Monday, October 17, 2011

Northern Pike & Saving Grace.

“Don’t forget your headlamp!”

“Dog got it.” Jay said as he entered the living room, holding up the mauled device.

We looked at Banjo. He opened one eye. What?

Arriving at the pike lake later than we wanted, but earlier than I expected, we still beat the sun there and walked to the east side of the lake in darkness. Come to think of it, I never did turn on my headlamp. Through cattails, we ended up waist-deep in water that reminded me of an onyx headstone -- rough on the sides, but with a glossy finish. The wind grained light through the stone lake, and its surface looked substantive enough to stand upon. But it wasn’t. I was still standing in water, my waders were leaking, and I was cold. It all looked beautiful though, so I didn’t mind.

Then the sun rose with the kind of light that warms inside but does nothing to warm your skin. It’s beginning winter light. And after coloring the sky rogue -- like a little girl putting on her mother’s make-up, who soon realizes she looks ridiculous and that her mother is calling her -- she wipes it all off after only minutes. Today wasn’t a day for being pretty.

“If we’re going to catch anything, it’s going to be in the next 20 minutes.” Jay said, breaking me out of my thoughts with a wild look in his eye as a splash and torpedo sent wakes out from the reeds. “We jumped a pike.” Just like that. It sounded awfully back-alley to me.

And so we kept on casting -- for the next 20 minutes. And then 50. And then soon enough hundreds of minutes that turned into hours. We’d slunk down the best stretch of habitat and hadn’t caught anything except my one baby-bass. The day’s light was making our prospects dim.

“I need food,” Jay assessed. “Want to head back to the truck for snacks?”
 
“Sure.”

Because even when you’re not hungry, food has a marvelous way of making you feel like things will get better. It’s some inherency from our forbears, I’m sure. That at the very least, if you have food, you can go on living – and that, holds the possibility of things getting better. Then again, it also holds the possibility that they won’t. Granola and bananas made pike seem pretty possible though and I was optimistic about the outlook. I said so as I threw away my banana peel and walked back to the truck.

Jay looked at me tiredly, his Nittany lion stocking hat sat saltily askew, resting on top of his ears. He had predicted we were going to have to work for these fish today. Jinxed us, maybe.“Well I'm no optimist, but I'm going to go out there and fish as hard as I can.”

And I thought, as we waded back through the cattails and into the lake, that it's like the idea of being saved by grace. You don't have to work for it, and so you expect that it'll cover you...no matter what you do. But what happens if in fact, it doesn't. You question. And so you live every day, working -- and casting -- hard. Optimism and positive thoughts won’t get you fish, anymore than the feathered wings you made when you were eight-years-old got you flight. And while grace is hard to figure out – impossible, maybe – I still believe it’s there, although it doesn’t come easy, and I’m left with knotted shoulder muscles and leaky waders all the same.

Yet I’m also left with the option to fish and live as hard as I possibly can – wearing myself down and out in the process. And sometimes, that's what it's all about in the end, being worn down to a place where you appreciate the little things.

37 comments:

  1. Being worn down, tired, sore, wet, and sometimes terribly discouraged with not just fishing but with life, open the door to grace. Maybe they are gifts of grace and that is what makes grace so difficult to understand.

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  2. And, as Norman MacLean said "..and grace doesn't come easy."

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  3. Any time spent fishing will do you far more good that any time spent in front of a television. Being out on or in the water ROCKS!!! and catching fish is just a bonus.

    Scott / Boomdiadblog

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  4. Mr P. - I do believe you're right.

    ShouldFishMore - That once sentence of his has reckoned much in my soul. I look to it often.

    Scott - Amen to that. And Boomdiadablog is a cool site! Just checked it out!

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  5. The things we put ourselves through to feed the passion/mania. Occasionally I'll be working a difficult stretch of water and it's like someone hit a switch and I ask myself what the hell am I doing here...and the answer is a tug on the line.
    Entertaining read as usual Erin.

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  6. Looks like an ideal fall day. Nothing attacks like a northern (regardless of size). I may have to make catching one on the fly a goal soon.

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  7. "It sounded awfully back-alley to me."
    Favorite line of the day.

    Thanks Reese's!

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  8. John - That little bit of weight on the other end of a line always very promptly reminds, eh? But until then, often, I feel plain crazy. Fishing shouldn't work....the fact that it does, sometimes, is miraculous.

    Rhythm Rider - Yes...go for pike! They freak the heck out of me...but are fun!

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  9. Hello Erin, nice post again. And I said it already on Jay’s blog, no matter how big the pike are, they are always beautiful!
    And may it be a comfort, we hardly catch any pike over here in Belgium at the moment either.

