I sat at the Ihop yesterday wondering whether my blueberry pancake portion would be as large as advertised and scratching new mosquito bites. At 10:30 AM, I’d squeezed in between the breakfast and lunch crowd and found plenty of seats available among the modest brunch crowd of senior citizens with their wide, roving bespectacled eyes. No, I wasn’t from around here but don’t worry Nelda; I’ve just come for the fish.
This was Erie, Pennsylvania and I sat with a smile on my face awaiting the short stack and nominal sausage and egg. I had a smile on my face and not just because of the hope of flapjacks. I smiled in spite of the one-eye-open four hour’s sleep of the night before among aggressive mosquitoes – the industrious type who can not only drill vertically but can quite possibly frac your blood vessels when they hit recoverable fluids.
I smiled because I love to fish and was reflecting on a good year so far. Datawise, my fishing journal informs me that I’ve fished one third more than I had fished by this point last year; that’s got to be good. But I also believe that the plentiful rain this year and last has yielded an incredible crop of fish in a wide variety. I think that a lot of anglers have been put off by the often flooding waterways of western Pennsylvania and that spawning sites have been more inundated with water longer, which actually means more to the seasons ahead than to this one. The overall aquatic habitat recovery of Pennsylvania continues apace and there are just a lot of fish just about everywhere.
What endears fishing to me is the diversity. I might find myself fly-fishing with a certain Englishman (you know who you are) on a lugubrious brown trout stream flowing through a hardwood forest one day and the next find myself on a pier in Lake Erie at 1:00 AM surrounded by diligent Vietnamese dip netters (you know who you are too.). I can find myself with a simple pole and number 16 hook tempting minnows from the creek almost within site of my house and shortly I can be on an old quarry pit pond tempting seldom-tapped largemouth bass with swimbaits. I can sleep on the ground where I fish and wake with daybreak to hit them when they least expect me and I can fish finesse tactics under blazing afternoon sun. I pursue relentlessly and I learn relentlessly.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand the concept of boredom that I heard kids talk about. There were still places I hadn’t fished and things I still needed to learn about the fish themselves. How was boredom possible? Some things have changed since then – much carries over.
The potential and the surprises keep me moving, and coming back.
I’m setting up a business right now and my writing has escalated – I’ll be in American Angler Magazine later this summer. But the fishing compels, sneaks into my apartment, pulls my gaze to the rod rack and reminds that water levels are right tonight (they’re always right somewhere for some fish!)
But I smile too because I’m probably the most free person I know and once in a while you just have to savor that. I’m not overly encumbered with responsibilities I don’t need to be encumbered with. Some people tell me I’m lucky. Maybe. But sound decisions have something to do with it too, I think. I could write a book about how the kind of freedom I enjoy is achieved in practical terms but the end result is a lot of time to do the things I love. Being born with a trust fund’s maybe one way to do it but it wasn’t mine.
I use a pole mostly nowadays – I’ve cut out the reel for the most part and basically fish with a string tied to the end of a pole and a bobber most of the time. After all the years chasing fish and escalating my equipment and its complexity, I came back to the fishing I enjoyed the most – simplicity defined. My fishing is re-invigorated as I take on this new self-limiting challenge.
Liberty, fishing and simplicity: a well-rounded diet with or without blueberry syrup.