Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fishing, spirituality and us

"Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or alleged immaterial reality, an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the deepest values and meanings by which people live. Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; spiritual experiences includes that of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world". -- Wikipedia

For most of us, fishing is a spiritual experience.

We cast our line out on the wind, the line billowing like a spider's web, the lure following an arc with our rod at one end and a small patch of water beside a lily pad at the other. In the two seconds it takes to reach its destination, we hear a gull cry overhead; we smell the smoke of a forest fire 30 miles away; we feel the boat rock beneath our feet from a wave; we feel the wind against our cheek and the spray from the wet line hitting the eye of our rod landing on our hand. Our eyes see rings from minnows ripple the surface of the lake and the lip of the lily pad flutter in the wind. We see the reflection of the lure on the water a moment before it lands with a splash, minnows and whirligig beetles scattering away from the impact.
We are aware of all that, and more, in just a blink of time.
We are not thinking of yesterday. We are not thinking of tomorrow.
We are only alive right NOW, in this moment.
And that is just the cast.

The lure sinks; we quickly reel in the slack of the line and feel the pull of the lure as it manoeuvres through the density of the water. We see the flash of the brass side of the spoon, then the white paint on the other and then the rhythm between the two. A water weed -- a musky cabbage -- is in the path of the lure! We instinctively lift our rod tip to bring the lure to the surface and swing the tip to the side, making the lure change direction and avoid the weed.
Then we drop the rod tip, slow the retrieve and the image of the lure fades into the depths.
It's our sense of feeling now that guides us; the pull on the line, the slight oscillations interpreting the wobbling of the lure down below. We intuitively know the lure is in deeper water so we slow the retrieve even more, letting the spoon be pulled by gravity nearer the bottom. We envision what it must look like down there: the alternating flash of the spoon in the water made murky by the waves striking the soil on the bottom of the lake. The weeds are sparse here. The lure is weaving like a lost minnow in a panic.
Then there is a strike! The pull on the line is immense, the drag on the reel sounds like a violin. The line is heading toward deeper water, taken there by a creature whose domain we have now joined. Weeds shoot high in the air, flipped there by our line. Water striders run across the lake's surface to get out of the way of the commotion. We reel; the fish pulls against the drag, back and forth until its muscles are tired. Our muscles are tired too but not as much as the fish's. It comes to the net and we lift it aboard.
We can see the panic in its eyes. It tries to swim again but it is now on the bottom of the boat.
Our only thought is to quickly get the hook loose and release the fish back to the water. We already have a fish to eat. No one needs to tell us it would be wrong to keep more than we need.
We feel it with our entire being.
The fish is magnificent, a sleek design that took millions of years to perfect. The mosaic of scales are covered with alternating spots. We see its lateral line that lets the fish feel movement in the water, something like a bat's sonar sees in the dark.
It flares its gill plate and we see the layers of red filaments beneath. This is how a fish can extract oxygen from its atmosphere, just like our lungs do above the surface.
The hook is loose so we lower the fish over the side of the boat and hold it upright in the water while it breathes again and takes stock of its surroundings. It waves its tail and we take it as a sign. We let go and the fish pauses a second, then flips its tail and disappears.
We feel happy and serene. We are thankful for the fish and its world -- it's our world too. We lived there for a moment and we respectfully left it as we found it.
Our self feels replenished.

According to legend, the Buddha was asked if he was a god.
"No," he said, "I am awake."

When we fish, we are awake. We are attuned to the environment, to the world, to the reverence and wonder of life.

If that isn't spirituality, I don't know what is.

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Anonymous said...

You have covered the fishing experience. I didn't realize that all those things happened until you wrote it down.
Joe O.

Larry Pons said...

Dan what a great picture you painted of the total fishing experience.

Larry P

Dan B. said...

Speaking of painting a picture, the photo with this blog was by Jason Pons and is it ever inspirational!

Steve Ozark said...

Truly, this is what makes the outdoor experience at Bow Narrows beyond compare. Time with family, sunrises and sunsets, gettin' weird with your fishin' partner. Fishing, eating and sleeping. A week in little heaven!
Steve O.

Anonymous said...

first time I've read this. very nice. Marc Maga