This article's only provisional. I say this because when I get a big idea, I feel real stubborn about doing it justice. A lot of people think I've wasted my life this way. I'm 51, but when I was 25, my father confronted me and said I had completed nothing since I had made a real nice living room table in 9th grade woodshop. Well, I had written at least 25,000 full-sized pages of notes for novels by then. They count for something. Some of us do things differently. And he had failed to remember the 25 fishing articles I had got published in very popular magazines and a newspaper during my teens. Back then you had to drive to the Trenton Times building to pick up your check! I thought nothing of that at all, and he drove me there when I was 16.
I didn't remind my father. I let the issue drop, him staring at me, me staring back. Dad's a very successful man who relished rightful praises at an early age.
Here we go. The comparison between saltwater and freshwater angling is limitless. No number of volumns on it would be complete. In the history of angling, the division has been sharp, and many anglers fish either saltwater or fresh. Of course, estuaries admit of every degree of mixture between fresh and salt water, which is an interesting thought. And I've caught sea-run brook trout on the Gaspe Peninsula a mile upstream from the sea, from pools interspersed by fresh riffles, wild char silver as steelhead.
Water is water, if the purest contains native and/or wild trout. You can drink that. Or at least some of us can without getting the heebee jeebies. Drink brine long enough and you will see worse than pink elephants.
But what impresses me most--the Great Lakes not withstanding--is not salt or lack of it, nor species and size--although I would love to catch marlin and tuna--but geography. Do you associate land with this concept? Come on! We're anglers. And watershed is a concept secondary to geography.
I love the ocean because it is deep and contains the unknown. Some think I'm foolish because where they respect fear and do not dare tread, I go. Or you might think at least I used to, since I clammed through many winters as commercial fisherman in my 20's, working wetsuited in the brine in weather as cold as 10 degrees. But that's just the external world. As a writer, I've explored interior. You know the phrase. "You're not yourself." Once you hear that a couple of times during your adventuresome teens, you catch on quickly, and make sure to have a self appropriate to present in real situations. But that doesn't stop exploration.
I love fresh waters because I actually feel the fact of their sustenance.
In a recent post on Alamuchy Mountain State Park and more included, I noted that sometimes water gives more pleasure than any beverage can. I don't care if it's a $10,000.00 bottle of wine; I think this is true.
Since we are terrestial beings (but with a great ambition for space), fresh waters set between land feel like home, and I always need them on frequent occasion. There are times when I feel more at home alone at a pond just before sun up than anywhere else.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." But the reason fresh water is left out of this poetry (David Bowie's included) is because of the closure implied by the words. In reality, nothing ends but for a ritual's sake. Fresh water is the medium of human sustenance, and at the very least a symbol, owing to its properties, of human rebirth, like a home is the place we return to and from where we set out again.
And the seas have always been mankind's greatest voyage; as those who read Homer know so well; as those who read Zane Grey feel so immediately with great zest; as those who read Ernest Hemmingway take direct points and enormous visage; as Rachel Carson surrounds us. They are where we came from. And as we have set our goal on Mars--a humble goal it will prove to have been--we as yet know so very little of our origin.