Waiter, there's a . . .
. . .rock in my river!
When I was first re-aquainting myself with fishing several years ago (to satisfy my son's initial interest in the sport), I fell back on what I had known and done in my high-school days: either "bait-and-a-bobber" or spinner fishing. The hope (and sometimes success) was that some roaming bass (or crappie or bluegill) would either be fooled, or enticed, to swallow the lure or bait. An incredible fight would ensue, and, triumphantly, I would bring the victim to the net (and then home, to be breaded and fried). Those early fishing experiences were generally on a small lake or some other impoundment -- in other words, on still-water. I could usually see any hazards, like downed trees, rusted-out car-bodies, etc. And, seeing them, I would avoid them, as I didn't want to lose that worm! I was not a particularly sophisticated fisherman, simply one who cast the hook into the water and hoped for the best (and certainly NOT to get snagged).
As I indicated, when I re-joined the angling ranks, I went back to ponds with my (and my son's) spinning rods. Shortly thereafter, however, I was introduced to the addiction of fly-fishing. And, lo and behold, I learned you could fly-fish on ponds! My success rate didn't improve much. My companions (well, my teachers), of course, saw stillwater fishing as only a part (and, truth be told, in Colorado, a lesser part) of fly-fishing. The "true" sport was on the rivers of the Front Range and Western Slope. Wishing to "be in the know" (or part of the fraternity), I began to accompany experienced anglers on their weekend outings. I quickly discovered that there were some major differences between stillwater- and stream-fishing (aside from the obvious that the water is FLOWING).
One of those many differences was that the obstacles that I tried so assiduously to avoid were no longer obstacles, they were now "structure", and the fish were less prone to cruise about, but to hang around the structure waiting for the current to bring the food to them. So, beneath downed trees, or along under-cut banks -- those were great places to find fish. There was, of course, always the threat of losing the flies at the end of the line to the angler-foiling tree! But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Frequently touted "wisdom" is that if you're not losing a lot of flies, you're not doing it right.)
There are other obstacles of course (fortunately, not as many rusted-out car-bodies). They could certainly snag my line or capture my hook. They are: rocks. Sometimes they are large and protrude above the surface of the water; other times they are submerged, and the only evidence of them might be some swirls on the surface. And, so, relying on my old memories, I was very wary of those rocks. But, as the picture above shows of "Prime Lies in Red", a very likely location for the trout are behind those wily hook-catchers. (There are other bits of prime trout real-estate with respect to rocks as well). The reason for all of them being significant is that the current flowing into, around, and behind the rocks concentrates the floating bug-life into a nice feed-bag.
I've learned, therefore, that avoiding obstacles (or, in other non-fishing circumstances, trying to remove or destroy them) can decrease my possibility of gaining something I want (i.e., a large trout!). The "learning" is to focus less on the obstacle and more on its surroundings. The marginal areas are the often the most productive.*
This "strategy" translates into other arenas, I believe, as well. I just think how much effort we spend on trying to convince the "other side" -- politically or theologically -- of our position (i.e., destroy or remove the rock). Social science has shown that that is NOT productive. But there are many on the margins who are willing to "take the bait", i.e., engage in a meaningful encounter. I recall that, in the late 1990s, I commented to a campus minister colleague that the sign hung on the front of his building that claimed "Dropping bombs is a sin!" was not going to bring in "questioners" to talk with him, but was, in effect, creating a barrier to conversation, and thus to change-of-mind. He was trying to destroy the obstacle rather than engage the questioning margins.
I still don't like losing my flies to rocks in a river. But I'd much prefer to be in a place where I can encounter another being.
* The same is often true in birdwatching -- the area where a forest gives way to a field, or a field to a river, generally produces a larger variety of bird species.
PS: If you would like to comment on this reflection, please surf on over to my blog "On a Bike and a Prayer" at http://duchap.blogspot.com . You can also find past reflections there.