Russell Chatham wrote, “Fishing at its most rudimentary level is essentially solitary. Not only that, but its components, outside the particular baggage one brings to it, are entirely trustworthy. I mean, what creek ever teased you about your pimples; what breeze ever ridiculed you in front of your friends?”
Some would argue that a river might not tease, but it can drown you which in many circles is considered worse. A breeze might not poke fun, but hypothermia is no joke. But those two elements just do their things. If I submerge myself and inhale water, that’s more on me than the river. Arguing the possibly sinister intentions of a stream is missing the point of the quote though.
A river just is. It doesn’t hold back, or make promises nor does it respect tradition or provide answers. It’s snow awakened from hibernation, a rain drop in close proximity to it’s infinite friends.
Being that man is inherently flawed and capable of foiling trust, looking for water is not only relaxing, but important. I agree with Chatham in that the creek is trustworthy and what lives within it is the reason many of us gravitate to the woods for trout.
We have complicated the act of pulling fish from water so much that the gear to do so is a multi-billion dollar industry. Fortunately the industry isn’t at the river. Salesmen pitching technologically advanced graphite or boron are no where to be found, though you might be holding their products. If you are, you rarely think about it when the sound of water grows louder than the life you left. And in that solitude is the cathartic experience that make ordinary days tolerable.
Saturday I stood under cliffs eaten by the Lower Sacramento River near the Sundial Bridge in Redding. There were houses carefully placed near the edges. I wondered if the owners had erosion insurance. It would make a great location for a “Mayhem” commercial.
Though my buddy Kurt and I were under the watchful eye of these homes for eight hours as we fished, I rarely saw them. Even when we walked between spots, the immaculate residences facing the dimming sun were not enough to keep our attention from the water and the possibility of a rainbow trout.
I’ve never fished in a place like Redding. The river cuts right through town, and yet there is a feeling of isolation. As if there is a protective cover to prevent worldliness from leaking over the ledge and onto the anglers nymphing for 20-inch fish.
If we don’t catch one (which we didn’t, only a bunch of 16-18 inchers) it’s not the waters fault. If we slip and fall, that too, not the water’s fault.
The water is constant. The fish are there. The rest is up to me. I can be a loud-mouth, line-crossing poacher that thinks catching a trophy will somehow suppress the burden of my particular baggage though a validating hero shot.
Or I can count on the simplest provisions available to humankind to bring forth a passion that is impossible to fail or conquer, as competitive as I allow, expensive as I choose.
I too trust water.
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