Early morning sun peeks up, turning the horizon a pale shade of orange and the air out in the marsh is hot and thick despite the fact that it’s still mostly dark. As a rule, I hate getting up early, but I’ll gladly do it to go fishing. So we woke up before light to hook up the boat, to load the coolers and the lines into their little compartments, to get gas and drive to the launch, backing the boat into the languid waters of Bayou Lafourche just as dawn broke. We watch the sun rise over the marsh grass from the rocking boat, and cast our lines toward the banks.
It’s easy to think of fishing as, well, centered around catching fish, but for me the fish are merely an excuse to get out here, away from civilization, somewhere where the cell phones don’t work. Out here our only concession to modernity is the boat motor, because push polling is very, very hard work. But once we find a good spot and cut the engine, we could be fishing in any age. While the pace of life in the wider world has accelerated, and while technologies like guns have made hunting on land less daunting, we are still today using much the same technology to catch food out of the water as we have for centuries. The most obvious requirement of ancient hunting techniques? Patience. You must wait for the prey to come to you. So we stand in the boat and wait for a bite.
This patience is learned, but once you have a handle on it, fishing patience begets other gifts: peace, clarity, thinking time all come with watching the cork bob in the shimmering water. You start to zone out, to approach a different kind of living. You live on nature’s time, at nature’s whim, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. So you wait and think and realize that this might make more sense than rushing to the grocery store, that here you’re connected to your food, to the world that provides it to you. You realize that conceding this time to the world is an ancient practice, a unifying, global practice that connects not only all humans but all animals. All life must respect the timing of nature. Usually, just as all the pieces start to fall into place, and you think you just about understand the purpose of life, you notice a tug on your line, you notice that your cork has disappeared, and your concentration breaks as you reel in your catch.