It’s not really about the fishing, is it?

Facebook tried to tell me what my 20 biggest moments were in the past year, but it was close only when I considered the list was drafted by a program made by people who don’t know me. Technology thinks my year can be reduced to pictures and subsequent “like” clicks from “friends”. Impossible.

I browsed my fishing calendar to look for highlight-worthy events and found a color-coordinated list rank with jargon, much of which even I don’t understand.
“Jan. 28 – Above Honey 2, Desperation 2 (No. 18 pheasant tail, red copper No. 20)”
Kurt and I named this place on the Stanislaus “The Honey Hole” because it was a no-nonsense fish catching spot, and I’m pretty sure I remember where it is, but I have no clue what “Desperation” means. Is it a rock? A pool? A bend?
On March 24 I caught a 19.5 inch rainbow at “The Lake” on the Lower Sacramento. It’s not a lake, just a large pool of motionless water off the main current.

The angling year continued: May 29th was my best day ever on the Upper Sac and the next day was my first ever on the McCloud. From June 18-July 29 I fished 41 days.
I caught a big brown on the Pit River Sept. 8, but then the list of locations, flies and fish with no context, essentially ends. I fished one day in October, one in November and that was it. Ninety-one days, or just shy of one quarter of a year. It took me less than a cup of coffee to realize what I already knew – fishing really isn’t my life and a fishing diary is just as useless as Facebook at properly summarizing a year. If fishing really was my life, I would have continued standing in water after that brown on the Pit, bent on eclipsing the 100-days-in-a-year mark just so I could say I did. Instead I only got around to fishing twice in the last three months and the lack of angling did not turn me into a bitter malcontent huddled in a cold corner spooning fishing magazines.

Fishing is all about context. It isn’t about work, numbers or size. It’s about people. Behind the notes lies the real year.

This year was about leaving my place at 5 a.m. for a day fishing trip on the Lower Sacramento in Redding. The sun came up as we hit Sacramento and set just after Red Bluff. In the daylight in between, Kurt and I fished. I don’t remember all the trout we netted, but I surely remember retreating to the truck to escape the incessant rain, turning on the seat warmers and eating jumbo hot dogs, potato salad and oranges before heading back out to the water.

When Nate, JJ, Eric and I stayed at the Clearwater Lodge on the Pit River – the trip I caught that big brown – I see us playing horseshoes as the sunset, and bats attacking Nate. When I think of Alaska, I think of trying to dig out red snapper ear bones with a butcher knife and hatchet at midnight as Danny and Derrick looked on. I think of trying to make Tess smile as she put salmon into the brine before smoking, and Kaleigh leaving me a post-it note (that I didn’t see) telling me where the key was so I could put my fish in the cooler at her shop rather than buying ice and extra coolers from the gas station to store what we caught with Abe. I think of Raf enduring the thrashing of my halibut after he gaffed it and brought it over the gunwale.

And I think of my brother and me landing Mahi-Mahi off the coast of Guam, then cleaning and wrapping what we didn’t eat raw for lunch. Since we were old enough to hold a rod, we’ve fished for striper and catfish on lakes in Nebraska and Kansas, snagged silvers at Neck Lake and thrown home-cured eggs at salmon in the Klawock River before bait was banned. Our spring fishing charter was the latest fishing adventure in our increasingly complicated lives.
Facebook wouldn’t know anything about how big all those moments were.

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