My thoughts on wabi-sabi have been expanding recently and I am probably getting a little too deep into it but as the Tenkara Grasshopper I guess that is meant to be. One of my fishing buddies recently was joking with me about the fact the if he found it hard for me to get much mellower when it came to the concept of wabi-sabi than I already was. Apparently he feels that I am already so mellow that if I got any mellower I would probably be dead.
Anyway, I have been reading John Gierach’s Fly Fishing Small Streams. It has been a very interesting read as all of Mr. Gierach’s writings are. In one of the chapters towards the beginning of the book Mr. Gierach says,
“Maybe your stature as a fly fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed, and, of course, without losing the faith that there’s a bigger one in there.”
When I read this I clearly saw that Mr. Gierach was describing my sense of what wabi-sabi is. Let me try and explain what I mean.
When I go out for a day on the water, either by myself or with a fishing buddy my goal is to catch fish as is every fisherman’s goal. But I have come to the feeling that for me a fish is a fish is a fish. Size has no meaning to me when I catch a fish. As long as I get to see the end of my rod bend under the weight of even the smallest of fish the adrenalin starts to flow and I get ready to feel the welcoming squishiness and sliminess of that fish even if he or she is only eight inches long.
After having read the above quote I started thinking about how it is always fun to catch a nice big lunker out of a deep bend pool. Yes, the challenge of getting a large brookie hen is amazing once you get her into your tamo you have to smile broadly and giggle madly at the fact that you found her and brought her to net on a 5x tippet.
Once you have brought her to tamo and released her back to hole, you take a deep breath and move on down the stream to another spot and another fish. When you arrive at that new hole and bow and arrow cast to the opposite shore under those overhanging willows you might see a flash of a belly as another fish examines your fly as it drifts past. Knowing that there is a fish there you cast up and across the stream and attempt to drift the fly past again. When the fly hits the same spot again, you see the flash again but this time set the hook and bam, your rod tip bends under the weight of a struggling fish.
You take a deep breath as the fight starts and relax and calmly work the fish against the current and bring it slowly to hand making sure that you do not break your tippet. Once you get the fish close you realize that this is just a baby who will not even exceed six inches. But does this bother you?
If it were me, there would be nothing that would remotely bother me about the fact that I went from catching a sixteen incher to a five and half incher. I would count both fish as fish caught and would smile happily.
Now, how does this relate to wabi-sabi? I think it is the fact that you take what you get and not find fault with what you are given. Basically, the typical western cliche,
“When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade!”
Enjoy what you have and run with it.
I am starting to take the lesson of fish size and my attitude towards life in general in the same boat so to speak. By this I mean that no matter how small or big the “fish” you can’t always choose what you are given so just be happy man.
I figure that with time we accept the reality of our personal wabi-sabi and run with it. I intend to do this every day and hope that you will do the same.
I just ask that you take what I am saying with a grain of salt and look at your own life and fishing experience and maybe take something that I have stated here and use it if you can. Am I trying to be religious here? No, not in the least but I know something might help to keep you going today or tomorrow.
In closing, I want to thank Mr. Gierach for his quote and giving me the inspiration for this post and expect that there will be many more posts to come.
Photo credit: gorfor via Foter.com / CC BY