I once knew a really cool woman that I will call Rainbow. She was a pretty colorful character. She was gay and although not a particularly in your face lesbian, she did wear her pride pin proudly on her backpack. She also usually wore purple socks, which I know because at that time in my life, I usually wore purple socks, too. But I am calling her rainbow because her passion was fishing. Trout fishing, to be exact. And if I had to have a favorite fish it would probably be the rainbow trout. She liked to get up really early in the morning, put on a pair of big green rubber boot-pants, and spend the day standing up to her hips in cold, cold water, gently swinging a fly made out of yarn and feathers over her head and trying to entice a trout to join her for breakfast. She especially liked to go fishing in the rain.
It was not my idea of a good time. How about yours? I don’t like to be cold. I don’t particularly like to be wet. Even though I often do I really don’t like to get up early all that much. But Rainbow talked so enthusiastically about fishing that one day, I decided to give it a try. In my own way.
I did not have a fishing pole. And although Rainbow offered to lend me one of hers, I was fine with a stick. It was a very nice stick, smooth and a little crooked, with some scars where smaller branches had been broken off. I also didn’t have any fishing line. Rainbow had many spools, of many different thicknesses that she called “tests.” I learned later that “test” referred to the weight of fish the line could theoretically hold without breaking. “Test” probably plays a major role in theonethatgotaway stories that I often heard when I lived in Maine. But I didn’t have any spools of any test fishing line. So I used a piece of string, tied to the end of my stick. It was a very dangly piece of string; any fun loving cat would have been proud.
Rainbow also had a bunch of little silver metal cases that held her hooks. When you are trying to catch trout, the hooks are called flies, because that is what trout eat, and that is what the hooks look like. Rainbow sometimes tied her own, looking intently at pictures in an insect guide and trying to recreate the tastiest looking fly. I tried this once, and it was pretty fun. But my fly ended up looking more like the very hungry caterpillar at the end of his progressive dinner and after he had slithered through a very messy paint store. So my fly probably wouldn’t have caught any trout. But that was okay, because I didn’t really want to catch any trout anyways. Has anyone ever heard of trout sushi?
So there I was, sitting on a rock, holding my stick and dangling the string in the water. Sometimes, people, usually grandfatherly men, would walk by. “Anything bitin’?” they’d say. “Nope,” I’d say back with a smile. And sometimes, just for show, I would jiggle my string a little. They would nod knowingly and move on, and I would go back to fishing.
Needless to say, I didn’t catch any fish that day. But I still had fun. For Rainbow, fishing was about the adventure, the thrill, the anticipation of success. For me, fishing was an excuse to take a little time by myself, to sit and think while I held my stick and dangled my string in the water. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day.