I fished with bamboo rod maker Chris Vance, at a secret private property place he knows and has. Chris said "I've given up trying to figure out why I like fishing so much. I just do."
I have a hunch that's the way it is for most of us. When I get away from fishing long enough I find myself wondering why too. But the instant I get my feet wet I have certainty again--maybe not about why so much but I do know fishing is exactly what I want to be doing. Right now. And for as long as I last.
When I was younger I fished all day, until it got too dark. At 74 I'm still stronger and more agile than most my age. But I am slowing down. Big time. Covid hit me like a pallet of bricks falling off a crane. I have to adjust and deal with lower RPMs now. My dad taught me a lot about mortality. He wore his square-cornered academic hat and shared a half a bottle of red wine with me on his final day. He talked about a lot of things, about his career, family, friends and accomplishments--and about all the things he once thought were important but didn't any more. Among other things he did lament not fishing more. Especially with me. With us together. That's part of the deal I think. I enjoy fishing alone. I always have. But I like fishing with a buddy more. I don't like fishing in a crowd. Just me and one friend is best. The better the friend the better the fishing.
Tom Morgan and I became close special friends, largely by accident. During many of our all afternoon computer hassle sessions Tom and I would talk about fishing, families, careers, creativity and inventions and even about state of the universe. I asked Tom how he could remain so cheerful and optimistic given his situation and prognosis. Tom said "I tried feeling sorry for myself Sandy. It just made things worse." Then he grinned like a Cheshire Cat. From ear to ear. Tom loved to fish but it didn't ruin him when he could't any more. He could still design rods, which he said he cared more about than fishing anyway.
I like to fish. I like making flies almost as much. I think about, care about and enjoy boat design even more. I like rowing on empty rivers more yet, which is still surprisingly easy to do. Internet culture is homogenizing. Montana's famous tourist destination spots are more crowded than ever. Many of Montana's hidden places are emptier now than they used to be.
Life is good. For some of us lucky ones anyway. I'm not complaining. Not on my behalf.
I do lament the loss of wild places. I grew up in the lap of privilege and at the edges of wilderness. As a six year old I spent a summer largely alone, collecting spiders for an aging Arachnologist at the Rocky Mountain Biological Labs. I learned the fear of being lost as well as how to navigate home. At RMBL Gothic Mountain was always there, which made it easier to figure out where home was. Home is an important concept.
Our wild places are disappearing so fast it's hard to keep track. My favorite rivers are warmer, siltier and more developed than ten years ago, many times over. Aquatic insect populations are declining. I won't make a litany of the lost here now. The years ahead do look troublesome. I'm glad I got to see the natural world before it was gone. I do love wild places. Not counting family, most of all.
Fishing has been a lifelong cerimonial gateway to the natural world for me. Life is a river.