Guest Post: Family Tradition Podcast - by Joe Evans
Allow me to start with a confession: I am not a fly fisherman. At least not yet. I've whipped a few flies around. I've caught every article of clothing one could catch in a day, except my underwear, but don't count me out on that just yet. I've had the fortune to be invited on a few fishing trips with my brother Tim. He graciously provides me with flies that I waste no time in losing on snags and overhanging trees. And occasionally, he and a guide can find an old blind fish to swallow my fly.
Last summer, my brother and I took our wives, or were taken by our wives, on a fishing trip to Brook's Lake in the Wind River Mountains. The wind was indeed blowing in the mountains, foiling our casts. We didn't have waders to get out deep enough into the water. The bushes all around the lake were just high enough to catch my back cast, and we only caught two fish between the four of us. And we had a truly marvelous time.
It's odd I know, but we really did have a great day despite the struggles. Part of the enjoyment for me was just the satisfaction of improving at a difficult skill. Regardless of how many times the wind wadded me up (at the extension of all my focus)(or as I soared through the air at the end of the tippet) , I was bound and determined to get a good one out there. And, I did. Through trial and error, remembering the advice of a few guides, and a little obstinacy, I was able to get a few good casts into the wind. Progress towards mastery of a skill feels good. It's motivating and satisfying. While the drive towards mastery makes the jagged little pill of a fishless day go down a bit smoother, it can't make a brilliant day like the one we had.
To what do I owe this rose-colored phenomena? I do believe that I owe it to my fine companions: one of them almost as good-looking as me, and the other two far surpassing my brother and I in beauty and intelligence. My wife, of course, I have the pleasure of seeing everyday. My brother and sister-in-law, on the other hand, I only get to see a few times a year. This is due to the fact that for the last year, my wife and I have lived in France. Therefore, it is a rare and generally sweet experience to see my family.
As I sit here, write, and reflect on the day, the memory grows even sweeter. Currently, my family gathers together to remember, mourn, and celebrate the life of my aunt who has finished her valiant fight with cancer. Meanwhile in France, I've spent this week trying to decide how I feel and what I should think. I have felt rather distant and helpless, but I've found comfort in my memories of my family: my aunt and those that are gathered around her casket. I've spent time calling them to tell them how much the time that we have spent together means to me, how I cherish it.
Many of these memories of my family are set on a boat, a riverside, sitting on a dock. I remember when my cousin watched me struggle to swim across the river after falling in and filling my waders. I was glad he was there in case I didn't make it out. I remember my dad putting leeches on my hook when I wasn't quite ready to embrace something that could suck my blood. I remember watching my brother catch his first large-mouth bass on a fly, a fly of his own creation no less. I remember hashing out the problems of eternity with my grandfather while floating in a canoe miles and miles from the closest town. These memories are dear to me because they allow me to feel the love for those that are dear to me.
Fishing can be a pursuit towards mastery. It can be an escape from reality. It can be a sanctuary from a nagging wife or a hostile husband. But it can also be an occasion to tell your dad how much you love him, even when he drove you nuts as a teenager. It can afford an opportunity to share your love for living things with your son who is lost in images on a computer screen. It can be the setting for our deepest confessions of love and confidence.
Fishing will be what we make it. It will only be as good a thing as we make it. Let's make it more than a hobby.
Joe Evans - Family to Fish on the Brain Podcast