Well, it is winter at Brant Lake! In the midst of the lake ice fisherman have erected their huts and, hopefully, are catching the fish that may accompany a dinner of venison.
Once, many years ago, I tried my hand, or rather my hook, at ice fishing, but two items were missing from the expedition, a hut and a fish. Not a bite, not a nibble. Thus, as I watched the ice fishermen, with a touch of nostalgia, I renewed my own history of fishing–-not necessarily in winter but on a hot August day. I cast off my dock confident that a trophy fish would glide by, savor my worm, and I would reel in the giant. No such luck. Then, in my canoe named the Adventurer I would paddle into the middle of the lake, drift and cast, drift and cast, but the fish had no interest in a desperate fisherman. For my birthday I received a Fish Finder, a variety of radar that could see beneath the surface…”Now, Dan, you can locate fish!” However, I believe the fish owned a People Finder that could see me in my canoe. In response the fish would blow a cynical bubble and then swim away.
My next-door neighbor, Ray, noticed my frustration and, one day, he offered to take me fishing with him. That was a wonderful offer since Ray had a reputation as one of the best fishermen in the Adirondacks. He ranked on the highest scale in fishes caught. Perch, bass, pickerel, catfish. A day’s haul without fail. And now, Ray would take me, a humble minnow in the world of fishermen to where the fish hang out.
On that day we caught a bucket full of fish, sufficient for our dinners and more than enough to sell at the general store. Wherever we went we caught fish. Surprisingly, his first destination was off my dock. Ray chuckled when I told him that fish didn’t live there as he caught a 4-pound bass. We then headed into the lily pond bay but I assured Ray that destination was a waste of time. Yet he continued to pull in fish. He knew all the best spots!
That night, unable to sleep, I counted fish and in the morning I raced down to my canoe, told the worms they would soon be eaten, and retraced the spots where Ray had been so successful the previous day. I also brought a 20 gallon metal pail to hold the fish. On my first cast I mused on whether I would eat my fish grilled or broiled.
Now, I would like to share with you my record for the day. Zero. I fished in all the places where Ray pulled in fish the day before but I could not even reproduce a nibble…
At one point a snapping turtle followed my canoe and I thought that maybe the turtle had eaten all of the fish but in my heart I realized that what had really happened is that I had tried to live by the accomplishments and way of life of others, namely Ray. This cannot be done. Whatever is of worth in our personal life must be gained in our own way. That is how we get through our life. Especially in difficult times. This is the secret of living: What we throw out into the world and what we gain must be specific to each individual and not an imitation of someone else.
A simple bit of wisdom but one that is very reel.