“In flyfishing, because of its inherent solitude and traditional non-competitive nature, there is no simple gauge to determine one’s impact on the sport. There are no box-scores, no Oscars, no winners or losers, just degrees of devotion – and, fortunately, this can’t be measured. For every legend, there are many others who contribute with contemplative significance a lifetime of dedication, leaving behind a spirit comingled with the greats and shared by those of us who care to tune in to their ubiquitous presence midst the lakes, rivers, and streams we frequent. It is not the size of the fish or the number caught, but the depth and love of the experience that is a true measure of one’s legacy. Though subjective, in the end this is all that really matters.“ Jerry Kustich; At the River’s Edge.
I sat with my back against a waterside tree the other day, and read the above passage to The Viking. We had leant our fly rods against the bakkie, he was busy boiling up some beans for lunch, and I had a coffee pot on the go.
Either before, or after I read this, I can’t remember which, him and I spoke of uncoupling from the system. By that I mean distancing ourselves from the rat race; moving out of the mainstream flow; ceasing to cow-tow to conformity; taking an exit from the freeway that is modern life: that sort of thing. I struggle to remember all the metaphors we threw around in the veld that day, but you get the idea. I think it is the borderline immoral financial hunger of the well-fed that eats away at us. Of course the downright unjust, illegal and exploitative stuff is included. We chatted about dodging modern day trolls who sign you up to their service in the knowledge that your enthusiasm for it will wane. They know that when it does, they have made stopping of the debit order so difficult, that they will milk you for six months until you lose your cool and take a day off work to shake them. I mentioned some services I subscribe to which used to be free, but who have moved all their cool stuff behind a paywall, and peppered those who remain with inane adverts. I suppose you could say that we voiced a joint weariness with the ways of the world as we know it. We tried to find our escape from it all. He has designs on building a very simple house on a property big enough to grow some cabbages out back. I contemplated sources of income that could fund something like that too. We both know that freedoms, if they come with any sort of safety net at all, require some money. I realised that in finding a clever annuity income, it might mean that I too end up as one of those internet trolls. We had earlier bemoaned that people were unreasonable in expecting our time and expertise for free.
Clearly we were going in circles. It is a fine line. People say of a long lake-side chat, that they “solved the problems of the world”. We did not. So we went back to the important subject of stalking Trout. We recounted great catches, failures, and experiences at the waterside: Immersed ourselves in our collective love of the pursuit of flyfishing. No gauge, no scores, no winners, no losers. Just significant contemplation, and untold levels of devotion to this flyfishing thing that matters so much to us.
A week earlier the two of us, along with more than half a dozen others, had met for a casual lunch to mark the end of the season on our favourite river. It was a convivial and pleasant affair. We were a motley crew, ranging in age by well over 30 years, and from walks of life as diverse as you can imagine. The topics of discussion went this way and that, a fire crackled in the hearth, and good-natured jibes crossed the table about as often as glasses were raised to lips. There was some talk of Flyfishing’s legends, and this was mixed with anecdotes from the season past. I suppose you could say our contributions that day comingled with the spirit of the greats of flyfishing. It occurred to me afterwards that while we were at our lunch, an annual fishing competition was being held across the way, but somehow the topic never came up, and the event didn’t keep anyone away from our table. No one boasted about the size or numbers of Trout for the season either. No gauge, no scores, no winners, no losers. My kind of people! And we sure are devoted to the river which we frequent, and that is all that really mattered.
I look forward to exchanging notes with these guys next season to see how they go. I also look forward to leaning against a waterside tree and tossing some more metaphors into the veld. I might even take a book along. I’ve got two of Kustich’s titles, and there’s a third I want to order before next season. He’s damned good!