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  10. Appreciating the little things is why we do love doing this. And if we're not appropriately worn down from something we put so much into, what's the point?

    looks like the snacks paid off...cheers!

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  11. If there were no trout to fish for, than I certainly would brush up on my pike skills. I loved it!

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  12. Lonesome Piker - That is comforting...and what I'm still puzzled about is that I thought they became more active in the cold. Ah well. Next time, I'll take "Lonesome Tom's." And yes, no matter the size, they're always beautiful. And the little ones, less frightening! :)

    Sanders - "if we're not appropriately worn down from something we put so much into, what's the point?" Spot on.

    Cofisher - Keeps things interesting to throw a lot of different species in the mix. Give it a go again!

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  13. Its the little things that matter so much............. or at least that is what i was always told :)

    Pike, i love pike, i have spent many a happy freezing cold morning on the banks of my local lake chasing them, i have caught a few too!

    Keep at it Erin, mummy or even grandma pike will be there lurking in the depths ready to snaffle a free meal or two.

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  14. I always fish alone...none of my buddies are flyfishers or species hunters, so more often than not I am alone. Sometimes the hardness of a day hits you like a ton of bricks, but usually something happens that makes you realize that there is a reasoning to your madness.

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  15. One Bug - Happy to provide it for you!

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  16. Tom - Grandma Pike! I'll hope to meet her face to face next time. Thanks, as always, for the kind words!

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  17. Mags - I really love fishing alone, actually. There's definitely a different feel to it, and it's good to change things up a bit. But hard days seem even harder alone...yet, there's that maddening reason we go and go back...

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  18. Pike are beautiful creatures and the smaller they are the better they look, perfect miniature predators all attitude and aggression - love 'em.

    You make the hardest days sound fun Erin, you work very hard trying to relax ;-)

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  19. Ha! That's grace: being worn down to the place where you appreciate the little, REAL things. Well said.

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  20. A very toothy,nasty predator, when talked of in your words, seems like a sunfish.

    Banjo says, correct.

    A fine read.

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  21. Dave - You have something there...the small ones are incredible because they have just as much attitude and aggression, only packed into a smaller body. Oh, and I think you've just described me perfectly, to a T -- "you work very hard trying to relax." I do. It's exhausting! ;)

    Jim - Indeed, and it's a gift in its own way...

    Brk Trt - Thanks as always, sir! And Banjo says, he doesn't like taking breakfast at 4:30 a.m. ;)

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  22. "And sometimes, that's what it's all about in the end, being worn down to a place where you appreciate the little things."

    Maybe that explains my sudden fascination with ants.

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  23. If your not worn down your not living.
    By reading your posts it sounds like your living the good life.

    Great post and good looking fish.

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  24. Ken G - Ants are amazing. That's all that needs be said.

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  25. Gonna have to steal that bit about the back-alley and use it when I'm fishing with my buds, Erin.

    "I don't know fellas, that sounds awfully back-alley to me"

    Yeah, like that. Good stuff!

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  26. That feeling of being totally spent because you gave it everything you got is one of the un-heralded good things about fishing.

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  27. Ty - Steal away! And you know, it fits perfectly for carp!

    McTage - That it is. And I suppose I'm sort of Masochistic for loving it for that...

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  28. HA! Banjo rules! "Take THAT, stoopid, headlamp!" nom, nom, nom....

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  29. Colorado Angler - He does! Best friend ever.

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  30. "Food has a way of making you think everythings going to be better" That is spot on. I'll try to remember that when I'm tourist fishing for trout this weekend.

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  31. Erin... excellent as usual. Should've tuned into your blog months ago. Great work!

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  32. yup, you can't go fishing 'just in case you never find another hobby'. You have to be committed. You can't keep your faith in your back pocket 'just in case its right'. You have to be committed. You have to be the pig, dude. Like a Ham and eggs breakfast... the chicken participates; the pig is committed. :-)

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  33. Kev - ha! Well good luck with that!

    upacreek - Ah, thanks! Glad you're enjoying it now...and thanks for following along.

    Anonymous - Be the pig! I like.

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  34. the way you described the water in the intro "onyx headstone", then the sunrise...dang...would that be called imagery? I don't know, anyway, another awesome read erin

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  35. Travis - I'm not sure if it's imagery, or just the strangeness of my head...who thinks a lake looks like a headstone, anyway...? Thanks a bunch, as always!

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  36. You are lucky that little guy didn't take a finger off! Great post! I have a few gallons of aquaseal still if you need some.

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  37. backcountryfishnerd - Really? Aquaseal? I might need it for my roof...there seems to be a leak, presently. Oy...

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