work. It is not an easy topic for me as it touches on something that words don't really work well in describing. I often wonder myself why I enjoy fishing as much as I do. It is certainly not for the volume of fish caught. It is about something else, something more than that.

It starts with memories. When I think about going out to fish my first questions are where and when. As I consider time and place memories of come to me. Those memories come back in remembrances of places, foliage, scenery, site and smell. It may bring back memories of friends or solitude of walks taken and even of fish caught or not. Some of my most vivid memories do not involve the fish. I remember fishing on the Cold River, a beautiful late spring morning with crystal clear water flowing over rounded boulders. Trees were covered with the light green of new foliage and the darker green of the more mature leaves. The light was strengthened as the sun rose, tinged with the green of the trees. The smell was that wet smell of the river and its surroundings. I waded for quite a distance in total silence, enraptured by the beauty of the gorge I was in. I loved that morning enough so that I went back the next day and repeated the experience. No fish were encountered on either day but I still think of it as some of my finest fishing days. There was the beauty of it all, the freshness of a new location and the fact that my casting was uninterrupted by fish so that I was able to focus on that process to the exclusion of all else. I felt that on those days my casting was spot on and I got great joy from it.

Jed and wife Joan

Last weekend I went fishing off Fire Island, NY. I had no idea where to fish and for two days did not bother to take out the rod. It was enough to walk and enjoy the beach while others cast through the surf. The surf was up and as I walked along the shore I touched the edge of the ocean as the waves rose up to meet me. I fished those waters with my mind, looking for the holes and depressions that I suspected would hold fish. On the last morning I went out on a dock on the bay side and stood there alone watching the sun rise. Most of the boats were in storage for the winter and I was alone and able to cast without any obstructions. I worked on my double haul, trying to improve my timing and distance. It was meditative in its repetition and listening to the fly zing past me had a musical quality to it. I did catch a Shad that morning but whatever, it certainly did not add or detract significantly from the morning.

Sunrise

A few weeks ago during a wonderful evening midge hatch I was casting to a pool and working on my drift. It is always a problem for me to get a nice long drift through the pool. I wanted to be able to cast upstream to the head of the pool and have my fly drift all the way to the tail with a minimum of drag. I was on the Swift River, MA where fish have a PhD. in fly identification and can easily differentiate a real fly from a fisherman's fly unless it is presented just right. I caught several fish there and was very pleased, but when someone asked me how big and what type I realized I really did not know. It wasn't about the fish, rather it was about the fishing.

There are many stories, like the one this spring when three men and I went up to fish for trout and salmon in Rangeley Maine. All of us had caught trout and salmon there in times past, all except one. He had recently lost his wife to cancer and we were there for the fishing and the opportunity to be with Bob. Bob was the least experienced of us all and somewhere into the third day he had yet to catch a fish. That day, it seemed without speaking that we were all totally focused on Bob's efforts to catch. I think the three of us measured our success that day by Bob's catching or not. I don't remember if he did catch a fish or not, but I do remember how we all felt about Bob, his loss and our hopes that catching a fish and the experience of being together with us would be part and parcel to his catching his life stride again.

Rangeley Lake Fishing

Fishing is a process that starts with wanting to catch fish, it progresses through catching fish, catching more fish, bigger fish and then at some point it is no longer about fish but about fishing. Fishing becomes something about oneself and all the external stimuli become less and less important. This transformation is in one sense spiritual, zen-like or meditative. I suspect those reading this will all find words to describe this state of being. For each of us it is different. I think that everyone can use religious or spiritual terms to describe this place of being and I think it really talks to the universal nature of life. Muslim or Jew, Christian, Hindu or Native religion, Atheist or "other," when on the water taking in the immensity and minutia of it all find ourselves transformed into a place that is protected and secure.

Iris

When we find our self in this place or space we realize that this is something to cherish. We have transformed ourselves from being an outsider looking in to a part of this magnificence. At that moment, we also realize that it is important to nurture this place and protect it and all that makes it what it is. No longer can we accept wanton killing of fish for the sake of a photo or the trash that degrades our haven. It is not necessarily a conscious act, but sometimes just the unconscious act of letting that next fish go, or caressing it rather than just grabbing it. It might cause you to stop and pick up that piece of trash that someone before and less fortunate than you may have left. Those places, both mental and physical, have transformed themselves to your home and all that the word home implies.

Loon

If we say that fishing is about fish then it is also about insects, macro invertebrates, bait fish, the water, trees, currents and tides, wind, weather, friends and solitude. Fishing is not about catching fish, it is SOOO NOT ABOUT THAT! Fishing is about memories, about being someplace where our lives are focused outside of our own needs and our own immediate problems. Fishing is about friendships and things natural. It is about being here now, being in the moment and being a part of something much larger than our individual selves. Those special moments, the first time and when we relive them with our memories can bring us to places that others may not know exist. Some find it with meditation, others with running or swimming. I think some even find it with sports like golf. We choose to find that place through the long rod and the places that the long rod brings us to. And best of all, we can relive those moments when we choose. ~ Jed


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