There was one older man, an excellent fisher and skilled in all kinds of woodcraft, who was pleased to look upon my house as a building erected for the convenience of fishermen; and I was equally pleased when he sat in my doorway to arrange his lines. Once in a while we sat together on the pond, he at one end of the boat, and I at the other; but not many words passed between us, for he had grown deaf in his later years, but he occasionally hummed a psalm, which harmonized well enough with my philosophy. Our intercourse was thus altogether one of unbroken harmony, far more pleasing to remember than if it had been carried on by speech.
Writers and fisherman venture out to the stream, not to listen to one another talk, but to hear nature speak. There's too much yammering going on in the world these days and it would be a great shame to let our all-too-few quiet outdoor moments fall prey to the din. We go out there for the serenity. At least I do.
But I have to acknowledge that we humans are social creatures and conversation inevitably creeps into the picture - particularly on the road or trail to the stream. Talk happens, so, in the event that you and I should share a waterway (and I genuinely hope that some day we do), here are some suggested conversation guidelines:
We can talk about family. We can talk about our jobs. (Happily, I’ll let you do all the talking there as I have given up that particular encumbrance.) We can talk about women, but be forewarned that I don’t understand them at all.
We can talk about what’s for lunch.
We can talk about sports, but not if you’re a Cowboys, or a Yankees, fan. We can talk about the cool cars we’ve owned over the years and wished we had back. We can talk about our wild rock-and-roll days, at least those that we can remember. We can talk about what a bitch it is getting older.
We can talk about conservation, but please, not about politics. Red or blue is not my concern on the water. We can talk about the weather (and what’s the story there, anyway?). We can talk about spirituality, but only in the context of our profound connection to the stream in which we stand, the blue sky above, and the finned creatures that we celebrate.
We can talk about beer.
We can talk about where and with whom we have fished and what we’ve caught, but no bragging is allowed (remember, I’m watching you cast). We can talk about our bucket list destinations and our goals in life, fishing or otherwise. We can talk about which fly might coax that streamlined dark shadow lingering under the overhanging river birch into a strike.
But ultimately, we can give each other some space and not talk at all. A whistle and a simple hand signal to move upstream. A knowing nod of the head towards a promising cut bank. A smile and a hearty thumbs-up on the release of another nice fish. That will be enough.
Actually, that will be just perfect.