Thursday, April 30, 2009


From the Greek katharos, meaning "to purge" or "cleanse" we derive the modern English catharsis. Colloquially, we use the word to signify a cleansing or purgation of our most worrisome troubles or thoughts. For many Catholics catharsis is found in the confessional. Some say writing is cathartic, while still others flail away at a heavy bag. My wife tells me that Pilate's is cathartic. I really don't know, but on occasion it is fun to watch.

Back to the point. When I write or fish, I scrape barnacles off the bow, sand away the rough edges of the day, buff the scratches out of whatever weighs on my mind. Yes, flyfishing is cathartic.

I won't be cliche and say that I lose myself in the rhythms of river and cast, the forms of fish and of fly. No, I do not lose myself. Rather, I find myself in those forms and rhythms. When I am fishing I am unfettered by the mundane troubles of the day. I can choose to set responsibility aside. I am purely myself.


I wax philosophical because the cathartic nature of the sport was especially important earlier this week. Early Sunday morning I was told that my father has cancer.


The "C" word. For God's sake, he's still a young man. I've never seen him ill.


Understand that I adore my dad. He is quite simply the finest man I know; a man of talent, integrity, compassion, and humility. Here, I will be cliche. My father is my hero, and the paradigm by which I judge the merits of my own life. He taught me how to drive, and how to drive a nail. He taught me how to cast a fly. He taught me how best to love my family. I am not now, nor could I ever be, ready to lose him.


The news was devastating, and when Adam phoned and asked if I could get a pass from Boss Lady for a little fishing, I was desperately in need of relief. We spent the entire day on the river, and I barely wet a line.

Instead, I watched Adam christen his first bamboo rod, an 8'6" Montague Manitou, which had been expertly refinished by Charlie Hise, a friend and the Orvis company's bamboo rod guy. The first fish on Adam's new rod was a gorgeous twenty-two inch brown; a special fish not only in terms of its size, but also for its spectacularly rich colors. Even though the honors are all Adam's, I will never forget that fish or my friend's excitement at having caught such a fish on such a rod.

Nor will I forget the intensity of Ben's stare as he focused all his will on a similarly outsized fish later that same evening. Again, I didn't fish much. Instead, I did my best to help Ben (a neophyte relatively new to the long rod) sting the fish he was working. Sadly, our best efforts weren't up to the task, but what fun would fishing be if we caught every fish every time? Those that get away make more meaningful those we capture.

And that is flyfishing. Flyfishing is all about the moment, a snapshot free of life's worries, fears and regrets. A life spent flyfishing is a collection of such moments, snapshots of the best of times. My father stands prominently in many of my snapshots, and I pray he'll be in many more.

Love you Pop.

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