My fishing line carved out a perfect arc in the thin morning air, flung out the Panther Martin, and cratered a few inches below the jade-green surface of Rush Creek. I sat, cross-legged, on the grassy creek bank beneath fluttering aspen and an achingly blue Sierra sky, waiting for a brown trout to bite.
As a kid, I never really liked fishing. I went out with Dad and my brothers because it was part of “vacation.” An annual ritual or a rite of passage. But I never liked it much. For one thing, I rarely, if ever, caught anything. The hours of soundlessly waiting, taut with the anticipation of a telltale tug on the line while clouds of mosquitoes filled up on every blood vessel I possessed, wasn’t my idea of fun. I came home tired, cranky, and itchy.
Back then, I always thought “fishing” was about catching fish. Selecting the lure or bait. Baiting the hook. Tossing out a line. Waiting for fish to bite. Setting the hook. Reeling it in. Landing it. (This can be harder than it sounds. Trust me.) Cleaning, filleting – a Guy Job relegated first to Dad and later to my husband Chris. (There are some things this girl just won’t do.) A thin coating of flour. Seasoning. Butter and a sizzling frying pan.
But after being eaten alive by mosquitoes at about every fishing hole on the West Coast, I swore off fishing. For years. Until the late 1980s.
Husband Chris and I made the eight-hour trek north from our home in Los Angeles to the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, just above Bishop, California. He convinced me to join him for the annual spring trout opener. We took a week’s vacation to fish the area, which includes the four lakes on the June Lake Loop: Gull, June, Silver and Grant.
One morning we fished Silver Lake. Got skunked. Same story everywhere else along the loop. Except when we fished Rush Creek. The the largest stream in the Mono Basin, Rush Creek runs around the quartet of lakes on the June Lake Loop. The creek is quiet and pristine in early May. And full of fish!
We caught our limit on our second fishing day at Rush Creek. But it was that first fish-less day at Rush Creek that’s etched into my memory.
No phones. No voice mail, calendars, appointments or status updates. Nothing but a sparkling sapphire sky. The creek skipping over boulders, prancing through shadow and sunlight. The soft caress of a May breeze, newly thawed and galloping hard off Tioga Pass.
It was at Rush Creek that I first learned what fishing is and isn’t “about.”
Fishing isn’t about catching my limit. Being annoyed about getting “skunked.” It’s really about being In The Moment. Drinking in the solitude and serenity. Watching an early morning sun pucker gray-green mountains. Basking beneath a sparkling sapphire sky. Listening to a creek skip over boulders, prance through shadow and sunlight. Feeling the soft caress of a conifer-crisped breeze.
It’s about learning to gratefully receive the gifts that are being given – nature, family, friends, faith – instead of sulking over the ones I thought I wanted – like a full string of fish – but didn’t get.
The secret to fishing? It’s Not About the Fish.
This post previously appeared in my other blog, Hiker Babe.