The Zen of Fishing
Copyright 2018 by Leah Gage
Leah has many loves in
life, but two of the
biggest are fishing and writing. When she’s not doing either of
those she’s probably bored.
put my things on a flat spot on the ground and just stood there for a
moment, taking in the scene. The sun was high in the sky and felt
warm on my neck and shoulders. The pond was glassy calm, without a
single ripple disturbing its surface. I was far enough in the woods
that there wasn’t a human made sound to be heard. Birds were
chirping in the distance and dragon flies were bouncing from reed to
reed along the shore, searching for bugs to eat. It was serene and
peaceful and everything that I’d needed for so long.
up in my household was difficult. While there were plenty of good
times, there were more bad ones. My father had ruptured several of
his spinal discs when I was eight, and while he had always been a
drinker and pot smoker, things only got worse after that. My mother
was working second shift and my father, finding himself with not much
to do since he was out of work, frequently passed out long before it
was time for my sisters and me to go to bed. I often had to make sure
my sisters, who are four and six years younger than me, were bathed
and had brushed their teeth before I’d read them a story and
put them to bed.
my father got a new job, and my mother found a position working first
shift, but the damage had been done. I had already assumed the role
of an adult, and I was often in a sort of limbo. I was still a kid,
but wasn’t quite treated as one.
my parents would have their friends over to party all night, it was
still my job to take care of the little kids. Once the guests were
gone and the house was quiet I’d sneak out of my room and down
the stairs to clean up a little bit. I’d be as quiet as I
could, so as not to wake my father, who was often passed out in an
armchair in the living room. I’d finish my work by covering him
with a blanket, kissing him on the forehead, shutting off the TV, and
creeping back to my room.
the years this became a regular occurrence, but when I’d try to
give my input I’d get yelled at. “You’re not the
parent! Stop telling us how to raise your sisters!” is a phrase
I’d often hear.
in limbo in this way was no fun. More times than I can count I’d
see or hear something I shouldn’t have while my parents were
partying, only to have them tell me afterwards not to tell anyone,
and to keep it a secret. For example, one Saturday evening when I was
seven, my father and I went to the local convenience store to rent a
movie. After looking around for a bit he decided there was nothing of
any interest. As we walked out of the store and back to the car he
stopped. I watched as he peered in the windows of another car. He
opened the door and took a video that the person had left on the seat
as they’d gone in the store. He then got into our car and we
started the short drive home. I asked him why he’d stolen the
video. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but he tried to
justify the theft to me to no avail. When we pulled into the driveway
he put the car in park and looked at me. I was scared and confused.
My father had never done anything like that before, and I couldn’t
figure out why he had now. He made me promise not to tell my mother,
and as I walked into the house he backed out of the driveway and went
back to the store to return the video. My mother asked where he was
going. I lied and told her he’d forgotten something at the
store. To this day I still haven’t told her the truth about it.
you can imagine, all of this weighed very heavily on me growing up.
Depression became an issue fairly early in my life, and I’d
already attempted suicide and been sent to several psychiatrists by
the age of fourteen. I was constantly fighting with my sisters and
couldn’t talk to my parents without an overreaction. I felt
unwanted and unloved and was convinced that they wouldn’t even
notice I was gone, or might even be happy to be rid of me. Of course,
they were so caught up in themselves they had no idea there was
anything wrong with me, and simply assumed I was an ungrateful brat
just looking for attention.
I was eleven my parents bought their first house. It was exciting to
know we weren’t going to move around as much, from rental to
rental, but the house was half an hour from the lake I’d been
around most of my life. During the summers we’d take day trips
back to the lake, but they were never fishing trips. They were trips
with the whole family crammed into the boat and my sisters and mother
complaining every time I suggested that we stop to fish. Eventually I
stopped even suggesting it.
time went on the trips became fewer and farther between. My sisters
were often out with friends, and I was usually working. Whenever I
had a weekend off I’d ask if we could go to the lake, but the
answer was almost always no. My parents had grown lazier with each
passing year, and they spent most weekends in their pajamas in front
of the TV, no matter how nice a day it was.
all of this it had never dawned on me to just go fishing by myself.
