Over the years I’ve been fishing (50 now) I’ve learned quite a few things. Many of those things, it will not surprise you to hear, were about the art/science itself. But many were not. Quite a few nuggets of knowledge were welcome byproducts of being nestled against Mother Nature’s bosom.
I learned things about weather - how important wind and its direction can be and how to recognize and cope with changes. I learned about the behaviour of birds and animals - the head-bobbing courtship of waterfowl - the stealthy slink of a marten with trout-stealing on his mind. I learned about human nature by my own, and others’ reactions to adversity and joy. I learned about death and hence, very much about life.
A lot of what I learned would not have occurred had I not first learned the importance of being still.
Now, generally speaking, it’s no easy feat teaching a young boy to be still. Boys were made to climb trees, throw rocks and fall into creeks - often all three within the same minute. Enforced stillness, such as that endured by students and church-goers, was why God invented fidgeting.
Only two things could keep me still as a lad - reading and fishing. Often, Dad would let me fish the best holes in a creek. (At the time, I wondered why. Later, of course, I learned how unselfishness and love go together.) During my earliest forays with him, he would cast my line out for me at these special pools. When the bait had drifted to where he wanted it to be, he would either hand me back the rod, or lay it down against a rock or log, admonishing me to watch the line for a bite and until then, to “be still.”
These special pools mostly likely held special fish; fish the likes of which most boys have never even seen, let alone caught.
So I was still.
When still, one very quickly becomes conscious of things that are tuned out when one is busy. A quiet forest is suddenly alive with sounds - rustling leaves, rubbing branches, calling birds, humming insects and burbling rapids.
When still, one becomes a part of the local scene to many of its inhabitants. Birds and squirrels will venture to near-touching distance. Wandering beetles treat your boot as just one more rock to clamber over. Muskrats slip out of their streamside dens for a cooling swim.
Occasionally, one can become so engrossed in the show around him, that a bouncing fishing rod goes unnoticed for a moment. (I’m beginning to think that special fish, in special pools, come to rely on this inattention in their quest to remain un-caught.)
I’ve been old enough to cast my own line for a very long time now. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to keep on the move when fishing and sometimes it’s best to stay in one place and wait. That’s if your main purpose is to catch some fish.
As I get older, I stay in one place and wait much more often than I used to - even when I know moving around offers a better chance of catching something. It’s more important to me to feel my inner noise ebb, as I become attuned to the music offered by nature, than it is to catch a fish.
And guess what? Although preferable (to some of us) you don’t need to go fishing in the bush or hiking through the woods to enjoy what stillness can bring.
You can sit in a quiet section of a park, or an uncrowded piece of beach, or your own backyard and practice being still. See how long it takes before the local critters accept you as an unthreatening lump.
Try it. You’ll learn stuff. Important stuff like how much more a flower bends when a bumblebee lands on it compared to a honey bee. Or the sound an outraged blue jay makes when some thieving squirrel takes the last peanut from a feeder.
You might even find yourself understanding that you aren’t an interloper in their world at all. When you show benign regard they gift you with the same and accept you as a part of it.
Few things are more rewarding than that.