Writing this series on the reasons why we fish has been if nothing more, an interesting exercise in introspection. Not just because of the reasons that have been uncovered, but more so because of the serendipitous events that sometimes have surrounded some of these essays that have confirmed my beliefs about the subject. Take this week's topic of "mystery" for example. I had been contemplating this subject, and the role it has played in my obsession with this craft for quite some time. And to my surprise, it seems that I am not the only one who has pondered the role of mystery in the act of angling.
One of the things that for me, differentiates fishing from any other outdoor sport is the mystery that is involved. When one engages in the act of angling, they are in no small part participating in a search for the proverbial needle in a haystack with a blindfold on. The world that resides below the surface of a body of water is almost as mysterious as the realm of outer space. It's not like hunting for example, where our prey lives in the same environment, breathes the same air, and walks the same ground. No....this is altogether different, and one of the reasons why I believe we are driven to continually probe a part of our natural world in which we are not designed to live.
So, yesterday I had some time to kill on my lunch hour, and like I often do, I fill the space by watching old episodes of the show that sparked my interest in fly fishing, The Walkers Cay Chronicles. This particular episode that originally aired back in 1997, found host Flip Pallot and his guest Hal Chittum exploring an ecosystem that epitomizes the concept of mystery, the Florida Everglades. Not surprisingly, Flip had some profound words that sparked some deep thoughts on the subject.
" I am convinced that the essence of fishing is drawn from memory. I've thought about this a great deal. Why does this sport...if that's what it is, never get old like we do. Why do we still get excited about it, when so many other things in our lives have become predictable. I think it's because we remember when we fish. Not stories necessarily, but feelings, thrills that reside in our emotional memory bank. When we come out here we push certain buttons and the years begin falling away like coppery autumn leaves on the surface of the water, and we are children all over again for a little while. "
What was profound about this quote for me was that the one overriding memory I have about fishing as a kid, one that has stuck with me for the almost 50 years I have been on this Earth is the fascination with the mystery of what lies below the waters surface. That no matter how adept I may become at exploring the world below with a lure tethered to a line that is tethered to a rod, I will always be much like an individual whose vision is impaired and relies on their sense of touch and feel to traverse the alien world below.
The old literary saying that "everyone loves a good mystery" is true for more reason than one. I believe primarily that it is because it is hardwired into our nature to explore the unknown. The ability to ask "why", and then to take action to actually figure out "why" is one of the things that separates us from our opponent that so elegantly lives in the mysterious world we are trying to figure out...which ironically is another mystery in and of itself.
Oh and by the way, did you also notice in Flip's quote that even he questions whether fishing is a sport?
Hope you all have a great week full of mystery and intrigue!