Many times, fly fishing reveals what my heart is like. Mostly, it’s not a pretty sight.
When I say my heart, I mean the part of me that’s the real me, what’s at the core of my being from which the joys and sorrows and everything in between emanates. It’s the true me, without all the cosmetic enhancements with which I try to fool myself, others, and even God.
There are many things that reveal different aspects of my heart – bad drivers, good grandkids, medical news, and the success or failure of my football team, to name just a few.
But the things that happen when I’m fishing, particularly when I am fishing with someone else, reveal the thoughts and intentions of my heart clearer than the water of the Swift River reveal the trout beneath. Perhaps I see things better when I’m fishing because I can take the time to examine the motives, schemes, and vagaries of my heart. I’m not sure if it’s true for others, but when I begin to believe I’m approaching purity of heart, a day on the river is a good way to disabuse myself of such a silly notion.
Take this past weekend, for example. Doover2 and I planned to wake up early and get to the Quinapoxet River before other fishermen. We were going to leave our respective homes in the Boston area around 6 am and meet at the Quinie about 7 am. After we got on the road, we texted and it turned out I was about 10 minutes ahead of Doover2.
An inner voice inside me goes, “That’s good, you’ll have the chance to fish in the best spot in the river first.” But then it goes: “But Doover2 needs the confidence-building that fishing that best spot will bring him. Let’s give D2 the best spot first.”
All is at peace, and I feel like I’m a good guy.
Then another inner voice says, “But remember, you really love that one deep pocket right below the best spot. That has been a magical place for you. Admit it, you’d rather fish it more than the place that everyone else considers the primo spot, wouldn’t you?”
Yes, I would.
Doover2 arrives while I am fishing the deep pocket and I encourage him to fish the pool that everyone knows is the best bet to catch fish. “Are you sure?” he says. I nod magnanimously and he makes his way past me to the pool.
But after he passes me, he stops at a run just above me and begins fishing it.
I say to myself, “What does he think he’s doing? I gave him the best spot in the river and now he’s squeezing me by fishing just above me in the spot I was going to fish next.”
Then that other voice in my head starts to remonstrate with the last one, “Well, so what? You wanted him to get some confidence and catch some fish today, didn’t you? Would it be so bad if he caught a nice rainbow in that run just above you?”
“Well, no… But he got the best place, and now he is taking that, plus my next spot.”
No one ever referenced me as having “an old soul.” My inner heart is often that of a child’s.
As it turned out, that section of the Quinapoxet wasn’t giving up any trout to either Doover2 or me on this Saturday morning. They must have stocked it in a different place, or maybe they didn’t release many trout here because the water level was so low, or it could have been too early for the fish to wake up, or maybe the trout were fasting for the day, or maybe we just don’t know what in the heck we are doing.
We went to another popular spot on the Quinie. We were in luck; it was still a little early and hadn’t been populated with many other anglers yet. There was one fly fisherman who parked just before we did; he got out of his vehicle already adorned with his gear just like we did, and started walking toward the pool toward which we were walking. He was about 20 yards in front of us and when it became clear that his final destination was the pool we wanted to fish, we veered off and picked a spot where neither one of us wanted to fish.
Why do I have malevolent thoughts about this man? Why do I wish that he had never been born? How did he become the enemy?
My heart, sometimes, is just a pit of vipers. It wants what it wants when it wants it. Others, no matter how innocent, who get between my heart and its desire are detritus. My heart thinks the world should revolve around it and its desires.
Of course, I don’t let other people see my heart very often. I keep it hidden as best I can because I want others to think I’m pretty good. As selfish as my heart can sometimes be, there’s a reason that it’s that way. It’s been well trained.
As it turns out, the fellow who outflanked us was a really nice guy. I had a little conversation with him and he offered me his spot after he had long-distance-released a nice rainbow. He was so nice to me that he made me feel bad. Maybe fly fishing doesn’t reveal his bad side like it does mine. Of course, he did get to the spot first.
By the time Doover2 and I left the Quinapoxet River, together we had had as many bites as Dan Marino has Super Bowl rings. That would be zero. I was getting to the point where all I wanted was one good hookup.
We set our hopes on the Ware River.
I’ve fished the Ware twice before and have only a small fallfish to show for it. This was D00ver2’s first time. With apologies to the Beatles, you could say that he’s a real No Ware Man.
After stopping to fish two promising places with no luck, our cars got separated as we neared Gilbertsville. I pulled over near some good-looking pocket water where I had never fished before and decided to give it a try while D2 was circling back to find me.
On the second cast, I instinctively set the hook at the bottom of the drift, and lo and behold, what should appear at the end of my line but a chunky stocked rainbow. I finally had a bite; wonders never cease. I savored the tug of war as the trout and myself pulled from opposite ends of the fly line. He was powerful, as was the water, and he managed to pull free after a spirited battle. But man, did I feel better.
As Doover2 was pulling up, he watched me set the hook on a similar rainbow. This time I got him to the edge of the net before the fish said, “Sayonara, loser.” All I had wanted was one good hookup, and I had had two. I should be elated. But I wasn’t. I wanted to catch as many trout as I could. And I wanted them to reach the net.
That’s another thing about my heart. It is never satisfied.
I lucked out and netted several big stockies, but Doover2 wasn’t getting any action. I offered to switch locations with him, gave him a couple of the hot flies (soft-hackle Hare’s Ears), and stopped fishing for a while to see if I could detect any flaws in his delivery. My heart was in a good place for a change. I really did want him to tie into some nice trout. My heart’s not all bad all the time. But it sure is fickle.
As we were standing in the middle of the river together talking, I cast over into an area that D2 had just finished fishing. My indicator hesitated, I set the hook, and something began pulling erratically downriver. It was a 24” brown stick. Doover2 reacted, “I’m so glad that wasn’t a fish. I would have been so jealous.” It was good for me to hear that I wasn’t the only one whose heart is revealed by the river.