Last time I wrote about fishing in solitude I mentioned that I enjoy fishing with others just as much, but for different reasons.
Yesterday I took a good friend to a secret fishing hole that has some nice Bass in it. He's a young fella, 37 years old, with two small children and a high pressure job. His life is hectic and stressful. Like most of ours are, or in my case, was, at that stage of life. The stage where you are building a successful but stressful career, raising young children in this nasty world of today, and doing the balancing act on a high wire that we all call marriage. All at the same time. Not enough hours in the day. Not enough sleep. Mortgages and car payments and insurance payments and dental bills and trying to save for the future and the way we worry about our young children and so much more...you know the compression that puts on you. You KNOW the pressure I'm talking about. You've either been there, or you are there.
For my friend, fishing acts as a pressure relief valve like the one on a high pressure boiler - it keeps the boiler from exploding. It used to be that way for me, but I've built that career and raised those children and the marriage has been through the bumps and is pretty settled (most of the time). So I understand the drive for him, although that is no longer the drive for me.
I invited him to go fishing with me and all but promised him some fine Bass if he would allow me to show him how I go about about catching them. He agreed and drove out from the big city to my end of the road in the middle of nowhere place - and we were soon wading in the river.
It took about 20 minutes before he caught the first one. In that 20 minutes I noticed that he was pretty tense, his jaw was set tight and while he talked and acted as friendly as always his movements were stiff and jerky. His voice was even tight. In other words, he was wound up tighter than a dollar watch. But the good news was that he was getting looser by the minute.
Then he caught the first Bass and boy did he have fun. He was using my 5 wt fly rod and he had a real fight on his hands. It was a total blast to watch. When he finally got that one in he told me that he could feel the fish so much better on the fly rod than he had imagined. It was a nice Bass, but a better one was coming in a while.
When he cast out the next time he was no longer stiff and tense. He was smiling even though he didn't realize it. He was relaxed and enjoying life. If he had stopped right then it would alrleady have been a great fishing trip for him. The next Bass was just as nice as the first, and he had a better idea of how to bring it in on a fly rod and that went more smoothly.
On his next cast he was a tickled little boy. I swear I was watching an 8 year old boy at play now. His concentration was intense but relaxed, his body language was completely different, his moves smooth but unstudied. He was in a word, happy. Then he caught the big one.
This was a huge, super strong Bass that took the fight to him - in both hands. He and the Bass were fighting over control of the rod. This Bass made several lunging runs that had my friend holding on for dear life. It took a while to get this one to hand, but when he did and I took his picture it was one deliriously happy young man I was looking at. I'd like to share the photo, but that would be violating his privacy and my new rule about not promoting my fishing spot. This was a personal best for him, an 8 pound 23 inch LMB. A personal best by a considerable margin I might add.
In about an hour and a half he had gone from a tension filled man to a joy filled kid. It was an astonishing and amazing transformation to watch. And that, right there, THAT RIGHT THERE, that is what I love most about fishing with other people. Not catching fish myself, but watching the pleasure that my friends get from catching fish. Watching them become relaxed. Watching them shed life's burdens and turn into kids again. Enjoying their success with them - it is so much better than catching the fish yourself.
When my friend left for the day, 5 hours after arriving, to go home, he left a different person than the one that arrived. He moved differently, the speed of his speech was slower, the pitch of his voice was lower and more relaxed, his body language spoke of loving life instead of stress. He went home to his young and loving family relaxed and re-inspired and ready. He went home in far better shape than any other activity could have possibly provided him.
He went home healthy in attitude.
You can't buy that. You can't buy the pleasure of helping that to happen. There is no movie you can ever watch that is even remotely as interesting as watching a good friend catch a good fish.
So yes. I do like to fish alone. And yes. I do like to fish with other people just as much. Totally different reasons, but totally equal in pleasure.