Sunday, November 20, 2011

Contemplation and Fishing

Contemplation is what it's all about. To "fish" for something, anything--an idea, a lost set of keys, or a walleye--is to probe with the mind in a way that, at its best, is certain by the intensity of focus or concentration, yet is uncertain about the prospect of outcome or result. 

Seasoned anglers know enough about their favorite waters, and the conditions confronting them on a given outing, to be able to judge results closely beforehand. But cast by cast, fishing is fishing, not catching, never a set routine provided for by all the components like a machine process. Fishing is the opposite of routine, unless corrupted by too many preoccupations. 

We always go about fishing in certain ways, but if we do not create variations on the themes of conditions we face, we are blind to what the fish, in effect, demand of us in order to catch them. The better we get at predicting results does not make angling less an art; every exception is grace and epiphany, and surprises do not and cannot happen all the time to those of us familiar enough with waters to have a general grasp. Nevertheless, to fail to enter mystery and engagement with every outing is a negative paradox. Instead of feeling attuned and prepared for action, mentally we come short of where we really are. We fail to come out from behind the wall of concerns that close us off from the present. As if we know better, we condescend to our own approach, and we miss out while vaguely feeling beat. 

In my life, I don't get out and fish as much as some do. I tend to fish the most in the spring and summer, quite a bit in early fall. I manage to get out at least once every month and ice fish with an ardor I try not to miss on any occasion I do it. I've fished over a hundred days this year, if mostly I spent perhaps an hour total on a given day. I will enjoy some lunch excursions this month and in December. Last week I tried Round Valley for rainbows (I used an egg sac) and I will again a few times at least before the year's out, I suppose. With the advent of ice fishing, I hope to get out on black ice. In total, I may get out five times. Last year I managed seven. But I'm very busy with writing pursuits; constantly I strike a balance.

It's not at all that fishing isn't good this time of year. The Long Branch surf at night last week yielded only a fluke on a teaser ahead of a paddletail, while I lost a small striper of perhaps five pounds. Earlier in the week and the previous, the fishing had been fantastic at the shore. Long Branch is only about an hour and 15 minutes away. The Delaware is good for walleyes, even smallmouth bass now. Hopatcong for walleyes and hybrids. The Pequest River and other trout streams produce very well for those who put in the time. 

Fishing is good in New Jersey year round. But never forget to be good for fishing.

I have friends who wish I just wrote poetry and fiction, because that's what they value and don't quite understand fishing and the practicality. Being able to tie a knot is absolutely essential, like myriad doings, some of which amount to the difference between life and death. We tie knots, for that example, in order to fish. And yet fishing, in essential, is about contemplation, because to fish for something is to mentally apprehend coming up with what we want to know. 

Contemplation involves poetry and the other arts. The quality of poetic contemplation is different from that of anticipating the presence of a trout, but in the way of merging mind, feeling and physical movement of the object, it can be identical. 

And yet another way to consider it leans towards a technical interpretation: a sort of mental browser exists that draws information together in one's mental field that I think--in general--works the same for both fishing and poetry within a spectrum of possibilities mutually exclusive in other respects, of course. Results yield similar qualities: emotional communion and wonder. But if poetry and fishing were very closely similar altogether--why would I bother doing both?

When I write poetry or compose ideas in my notebooks, I normally do it in my study--a well organized study with art and photographs on the walls, etc. But this practice can never suffice alone for me. I need to get out and be in physical contact with this earth and the water that covers most of 
it. Fishing is this experience like nothing else.