At some point, in the progression of human society, we stopped being a part of nature. We quit being a participant and began to become an influencer. We were no longer forced to play by the rules that nature dictates because we learned that we could change the rules. We could step out of our roles as players buffeted by the great forces of weather, migrations and natural selection. The size of our concentrated populations was no longer decided by the amount of food made naturally available. We began to take the bounties of the earth and mold them to serve our purposes. Whether it was sowing seeds in order to change the amount of food offered in a certain location, or reshaping a stone to allow us to harvest more wild game; the rules were now under our control. We became miniature gods.
Some thousands of years later, we find ourselves where we are today; questioning the global implications of rewriting nature’s rules. What we fail to examine is the personal implications of having lost the ability to participate in nature without influencing it. We have become so removed for being in the game, that we no longer know how to play. Most of us will go our entire lives without spending one moment being a participant. Even when we attempt to enjoy nature we are outside of it. We have extracted ourselves so completely from being participants that we no longer fit back into the game. When we camp, it is with propane stoves and in camping spots with paved parking areas. When we hike, it is on man-made paths with hand-rails and steps on the inclines. We no more participate in nature than we participate in a football game we are watching from the stands.
I have spent my entire life in the outdoors. From constantly exploring when I was a child, to hunting as soon as I was of age, to camping every weekend as I was growing up. I love being outdoors and I love all that nature has to offer, but I had never participated in nature until I began to flyfish. All of the other activities in nature that I do are games of human design, set up so that I will be the victor. Pheasant hunting with dogs and 12 gauges; Fishing with Ratl’n Rapalas and fish finders.
Flyfishing is different. My job is to influence nothing. I need to make no waves; cast no shadow. I must make my casting motion invisible to the fish. I must hold 40 feet of line in the air, letting it touch nothing, back and forth and then lay it gently on the water without making a ripple. I need to cast a tiny fly tied to a piece of plastic string across currents of varying speeds and then work that line so that the fly floats as though it isn’t tied to anything. A dead drift. It is maximum effort focused on minimum influence. Strive to vanish. Struggle to disappear. Endeavor not to be. Only as I approach apparition status, do I begin to participate in nature.
There is a peace that comes with such an intense focus on being as translucent as possible; something serene in the act of total focus on becoming nothing. Flyfishing is teaching me something, I am just not sure I know what it is.