The sun was just about to go down yesterday when I reached the bird sanctuary of Burnaby Lake. The ducks and the geese were very busy gobbling up all the seeds that children, young and old, were tossing to them. The beauty of a marsh at sunset is almost heavenly. This year’s goslings and ducklings are only a week old. A dozen tiny goslings as cute and precious as new life sat on top of their mother goose, nestling inside her feathers. They gave the mother goose a blown-up look with her feathers so puffed up. Redwing blackbirds sang their handsome song and showed off their beautiful wings. This was nature’s show. Wonderfully beautiful wood ducks, prettier than any picture of them could be, and more colorful, mixed with the ubiquitous mallards. The rays of sunset on the marsh, so full of nature’s beauty, were heavenly. A photographer had his equipment set up on tripod, gazing away into the marsh. “What are you focusing on?” I asked. “A silhouette of a bird against the sun set,” he said. “This is heavenly,” I replied, with more than a little hint of awe in my voice. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” he said. I went on up to the beaver lodge. Four or more beavers were laying on their backs nibbling on something. Far off across the lake, with a telescope I saw a mother bald eagle sitting on her nest. It was a magnificent sight. It filled me with a sense of grandeur and magnificence to see this creature caring for her young. On the shimmering water, light bounced and played, color abounded and astounded. Several miles west of me, at still creek where it empties into Burnaby Lake, the beavers are thriving there as well. A few days ago I went to this little creek where before I had caught salmonids (trout and wild salmon), except this time, the beavers were so thick that I could not fish for fear of accidentally hitting one with my spinner. It was an easy choice. I set the rod down and just watched the beavers.
Nature is my truest church. The birds are the choir, and there is never a sour note. Sun, water, and life abounding are my preacher, and the sermon is never boring. How magnificent the Creator must be to design a mallard or a wood duck, a beaver, a trout, a redwing blackbird, and you and me.
Yesterday afternoon the sun was hot and the wind was in the West, so I went back to Still Creek where the plethora of Beavers had run me out the week before. This time the beavers were in the lodge and I shared the creek only with the goslings and ducklings, escorted by their parents. These BC Salmonids have seen many lures already in their young lives and they learn quickly. The poor fellow who sits there with his pole in the water, a bobber and some power bait might as well be reading War and Peace. The trout and salmon are too smart for him. What did I have in my tackle box that these BC fish had never seen? I searched through the contents and came up with a beetle spin, a small lure that we use in the Southern United States for catching blue-gill and crappie. There are definitely no blue gill in BC. Chances were pretty good the salmonids had never seen this little jewel. It has a rubber body with a tail that vibrates very fast, perturbing a lot of water, and a spinner blade that makes a lot of shine. It looks so good I would grab it if I were a trout. I made a few casts under the bridge, then across the creek, and bam—my micro ultra light rod bent like a willow switch. On ultra light gear, a small wild salmon can feel like “ole Tobe.” Salmonids definitely fight harder than bass. That will amaze an American angler, and I expect to get disputations, but I swear it is true. Bass fight hard for a minute or two and give up. Trout fight for their very lives, leaping through the air, diving, twisting.
“Just take it easy,” I said, “I’m going to let you go.” I never keep a fish and never intentionally hurt one. I am there to see the fish, admire it, get to know it a little bit, bless it, let it go, and thank God for the beautiful world He made. That is why I fish. The nice little 12 inch salmonid didn’t believe me. He wouldn’t take it easy. He was convinced that he was being abducted by aliens who would lift him up in the air and perform experiments on him! Eventually he gave up enough so that I could lift him gently out of the water and take the hook out. It is barb less, so as not to hurt the little guy and it comes out easy. Back into Still Creek he went, surely to tell tales to his friends about his abduction. Now catching a salmonid is a special experience. I don’t need to catch many to feel satisfied. It’s not like catching crappies which are so common and stupid that you have to catch thirty of them to make you feel like you’ve been fishing. Just catching one salmonid is a special event. They are like little angels in the creek. This was a small area of water and I really did not expect to catch another one after all the commotion and fracas. But two casts later—bam, the ultra light rod turned into a willow switch again and the battle was on. This beautiful little guy was about the same size and he fought no less valiantly. Salmonids believe in the fight. I believe in them. Finally a beaver poked his head above the water as he swam down the middle of the creek, just checking things out I guess. A few yards down the creek he bashed his tail against the water to let me know that I am in his backyard. Two salmonids were enough. I reeled in the spinner and just admired the redwing blackbirds in the trees.
