There is a scene in Peaky Blinders when Thomas says “There is nothing wrong with me…this is just me having a conversation about myself with myself.” A wonderful verbalization of the inability to get out of one’s own head. To turn the noise of the world off; To not think.
I believe this is in part why I fly fish. Fly fishing that results in actually bringing a wild trout to a net requires one hundred percent concentration. There is no room in your mind or in your body for anything else. Everything must be quiet. Everything must be in perfect rhythm. If you allow yourself to be distracted, you simply will not catch fish.
This is hard for me, always has been. It is why I can’t hardly sit in a tree stand: too much stillness, too much empty space for mental conversation.
And even the moments leading up to fishing are too heavy with thoughts. Thoughts of what the day will bring, thoughts of work, thoughts of fish, thoughts of home…thoughts thoughts thoughts….
Then you step up to the water and your eye measures its flow, its clarity, the shadows, the depth. You step in and your legs gauge the chillness. The downdraft of the canyon brushes your cheeks and makes you consider your cast.
Your mind combines all of these variables into what it considers its best first guess…because, in reality, that is all it can ever be is a guess at what a trout is thinking. More thinking….this time thinking about what a trout is thinking. There is irony in that. You open your fly box and you make the selection… something small, something delicate, something subtle. Your cold fingers knot the size 16 soft hackle to a hares ear dropper…you pace the depth with the strike indicator, and then you paint the stream. Near to far as you work from back to front…minding the current and eddies… keeping your arm in perfect timing to prevent the slightest of drag. Lift, flip, repeat.
The water seems to slow a bit, the sound of water over rock quiets, the birds and the breeze become an unnoticed background harmony….as all of your focus is on that tiny fly beneath the surface.
And then, in an instant, the line goes taunt and you gently, yet firmly, set the hook. The world is now alive as you focus all your being on bringing trout to net. There are few ways to hook a trout and a myriad of ways to lose one, but the line is tight as you bring it to calm water.
Then, for a moment, you hold perfection.
To bring a wild trout to net on a fly is an accomplishment, yes, but is more. It is beautiful. It is perfect peace. It is what can be achieved when we focus on the moment.
If we, if I, could only learn to view life as a stream and all that surrounds it as the symphony. If we could focus our energy on what is occurring now, what is important now, what is subtle that needs to be noticed, and on what small parts make the whole… then we could find the tranquility of being alive in each moment, appreciate those there with us, and understand that time gone by us, like water, will not ever come back.