My first 3 years of college were spent studying architecture. At the end of the third year I decided I had enough. For the next 3 years I went to DePaul and wound up getting a degree in fine art, painting and sculpture.
I had pretty much fulfilled all of my prerequisite classes the first 3 years. For the next 3 years, in order to reap the benefits of being a full time student, I had a lot of time to fill. So I filled those years with classes in History, Literature, Religious Studies, Sociology, Geology and a number of others I can no longer remember.
One of the underlying threads through a lot of these classes was a focus on water, whether still or flowing. From some of the first cave drawings to the geology of water to the mythology of water to water used in a wide variety of religious rites and ceremonies.
In one health class I learned that physically we can go without food for almost a month, but a week without water will more than likely find us dead.
On the literature side, hundreds of years of writing by hundreds of writers extoll the beauty, serenity and psychological healing powers of water. For some reason when it comes to writing about angling, the trout anglers are the most prolific in extolling the beauty of their surroundings and the fish they pursue. The writing of bass anglers on the other hand concentrates on fish counts, lengths and weights, and excruciating details about the hardware they use. The rivers and streams are no different from that of trout anglers, but anglers of other fish seem to be blind to their surroundings as well as what may be going in their brains other than counting and competition.
I would love to be able to impress you with specific passages from throughout time of some of these references, but my brain doesn’t retain words and phrases well. I can’t remember the names of books, but if I saw the title I could tell you whether or not I read it. I can’t quote anything, but if a particular phrase sticks in my head, I can find it in the book because I’ll remember generally where in the book it was and on which page I’ll find it, the left or the right.
If I was so inclined, I can draw you pictures of the images I’ve seen. I can hack out in a drawing a half way decent representation of the idea being conveyed by words. I just won’t recall the words. That’s the way my brain works.
At some point we’ve all taken advantage of what water does to us physically and psychologically and we don’t even realize it. We go for walks on beaches and shore lines or follow trails along rivers and creeks. We’re not quite aware of the soothing nature of waves washing up on beaches or the song of water flowing over rocks, but we know when the walk is over we sometimes feel profoundly at ease.
There are times we have the opportunity to take advantage of strategically placed park benches on river walks.
Other times we’ll bring a chair or blanket to the shore of a pond or lake. Maybe we’ll bring a book or something to eat while we sit quietly. And if you’re like me, you’ll just sit staring out into space over the water, not giving much thought to any one thing in particular.
The reason I spend so much time wandering around in rivers and creeks is to get up close and personal with the effect flowing water has on my psyche. To be able to come home relaxed and at ease with the world around me after witnessing a particularly nice sunset. It doesn’t have to be a stunningly beautiful sunset, just something I wouldn’t have seen if I weren’t near water.
Because of my art background I can’t help but scan shore lines for interesting objects and shapes. I photograph them, but I have no idea if the shapes are interesting to any one else. I liked the way they looked at the time and at the time, that was enough.
Then there are times I wander down to the river, hop in and start making my way down stream for only one reason, all I want to do is catch a few damn fish.
Preferably smallmouth bass.
That’s how this day started out. I went to a reliable summer smallmouth bass stretch of water and within the first quarter mile, I only had one dink smallie to show for my efforts.
The next quarter mile produced a hit that I knew was a walleye. It’s a sharp little hit much unlike the thump you get from an aggressive smallie.
The next quarter mile I was expecting to be the best smallie section. First fish landed, a decent sized walleye.
Over the next half hour a half dozen walleye were landed.
Not a single hit from any other type of fish. I walked away shaking my head, walleye in July? That’s unheard of, I thought.
I made my way across a wide shallow set of riffles and hopped up on shore to the bike path that follows the river for miles. It was a mile back to my car and I was in no hurry. I stopped to take a few pictures, to sit on a strategically placed park bench, to look for reflections of a sunset on water.
For the length of the walk I composed what I’ve written here. It was much more extensive, but by the time I sat down to write this 12 hours later, I forgot a few things. I have an open gift request out to my daughters, a digital voice recorder small enough to carry around with me. Maybe it will help me with my inability to retain words.
My venture out turned out to be more than just a need to catch a few damn fish. Maybe it’s the flowing water that does that to me. Gets my brain going in a way unexpected. Or it could simply be the disappointment of hooking into nothing but walleye. At least these fought better than like pulling socks off the bottom of the river, more like one of those plastic grocery bags.
I couldn’t think of a way to elaborate on walleye that fight like plastic bags, so I went with the next best thing.