Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Moments Reflection

After an uneventful landing, the twin engine eight seater abruptly exits the abbreviated runway. Moments later the props last turn winds to a throbbing halt. Looking from the crafts aged windows one may notice, “Welcome to the Conch Republic” emblazoned across the terminals second floor. Prior to the gangway opening the tropics dense humid air engulfs the planes poorly ventilated cabin. In this instance the slight discomfort is a welcome stimulus of an uneventful arrival and of climates unlike those left behind.

After taking the islands greeting to heart, I gaze at the terminal flag. Lethargically it unrolls from its tethered perch; a welcome sight when traveling with a fly. Once in town, there are similar indicators as to conditions one will encounter before the day unfolds that habitually are checked. Such habits are part of the antics played out when fishing where and whenever I get the opportunity to cast a fly. A lifetime of fly-fishing has taught me the value in such noticeable observations. Yet, the calm emerald surface on this days Gulf crossing and limp flag lend only temporary occasions for hope.

Although it’s human nature to yearn for that perfect trip, several decades spent chasing migratory species has taught me to put my fly fishing opportunities into a more humbling perspective. Pear Jam summed it up well, "Mother Nature has it's own religion, gospel of the land". To become disgruntled over fickle elements that are out of ones control has wasted many a day where opportunities exist, but never realized. Age and valued mentors have slowly helped me to understand there’s far more to a day on the water than the narrow focus of what’s on the end of the line.

Like most, such lessons were learned the hard way. There was however, a turning point. It occurred over a decade removed after seven painfully unproductive September days in BC. While on the river I barely noticed the vibrant cornucopia of fall colors or the surrounding grandeur of the glaciated peaks that stood sentry overhead, or took into consideration that I did after all land a steelhead. On the flight home, sulking, a reluctant conversation changed my narrowmindedness.

Upon taking a seat for the return flight home, I barely noticed the older gentleman seated at my side. He was tall, fit, had a good stock of gray hair and by the rods he carried on board obviously had been steelhead fishing. Reluctantly, due to my demeanor, we struck up a conversation. I was barely from the womb when he first began his jaunts to BC. “Back then” was often iterated through his reflective conversation. Having gotten older, I’ve noticed that I too use this expression far more frequently. Considering many of life’s harsh alternatives, I surmise this to be good thing.

Over our discussion, we talked of his passion and concerns for this noble fish. Like any fly-fisher, he’d ebbed and flowed through techniques, focus, and priorities as he ventured into steelheading. Similar to anyone who has fished long enough, he’d developed great passion and concern for the future of these and other great waters of the world. Eventually, he realized that the method in the madness bears far more significance than the tally at the end of the day. He admonished that he now only fishes with a waking fly. Given the periled existence this fish now lives, he didn’t need to wack a bunch of steelhead to enjoy success. At this day and age, given their perils, just to touch one once in a while was all that was needed to fulfill the circle of life that connects the dwindling wildness that makes one feel so alive. By his standards his week was better than expected, yet his numbers were similar to mine. By the time we departed, I learned yet another one of life’s valuable lessons; simply we live a privileged life. Just to have the opportunity to fish for these and other fishes of the world should be enough. To catch a fish or two along such journeys, simply a bonus.

Ironically, this May upon releasing the first tarpon of the trip, I reflected on my conversation old friend. Should he be fortunate to still wake a fly, he’d be in his mid nineties. I was hoping his travels kept him young beyond his years and he was still active. Waters of the world where anglers cast a fly need such mentors. While watching this lone piscatorial traveler back into the calm rich waters of Mooney Harbor, I wondered how many years I had left to fish. In the past few years it wasn’t the first time this thought crossed my mind.

I reeled in, placing the slender tarpon fly into the base of my aging Gulfstream. My fishing partner took the helm while I relaxed and sought solstice within this ocean refuge. I image what it must have been like when Jeffrey made those early runs across dark waters under the light of a full moon to discover new uncharted waters. I ponder on a similar crossing when I made a similar journey of discovery and realize how fortune I’ve been to have fished in the Conch Republic and other places of such beauty where wild fish still exist and on such chance occasions take a fly.

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