Monday, October 11, 2010

The Drive to The Trout Stream

There is something special about the drive to the river. It is a time of transition, as we leave behind our everyday lives and focus only on the stream, the fly rod and the trout. Whether a two hour drive to a local stream our a two day trek to famous rivers in far off countries, the journey to the water can be an opportunity to separate from the world of work and obligation and to enter a quiet, beautiful and natural place.

One August morning a few years ago, I arose well before dawn and packed my waders, vest and rods into the truck for the drive to a trout park in rural Missouri. I was too excited to sleep, because that day was my only opportunity to cast a fly in my home state for the entire year.

Living in Connecticut, trips to my hometown of St. Louis are infrequent at best, and the chance to visit a Missouri trout stream even more rare. It was pitch black when I pulled the rental car out of the hotel and began the drive to the stream. I was determined to arrive at the stream at dawn, if not before.

An hour later I pulled off the interstate and began final leg of my trip down a long rural road. With the stars still in the sky, the first light of dawn was beginning to appear in the eastern sky. I rolled down my widow to feel the warm summer air. I sped up and down small hills and around curves.

Fields of grass began to appear on my right and left as the sky turned from black to blue. It was only the on-coming headlights of the occasional car in the other lane that reminded me that other human beings even existed. For that half hour drive down that rural Missouri road, I was at one with the sound of the wind, the bends in the road and the rising dawn. It was a beautiful drive that put me at peace.

Appreciating the journey and not only the destination is a lesson that Moses learned while guiding the Israelites through the desert. For forty years, Moses led the people from one stop to another, responding to their complaints, pleading for them when they strayed from God, guiding and protecting them. Moses had to learn to enjoy the journey since he knew that he would not make it to the Promised Land.

At the end of his life, Moses stood on Mt. Nebo in modern-day Jordan, surveyed the land, and knew that his task had come to an end. He died on that mountain, his vigor unabated, and we hope, taking consolation in all that he had accomplished.

Like Moses, we will not make it to all of the Promised Lands in our lives. We will fall short of our goals, our accomplishments will only take us so far before we leave this earth. Our task then is to savor every moment as this poem by Rabbi Alvin Fine teaches:

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom…

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage—
To life everlasting.

Fly fishing is almost always about the journey and not the destination, the process and not the end result. Getting skunked, not catching a single trout on a day of fly fishing, is a more common occurrence than many of us fly fishers would like to admit. When the trout are elusive or our flies simply the wrong size or color, we can give in to feelings of frustration. Or we can take a few moments to appreciate everything else that happens while on the stream; the flowing river, the trees, the meditative feeling of casting the rod. Every time we get skunked, we remember it is called fishing not catching, and that perhaps that is a good thing.

When I arrived at the Trout Park in Missouri, I quickly discovered that the stream was crowded and the fish, while plentiful, showed no interest in my flies, preferring the live bait of my fellow anglers. While it is always good to go fishing even if not single trout will rise, looking back, I came to realize that the drive to the stream, and the peace and solitude of the dawn, were the best part of that day.

1 comment:

Newsman said...

So true my friend, so true.