A few afternoon hours can fill out a day, making time off from the job a reconnection with solid assurances at the ground level, instead of presumably urgent matters running away with energies that need replenishment. I felt just a couple of moments when I wondered if I bored my son with such simple pleasures as walking the river, posing him for the photo featured above with Sadie, and fly casting. Shortly before we packed in, I had spoken of us at least encountering some trout, and added that it's important to get out and cast.
"Oh, yeah?" He said, a little too wise, as if my words fell somewhat on the empty side of events.
"If you value fly fishing."
He saw the smile on my face, confident as all the years behind me at this endeavor, since I was 10, and his doubt fled as reassurance came.
Simple pleasures like these I've noted always gratify in me much more than any denigrating caricature of them can deny worth, because the planet is an important value indeed. No one who is sane doubts this fact. The complexity is beyond enormous, but the best part about outdoor recreation is the substantial solidity it grants anyone's character who really participates. With respect to the notion of this gain, simplicity is a unification of many things, not a cop-out in relation to more sophisticated endeavors.
We hiked a half mile upstream from the lower entry of Ken Lockwood Gorge, South Branch Raritan River, in search of a pool to fish, water low, feeling November perfectly present with light breezes carrying temperatures in the 50's, and finally found a small eddying depth with lots of leaves to avoid, catching nothing as expected, and yet I thought of a large stretch easily accessible from the upper entry near Hoffman's Crossing Road, and with enough time to walk back to the Honda and drive over, we did. There I drove on down the roadway with no room for passing and parked very near this stretch I had in mind, where we encountered six other anglers and those trout I've mentioned, which, as expected, wouldn't hit, although a 14-incher did seem to take interest in my pheasant-tail nymph, not actually striking. The rhythm of casting and easy fulfillments of accuracy felt pleasurable, and I often looked askance at my son, who I hoped felt some of the same, though he is so caught up in university applications and his two high-level online math courses--if mostly caught up with his friends--that I think if there's real hope for his taking command of outdoor values I've taught him, it will take hold as he grows older. I'm unusually committed, not so much because I have time to do much of it now--many have more time and money than I do--but because my youth involved an almost daily involvement at the opportunity cost of schooling that would have been more sensible, though schooling never could have imparted nearly as much wisdom. My high school grades suffered, my SAT scores weren't great, but despite my refusal to take AP English--because I wanted to continue fishing more than take the work load--I took the AP English exam and scored a 5, the highest mark. I never forget the girls who laughed at me--me smiling and laughing in turn--when I walked into the exam room, me the only one taking the test who hadn't taken the course. Not all who took that exam scored a 5.
Besides, I read plenty. I didn't need a state-mandated high school to tell me what to read.
As we fished, I overheard conversation among four remaining anglers besides Matt and I, who knew each other. One of these guys had bought a G. Loomis, and I thought of online critiques which, at least regarding seven-weight fly rods, account better for less expensive St. Croix. Eventually, the eldest--early 40's--addressed me. I had already decided he didn't much appeal. First, he tried to tell me all the trout in the pool we fished are big. I pointed out the little 10-incher I had been watching, and spoke of this pool loaded with trout this size last October, holdovers from spring. He never acknowledged the fact, but finally a young lad of about 22 came over and had a look. In the meantime, this elder savvy fly fisherman had confronted me with imperious advice on fishing hopper nymphs, as if, perhaps, my pheasant-tail nymph just wouldn't do. I felt as if our coming President had taken hold of his soul, until I remembered that when I met and worked with Donald Trump--not flinching a flicker while meeting his eyes very directly and shaking his hand--while participating with the Bedminster environmental council concerning issues at his golf course in the township, a session that lasted at least a half hour, no such arrogance as this fly fisher-in-the-know had exhibited came from the President-to-be. But anyway, I gave this younger elder man a pass, thinking after the bristling encounter had finished that he might have been a little enthused, rather than his harboring any lasting need to be top dog.
Five or ten minutes later, another young man of about 22 began speaking, and our conversation ranged over fly fishing salt and fresh, Cape Cod to Pulaski, New York, and Charleston, South Carolina, very pleasant. Matt and I had to go. I have editing work to do tonight, and first my wife and I went out to see a movie in Bernardsville, Dr. Strange, an overdone simplification of the meeting ground between physics and spirituality dramatized pretty badly. The young man expressed hopes that he would see us again, and once again I felt fishing proves to redeem sociability, rather than get lost on "superior" knowledge and G. Loomis as if breaking the bank on a fishing rod might be the ticket in.