At some point after, during, or instead of college, you embark on a career. In other words, you start a segment of life which could be ten times longer than any other and eat up the rest of what you got. With that comes a battery of words that express profound lengths of time. Sometime after I got that five-year pin as a high school teacher, and the word longevity snuck into my vocabulary, I wondered how an eight hour work day can seem like sixteen and where all the weekends went. With all the talk of, “before I knew it, I was 40,” I didn’t want to be a stagnant, flat character reduced to words on a resume, who watches and talks about things like fishing, but doesn’t actually do it.
Over the past few years I’ve played city league basketball, but it frustrates me that I can’t move laterally like I could and I’m only 32. I hang my crossovers and miss free throws. I worked out and ran marathons because they kept me in shape, but I needed low-weight, high-rep emotional exercise, something that distracted me for more than one-hour increments.
A few springs ago, as my middle 20s turned late, a few buddies and I picked up fly-fishing as a means to fortify the whole life-outside-of-work thing. I grew up fishing with a Pflueger spinning reel attached to a Shakespeare Ugly Stik, because I lived on an island in Alaska. That’s just what you do, you fish.
Something had to bring some substance to my life outside of teaching 14-year olds how to write a thesis, or shoot a jumper then going on long runs in which I frequently thought about, or worked off the stress of work. There is certainly fulfillment that comes from teaching, but there has to be a means of bringing replenishment, an activity that keeps work in its banks.
It seemed like a poetic, slightly pretentious endeavor, but was a completely separate world where my existence is reduced to tying things on a hook and putting that art in front of a trout.
What I can count on now, is trout and my fly rod Reggie (named after Reggie Jackson after an unbelievable October fishing).
Even if I can’t get out every weekend, I know they will be there. It feeds my competitive nature and maybe even my desire to be the conquering being. My life outside of work feels like an actual life again rather than a work out, run, dinner, television, bed, breakfast, work, cycle.
Jim Harrison wrote, “Few of us shoot ourselves during an evening hatch.”
Yep. No matter how bad things get. No matter how scary an ICU is, or how fussy people can be, it would be pretty hard to be suicidal when standing in knee deep water roll casting to ravenous trout. Even if you’ve got the wrong size or pattern and the fish are defiant, the action is enrapturing – the need to be resourceful and manufacture brilliance in solitude.
Sometimes you just really need a river.
See column at: