Dave's blog about taking a stand is an excellent piece of writing, and plays right into what I was thinking about yesterday after coming in from a great day of fishing.
What is it about fishing that is so good? Why do I fish? Why do I keep fishing? That's hard to boil down to a single element because there are so many things about fishing that I truly love. But, using reduction logic I think I may be getting close to an answer, at least for me. The answer, of course, can't possibly be the same for everyone - but I'll bet dollars to donuts right now that my own personal answer plays a large part in your own personal answer.
If I remove only one element from fishing, only one removal would stop me from fishing. Remove the bird watching for example and I would still fish. But remove the fighting of the fish, if the fish just lay still as I bring them in, I truly believe my fishing days would end right there. If all the fish did was drag in like a stick the pleasure would be completely gone.
Why? What is it about having a fish on the line resisting being caught? What does that have to do with anything? More tough questions, but I think I know what it is - again for me, maybe not entirely for you.
I love the way bluegills fight. Those little guys (little in comparison to larger species that is) have more heart in their struggle than any others I have ever caught. If there is a harder fighting fish for its size I don't kinow of it. That fight is what I love. That struggle to stay away from me, to return to its free life is what keeps me fishing.
On the surface it seems a cruel kind of pleasure to take. It is a blood sport, make no mistake. Even though I release the fish, there is an element of physical harm to it, small damage to be sure, but certainly even a small hole in its mouth is damage. The debate about whether fish feel pain or not is specious at best. How could they not? If fish didn't feel pain they would never survive to grow big. So, yes, I believe there is a certain amount of cruelty to this sport. I do not go around being cruel to animals, yet I keep fishing.
Why? I think the reason is that when I catch a fish it puts up a good fight, Yesterday after catching a bunch of great fighting fish I came home exhilirated. Physically exhausted from hours of wading in current and climbing the steep bank, but psychically charged up and pumped. Had those fish just gone immobile on cacthing them, there's no way I would have felt that way. I think that struggle from the fish provides the answser.
During that struggle something inside us changes, something the fish gives us with his struggle makes that change happen. It reaffirms our need to fight against the vissicitudes, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that fate is always stinging us with. We see the fish fight against fate with every ounce of strength they have in them, we feel that struggle in a very up close and personal way. We borrow some of that spirit from the fish.
I think that is the answer. We borrow from the fish something deeply personal and life enhancing. We borrow some of its spirit, some of its tenacious grip on life. That borrowed spirit fires off and refreshes our own spirits. We become bigger and better and stronger, inside us, from the inspirng spirit of wild fish.
The better the fish fights, the harder it works to get away from me, the longer it takes to land it, the more I gain from it. Physically cruel? Yes, in some small measure. I don't kid myself about that. But the fish recovers, heals, doesn't stay in pain long, returns to its natural element, and retains its full spirit. It gives me a gift, something hard to describe, and I am thankful for that gift. I think that, in very large part, is why I enjoy releasing them so much these days. I thank it for its gift, given so grudgingly, by appreciating its physical beauty and the beauty of its spirit to resist, and releasing it to go back to its own world again.
Yesterday, even still today, I am on cloud nine from so many outstanding fights. I gained immeasurably in my ability to face another week of troubles. I'll go to work tomorrow and laugh at what everyone else is gnawing their nails over. Those poor non-fishing sods don't have a chance against me now. I owe that to the fish, and their spectacular will to survive, their fierce resistance to unexpected trouble.
I owe them more than I can put into words, barely having touched the surface here of what they give me. I am willing to bet that this isn't limited to just me.