When I was a boy I had the good luck to grow up with a father who liked to fish.
While catching fish is the apparent reason for going fishing it isn’t the real object of the exercise. The true meaning of fishing is becoming part of nature or it is at least when one is afoot with a rod and reel in hand.
My earliest memory of fishing is of catching pickerel and sunfish while sitting next to the Concord Bridge. I can still see that pickerel in my minds eye long and glistening as my father removed the hook from its lip.
In the summers we always went to upstate New York to the Adirondack mountains where my Grandmother had a German gingerbread cottage and my uncle the doctor had a big lakeside summer home. We kept our summer tenting rig at Uncle Al’s. it was wood for a tent platform and a large wall tent and a canoe. We’d set up on the beach at a small lake and there we would be for a few weeks. The lake water was warm and the canoe took us out most days for hours of paddling and fishing.
Later the family ended up in the American west and I grew into a fly fisherman. We lived near enough to local trout streams that I could pack my fly rod and creel on my bicycle and within half an hour be wading upstream casting and wading until near dark. I’d come home with fresh trout which my mother always seemed to enjoy cooking for dinner. As I grew old enough to have a drivers license I was able from time to time head off on longer forays with my best friend Mike. We had a dozen streams and rivers we came to know well and whether rainbow or brown trout we tied our own flies to match the hatch on every stream for every season. It took me through high school and well into college barely noticing those strange creatures known as girls.
By the time I was nearing the end of college I’d come to know all of the great trout waters of the Rocky mountain west. I begun to head farther afield and for a variety of wilderness seeking reasons ended up moving to Canada, first Alberta then British Columbia. Canoes and kayaks became my preferred mode of wilderness travel in the summer and during the winter cross-country skies provide a canoe like gliding experience across vast expanses of snow-white waters.
One kayak expedition led to an adventure along the coast of British Columbia and when my father died suddenly my inheritance was just enough to buy a small 35 ft sailboat. Thus began my life at sea, living aboard that tiny vessel and calling home in sheltered bays where the anchor held.
Then suddenly years passed and I have become part of something larger with regard to fish. I rarely catch them or even try though perhaps one day I will again. For now my focus has become learning ever more about the lives of fish and the vital role they play on this blue planet and in trying to give back to them what our kind has taken away.
It seems to me fish are the very essence of life and this is a lesson that our children ought to learn. Surely they are the most important connection man has with the water world where we are the aliens. Fish are the go betweens, the animal spirits and “familiars” that bind us to water.
I’m not the first to notice the importance of fish 2000 years ago another man gathered close to himself “fishermen” who he found could help in explaining some important truths about this world.
In recent decades the fish of this blue planet have been disappearing fast. It has been a terrible mystery that many amongst us sought to explain with the usual answer, the usual suspects, some form of singular sinner (not us) who must be pointed out and chastised for their sins. Alas it is rarely true that such usual and convenient suspects are the source of great problems. More often it is us who is the problem. But learning that it is us doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. We still have to solve the puzzle and in doing so hopefully discover the true answers and solutions. Amazingly it is the fish who make up the key pieces of the puzzle.
Here’s how I hope to save the world by restoring fish to historic abundance.