A few weeks ago, we visited with family on the Miramichi River, where my husband grew up. As a bonus, my brother-in-law took me fly-fishing for the first time. I’ve never fished in my life.
Roger grew up on the Miramichi. The cells of his body are saturated with river water. He knows – and appreciates - every living thing that flies, crawls, strides or swims through these rivers, brooks and forests. We motored a few miles upstream from his home as he scanned the water, looking for just the right spot. He slowed to investigate tracks in the sand…possibly turtles, he thought, looking for a place to lay eggs. “On a sunny day, you’ll see them out here along the bank, warming themselves.”
He stopped the boat in the lee of a small island, in the spot where the current rushes around one side to meet the calm deep water on the other. First he explained how to tie a fly on the line. He demonstrated how to snap the line back, pause for a breath and a heartbeat, then roll it out over the water like a stream of silk. Naturally, I wasn’t very good. As I tried, time and time again, he quietly observed, “too fast…too hard…roll it out…snap your wrist…that one was good...you're getting it.”
He knows it takes time to train the body to feel the line, to know what it is supposed to do, then to do it intuitively. I realized it wasn’t about being good or perfect, or even catching anything. It was about teaching my arm and wrist to understand. After awhile, he stood behind me, his hands on the rod’s grip over mine, gliding that line back and forth to dance on the water, letting me feel how it is done.
When we learn something well, we actually teach our body how to do it without the aid of our minds. It becomes instinctive. I think we pass such instincts on, in small subtle ways. Perhaps the cells in his body were more finely tuned to fly-fishing because of the skills of his father and grandfather.
I did catch a fish – a small sucker – not a very glamorous catch, but as he held it in his hands, I marveled at the beauty of the iridescent scales and distinctive markings, then he gently released it back to its home. It was thrilling to think my arms and hands were learning to call fish.
On the way back, I watched for turtles and we talked about how kids today don’t even swim in the river, let alone fish or appreciate its beauty. He told me how he just bought a couple of river kayaks so he could take his grandchildren out on the water. He hopes to teach them about the river and how to fish…if they want to learn.