Lip Lancing: one fish’s metaphor for living

I like the hole just downstream from the rock at the curve in the river. Next to that submerged log on the bank.  Near the cattails jutting up in the air like sentinels.  They weren’t acting like sentinels this day , though.  More like spectators.  That part of the river, at this time of the year, with the early spring bugs just hatching, is a tasty place to spend the day.

I usually start the day down low.  Watch for any new bugs emerging from the rock and pebbly floor of the river.  As the day progresses, I move up and down the column.  That way, I can feed in either the slow or the fast water, next to the rock or closer in by the bank.  It’s my favorite feeding hole.  If it is a cloudier day, those Blue Winged Ones start hitting the water and I can get a pretty good meal in just a few rises.

Well, you know, they say fly fishing — or what we call “lip lancing” —  is a metaphor for life.  I guess that’s true for me, too. You jockey for position. Up and down the column.  Close to and further from the rock, maybe move over closer to the bank.  I’d use those cattails to help me position safely against the bank of the river.  It’s a fact of life is, though: you’re facing upstream, tail-fin constantly moving to steady yourself, keeping a wary eye out for anything from above.  I mean, the Rainbow downstream in the riffles is no threat, right?  Always from above.  They come from above.

You’re in the flow of the stream.  A steady rhythm of the water rushing through your gills.  Rising and eating, dropping back down, re-entering the rhythm of the river.  The Blue Winged One hits the water just upstream from the rock.  I watch it as it dips in the current.  I rise, taking the meal off the surface of the water.

The lancing in my lip stings for just a flicker of fin.  I dive back toward the rock.  An incredible force turns me.  I thrash. Rise and break through the water.  Try to dive again.  Get turned sideways against the current of the river.  Disoriented.  Where am I?  Rise again.  I swim in the direction of the pulling force.  Less resistance. I think I am free.  I get turned again.  I turn to swim downstream, toward the ripples with the Rainbow.  I see them scatter.  I’m feeling tired.  I get turned again. Pulled upstream.

They come from above.  I get scooped up in some contraption that lifts me out of the river and into the way-too-dry, way-too-bright air.  I’m suspended above the river.  My lip is throbbing.  My gills heave.  Then I am out of “the net,” suspended upside down in the hand of the one from above.  I twitch.  I flail.  To no avail.  The lancing in my lip stings again.  More pressure on my lip.  Then nothing.  No stinging.

I’m right-side up again.  Then I feel the cool rush of the water on me.  Water flows through my gills.  I can’t move though.  Still held.  I feel alive again.  Strong.  Then the release.  I take off.  Dive.  Swim along the river bottom to the safety of the bank.

Life is like that. Enjoying the steady rhythmic river when, without warning, so suddenly snatched from the comfort of your life.   When the trout-eat-trout competition that is basic survival turns into the fight for your life.  Some say it makes you appreciate what you have — when you come face to face with your own mortality, you live more fully each moment of the day.

That’s a bunch of crap.  I huddle under the bank, under the watchful eye of the cattail sentinels, wondering what the hell just happened.  I only have a memory of about seven seconds.  After I catch my breath, I’ll be right back out there. In the unpredictable seam of fast and slow water.  Suspended in the water column.   Rising for a meal.

One Response to “Lip Lancing: one fish’s metaphor for living”

  1. Thank God for the seven second memory or I’d never participate in this beautiful activity!

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