Monday, April 2, 2012

Opening Day 2012

I have faithfully participated in opening day of trout fishing season for nearly 60 years. Floods, blizzards, freezing temperatures often dampened my spirits, but still I went out.

It is my habit to awaken before dawn in order to hit the streams at daybreak. But this year, at least for a while, it appeared that my record would end. I had caught a cold that turned into something even worse and this included chills and even a 4-a.m. case of hives.

So I called my fishing buddy and told him he would have to go it alone this year. He was worried, since he knew how much opening day means to me. But I was physically unable to participate. So I went back to sleep and slept until 9:30, at which point I dressed and prepared for church. I’m a member-in-discernment at Brooks Congregational church, which is to say I’m a lay preacher in the process of becoming licensed.

And this was Palm Sunday, my first Palm Sunday. I had worked hard on the service and dearly wanted to attend, and I did. But it was on shaky legs, to say the least.

While walking into church, I met my friend Ray and the first thing he asked me was “How many did you catch?” I revealed the sad truth that I was ill and did not go fishing…for the first time in nearly 60 years.

During the service, Ray asked to make an announcement and he told the congregation my story about being too sick to go fishing. And then he passed me a can of sardines, saying that now I at least had some fish to take home.

Everyone broke out laughing, including me. I was touched, too, to know that people cared.

After church I went home and sat down. The sun shone outside and the temperature was nearing 50. I still felt poorly, but not quite as bad as earlier. While I wasn’t quite up to a long or extended trip, it seemed that a brief excursion down a local stream (one that few if any people fish because of a dense, alder jungle that makes travel terribly difficult) and at least give a try at redeeming myself.

As it turned out, the stream was red-hot, filled with trout. I lost many, because it was impossible to lift them out of the water on account of the dense canopy of alders, vines and other impediments. But I managed to release four and keep 5.

Returning home, I pondered my day. And while I was grateful that I was able to once again hit the streams on opening day, I thought about my morning’s catch, that can of sardines.

I think if I had to rank the morning and afternoon in order of importance, I would choose the morning. That can of sardines meant more to me than all the trout in the world.

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