You can view fishing the day after you've been taught by a great steelhead guide as no more than a true test of your prowess, against which your ego stands or falls, depending on whether or not you catch a steelhead--on your own. And if it falls, what then? Aren't you going to get back out and fish? And to certainly catch plenty fish again. So what does the acid test matter? It's totally a fiction that has something to do with the necessities of our distant, primitive past. But it's an illusion demanding of respect; its essence, in fact, is no illusion or fiction at all.
I sat in the comfort of that little luncheon in Altmar when I considered my despair over failure, as if the question belonged entirely to the realm of psychology, as if now that we are just sportsmen, not living off the land, what does it finally matter--I'll go back and fish. The underlying issue is survival, those necessities of our primitive past. But we have not advanced beyond the need to survive, as if we ever will. This is why fishing is a serious recreation. At the least it sometimes reminds us that reality tests us, so long as we place our angling in difficult situations. If we have plenty of money and sheltor, it's easy not to take such challenges too seriously. But history judges every civilization. And in any historical period at least some people exist who are life and death challenged. We ignore them at our peril. To ignore others so challenged is to guarantee that dire and grave conditions will come around to bite us in the ass.
This doesn't mean altruism rules the day. Altruism typically doesn't see reality, when it doesn't respect the object of charity. And it very likely is not at all charity which someone in need desires, perhaps an exchange of words will do to mutual benefit. In essence, those of us who have very difficult lives may potentially have the most knowledge to address an ailing civilization, a society that does not necessarily have to fail entirely before it recovers, and improves in a new way. Even extreme difficulty and hardship does not by any necessity imply that such lives are troubled victimhood--it means that such a life is situated to take the problems of the age we are all living through the hardest.
After getting up late this morning--7:00 a.m.--and hurrying my son and myself out the door here at the Steelhead Lodge, as disheartened that I was at taking such a leisurely start on the day, since I like to have all in order and to depart on the earliest instant, and also to have sputtered away the entire morning without real conviction in what I was doing as we fished, I gave the last hour and a half or so of about three straight hours of afternoon fishing to sunset a dogged, honest persistence during which time I had three solid hits. This alone made the day. Without that, I would have compounded my awful depression, deepened as the local rock station blaring in the restaurant at Altmar produced visual obscenities in my mind. I muttered a few disparaging remarks to my son at the table just to recognize myself as human.
But I made myself fish hard afterward, much less out of any hope that I would catch another steelhead than the knowledge that if I just got a flow going, not a great stream of ecstacy within myself, just an honest process of doing it right, floating that egg sac in the way a steelhead would take it, then a bead--which three did hit--I would recharge the batteries in myself and be done with this stupid depression--which is what I tend to think of every depression. The exercise replaced all that confusion with an accomplished attempt.
Most people we spoke to reported a slow day. I spoke to only one person who had done very well. We walked well away from the crowds near the lots twice. Overland trails are convenient. The long walks freshly reminded me of our foray into the Douglaston Salmon Run a month ago.
The Salmon River is truly a great river with an amazing history. Since sometime shortly after the glaciers 10,000 years ago, Atlantic Salmon made their way into Lake Ontario from the St. Lawrence--and up the Salmon River by the scores. This is what I hear; I haven't read factual documentation. This is the true origin of the river's name. It deserves better than my son and I, my brother Rick, my nephew Kyle, and Dennis Fairburn have given it, flying up here from New Jersey for mere long weekend stints.
My son netted this gentleman's steelhead. Three hours or so later we walked the half mile or so back to the lot together, speaking freely. He suggested spending about $300.00 on a steelhead fly reel, after I had informed me about features and I had inquired about price.
Not anytime soon perhaps. But once we got back to my room I imaginned given this river its due during my retirement, and told my son about this. He told me that it would be best if I spent long periods of time fly fishing. I got to thinking our noodle rods will go by the wayside.