I was a fish out of water. He pulled my waders from the fishing box, tags still on. Somewhere over the years, I’d forgotten this was something we would to do together. He tied flies to tippet for the boys, while I ventured out into the Henry’s Fork with my rod. I sent my line out. There was no rhythm. Fish were jumping all around me. After a particularly bad cast, I saw an 18 inch Brown swim over my feet. I felt at peace on the river, even though the boys were causing a commotion on the dock behind me.
Slowly I got my arm back. They were critiquing my back cast and my husband was trying to give me information from afar, but not too much information. I imagine he didn’t want to scare me away from the river. Hours had gone by and slowly the menfolk moved back towards the house. As the noise around the river quieted, my casting improved. I finally got out to that hole. I remembered to let go of the extra line and it cast straight and far. Suddenly, Fish On! Everyone came running.
Sometimes our communication is tenuous. His instinct is to take the rod away, to do something, to ensure the capture of my first fish. I stand firm. Tell me. He has to struggle with the words to describe how to hook the fish. He is getting impatient and this is the part where we flounder. I take the rod back. We lose the fish and he shows me how to do it next time. Deep breaths. I head to the cabin to make our non-fish dinner.
Later, I’m drawn back to the river. He’s cleaning up. He’s getting kids together. He’s at the window watching me walk down the dock and wondering what’s out there. The glare from the setting sun is on my left. I can’t see the line as it floats down stream, but the fish sound off around me.
A Mayfly lands on my hand. I bring a rainbow in close and hook it as instructed. Tiny little fish. I smile as my hand smooths over its slippery torso. I look into its eye and assure it that this is not the end. Gently I unhook the fly from its gill. I slowly put its mouth back into the water. It never panics. Its body is ready to swim as if it were born to do so. The rainbow disappears into the water and I can see its spotted silver back. Its eyes are on me. I release and it’s gone in a flash.
Later as I will myself to sleep, my own body fills with anxiety and concern. I’ve watched fish writhe in pain and anguish as they drown in the air. In my mind, I go to the river and picture the fish awaiting their fate. Today was different; they acted unexpectedly. I held them in their worst moment and saw the river wash away their fears. May we feel a sense of calm in knowing that something greater lies beyond our awareness and comprehension. May we suffer through hard times with the quiet resolve to live another day. May we always go back to the water for a breath of freedom.