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An Angler Asks: Who Am I?

The old angler's laugh sounded like a howl. It chilled me like a wind. I remembered there were coyotes in Westchester.

“I have no favorite river,” he insisted. “Why discriminate? Like people, rivers have their own characteristics, but what kind of angler are you who doesn’t know that when you come right down to it, all rivers are a chain of riffles, runs, and pools?”

I wondered, are people really like rivers? Are we all just a chain of regrets, hopes and fears? I said, “Maybe you can tell me something I should know: How are rivers born?”

“Will knowing help you catch more fish?” He laughed again.

I thought, maybe he’s right. After all, will knowing change this moment and help me put my thoughts and feelings aside? Will it help me assume the shape of this river? Help me become as tall and as wide as I can see and hear? Help me meander through this hilly countryside for the next thousand years?

No, because soon I will grow old and weak and unable to stand here and cast a fly rod, unable to lose myself and, in a sense, become only what I see and hear, the way so many other anglers—Jim, Gil, Pat, Garcia—also have, the way so many anglers one day will. So in this moment am I every one of those anglers? Am I therefore no one? Am I just a tiny, tiny link in the chain of infinity?

But today I didn’t have to ride the rails and join the Croton Fishing Club. I must, therefore, be more than just a neutral, passing moment. But what? A chain of choices? A self? So when night—a real link of infinity—comes, and I ride the train home, maybe I won’t choose to hear or to see my regrets and my fears. Maybe I’ll instead hear and see my dreams and memories of catching trout and of becoming a father. I just wish trout could choose between dreams instead of deep pools, or shallow riffles, or long runs.

But trout, unlike me, aren’t city anglers. ...
The Way of the River My Journey of Fishing, Forgivness and Spiritual Recovery