Even if it had, I wouldn’t have known where to go. Most of the
lake was surrounded by homes, and I doubt the people who owned those
homes would’ve liked me tromping through their yards and
standing on their docks. Because we’d spent years living on
Mousam Lake we’d never really checked out anywhere else. I knew
there were lakes everywhere, but hardly knew where to start.
age of 19 was one of the toughest of my life. I had moved out of my
parent’s home, and was living with my boyfriend and his dad. I
had started my second semester of college, and was commuting an hour
and fifteen minutes each way. I was also working part time at a
doctor’s office as a secretary. It should’ve been a happy
time, as I started my adult life out in the wide world, but it
wasn’t. I hardly had time for any of the joys of life, and
while I had many acquaintances, I didn’t really have any
was also having a hard time with my boyfriend. He put his friends,
alcohol and drugs ahead of me, and I was usually left sitting in the
apartment, watching TV alone as I waited for him to stumble in at all
hours of the night. It was a very lonely.
February, after attempting suicide a few more times (I still have the
scars), I decided that something had to change. I took a leave of
absence from school and found a psychiatrist. I had been to other
psychiatrists throughout the years, but had never really found one I
trusted. This time was different.
I don’t recall his name, I felt safe with him. Perhaps it was
that he had a grandfatherly look about him. He was a short man of
about five and a half feet, and was heavy set. He had short, balding,
white hair, and glasses that glinted in the sunlight that came
through his office window when he was reading. His voice was soft and
deep and comforting. Here was someone I could finally tell everything
and anything to with no judgement.
thought it best for me to try some of the latest antidepressants and
sleeping pills on the market, and ended up prescribing some very high
doses, but I was finally starting to feel human again. But feeling
human isn’t all there is to life; life needs to be lived as
well. We talked about various interests and hobbies that had fallen
by the wayside in an attempt to find something, anything that would
bring some enjoyment back. After talking about the myriad of things I
used to do, but now had no interest in, things still seemed hopeless.
We knew there had to be something, but what?
one of our sessions he delivered the news that he was to retire soon.
I was devastated, but tried to hide it as best I could.
are you going to do with all of this free time on your hands?”
I asked as enthusiastically as I could muster.
wife and I are buying a home in Minnesota. I’m planning on
spending as much time as possible trout fishing.”
sounds awesome!” I said. “I used to go fishing a lot. I’d
love to go trout fishing in Minnesota. I hear there are some really
big ones out there.”
saw the light bulb flash, “Why don’t you go fishing
anymore? Did something happen?”
thought about this for a moment. Why didn’t I go fishing
anymore? I didn’t really know the answer, but did my best to
the idea had been planted though, I was determined. I collected my
fishing pole and tackle box, along with a bucket, from my parent’s
basement and headed to the nearest bait shop to get my license. I
also purchased a few new lures and some worms. I was ready.
thought long and hard about where to go. Where was there a lake or
pond that had decent access on foot? And then it hit me. Down some
trails, not far from my parent’s house, there was a pond that
people often went 4-wheeling around. I wasn’t sure that my 1987
Mercury Sable was equipped to handle most of the trails, but if I
could just find one wide enough, with no major boulders or trees in
the way, I could make this work.
found a trail that looked promising and proceeded to drive down it. I
made my way very carefully and slowly down the winding path, all the
while looking for a good spot to park and fish from. It was almost
like a living video game, having to turn the wheel quickly all the
way to the right to avoid hitting a tree, and then left to narrowly
miss a boulder.
I found the perfect spot. There was a place off the trail, out of the
way of anyone else who came through, to park and a footpath nearby
that went down to the water. I put the car in park, shut it off and
I gathered my gear
from the trunk and cautiously made my way to the water’s edge.
I bent over and opened my tackle box. What should I start with?
Worms? A lure shaped like a minnow, or a frog? I spotted one of the
lures I’d purchased recently and picked it up to inspect it. It
was barely an inch long, and was made to resemble a large, juicy fly.
I tied it onto the fishing line as best I could. It had been so long
since I’d tied anything with fishing line that I’d be
lucky if my knots held. I gave it a firm tug and decided that it was
as secure as it was going to get.
raised the pole over my shoulder to cast, being mindful of nearby
trees. I certainly didn’t want to get tangled before I’d
even started. I cast the line into the water and slowly began to reel
it in. The fly lure wasn’t heavy enough to carry the line much
further than six feet out, but I didn’t care. I was fishing for
the first time in nearly five years, and hadn’t felt this happy
Leah Gage lives in New Hampshire
with her husband and beagle.
She has a degree in culinary arts, which is now useless unless she
writes a cookbook. She’s taken many a writing class, and does
whatever she can to expand her writing knowledge and horizons. She
has yet to be meaningfully published.
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