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So Much Water, So Little Time

June 9, 2009

By King Montgomery

Sometimes getting a little closer to death reminds us of how tenuous life really is and how brief a time we have to spend on this green and blue rock hurtling through endless space.  If you ever get a chance to peer ever so briefly into the other side -- to "cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees" as General Stonewall Jackson said just before he died in 1863 -- you'll know what I mean.

I've come close to death a few times: in childhood when I lost consciousness at the bottom of a lake and almost drowned; in war when badly wounded in combat; and, more recently, when battling several very serious illnesses. The experiences can't help but make you just a bit philosophical, and more emotional too about a lot of things. 

The fragility of life and the precious little time allotted to experience what it has to offer tells me loving and being loved are the most important goals of living. Another high priority is the quest to see, hear, touch and feel natural beauty, especially around water. And of course, around fish. That certainly is on my short list. Sometimes I even combine the two, which makes it all the more special.

Bob Lyons with one of his first-ever bonefish caught on Grand Bahama Island in May 2009. The fish was released, but Bob is now hooked.
(King Montgomery)

There is much more to fishing than just fish, particularly when you consider all the great people met along the angling way. But fish are the little grails we so passionately seek. When we find them, it's not to own or possess them, but to briefly borrow them from their watery home. To admire, respect and then gently return them to their element. (Not that I'm averse to keeping a few fish for the frying pan now and then.) 

Anglers search for the scaly grail again and again, always moving toward connecting with absolute quality of the experience and not merely reveling in a fish's capture, measured either by number or weight. Maybe in angling's version of nirvana, the fish never is taken and the quest, with all its peripheral wonders and effect upon us, becomes the ultimate, and alone brings fulfillment.

I'd rather catch an eight-inch native brook trout in a pristine mountain stream on a dry fly presented on a classic split-bamboo rod than troll up a dozen 30-pound striped bass from the depths with a pound of lead at the end of the line and on a rod as big around as a broom handle. Then again, there's nothing wrong with that either. And while quantity in some endeavors might have a quality all its own, quality itself is always worth pursuing; you appreciate it so much more once you've experienced it.

Chasing fish in the beautiful places where they live is a wonderful way to spend some of our precious allotted time on earth.

Our outdoors editor King Montgomery invites you to join him for some quality time on the beautiful saltwater flats of Grand Bahama Island to chase bonefish, Oct. 25 – 30, 2009.  He is hosting a trip for a small group of fly anglers with www.grandbahamaoutfitters.com.  For more information, contact him at 703-425-0849 or at anglersjournal@aol.com.

Issue 138: June 2009