Today I went back. Would the beetle-spin still work? Or had the two wild salmon that I had “abducted” yesterday sent out an email to all their friends in Still Creek to beware of a little swimming beetle-like thing with a shining spinner blade? Two casts. Bam. Another 11 or 12 incher. One was enough today.
The goslings and ducklings are growing but their numbers dwindle as their poor parents are unable to keep back the crows and eagles that look on them as dinner. Nature seems cruel but God is good and His creation still reflects Him. God is in everything I see because God is in me. I love Him so.
“Any luck,” the passing jogger asks of me as I stand below a little bridge with an ultra light rod and a meps spinner on the end of it? I do not answer back. I just look busy. Am I rude? Well maybe, but I don’t really want to talk to him. The fish are easily spooked, and why should I say, “Yes, this is my special spot. I come here most everyday and catch the most beautiful salmonids you ever saw.” Why should I have to say that? Fishermen don’t willingly advertise their special places where they catch fish! This is a special place. Even were there no trout I would come here to worship. Nature is a panoply of beauty.
It takes a pretty stolid heart to see a red-wing blackbird, a beaver, a wood duck, a trout, and not sense a designer, a painter for the canvas. We are part of this canvas, part of the picture, although some of us have become afflicted with madness and think ourselves at enmity with it. I come as a ritual to put myself back into the picture and feel at home with the still creek and the gentle breeze that flows through the trees and to reach out from deep inside me and embrace the One who made all things, including me. As a part of the ritual, I fish for trout. In this special place, the trout do not really mind that I catch them, though they make a good show of it!
As I cast the meps spinner across the creek and began my retrieve, bam, a wonderfully familiar feeling came into my ultra light rod. Do you know that I have never yet gotten tired of catching trout? But this fight had a different twist to it. As the trout leapt and thrashed a female Mallard duck, cackling like a madwoman from Bedlam, flew down right at me in a Kamikaze flight. I have never been dive bombed by a Mallard before. I didn’t quite know what to do. She circled around for another approach still quacking like I had her babies in my mouth. Down she came for another dive bombing. By this time, I had taken the spinner out of the little trout’s mouth and released him back into the creek. Finally she retreated, still quacking madly. Had her own baby ducklings been snatched from her by crows or eagles? That happens here. The duckling and gosling families have been getting smaller. The eagles swoop down and snatch the ducklings right from the water while the mommy and daddy Mallard can do nothing but quack in rage. My Kamikaze mother had not been able to protect her ducklings, so as my trout thrashed about in the water, she seemed ready and willing to try to save it…from me! We really are all connected in a web of life. Really! As I felt sorry for the poor mommy Mallard who had lost her ducklings, I cast the meps spinner again across to the other side of the creek.
I went to my special place yesterday afternoon to greet the salmonids again, but this time there was a disturbance in the air. Something was just not quite right. “Man was in the forest.” By the time I got to Still Creek, the reason for the disturbance was evident. “Wormers” had come!!! A species dreaded by all sport fishermen whether fly or spin artists. Wormers had come into my special place with their bobbers floating on the surface. Walking all around and over the terrain with their cell phones in hand, doing business while “fishing,” i.e. watching their bobbers! Needless to say, the bobbers were as motionless as tombstones. The trout had retreated from this barbarous encroachment. The beaver swam up the middle of the stream, dodging bobbers. At least I could admire him. But my beautiful trout were hiding. Not even my best beetle-spin could arouse one. The Wormers had brought with them a crowd. Teen-agers smoked dope and played with their pit-bulls. Wasn’t it Bambi who said to his mother, “The forest is different today?” And she responded, “Yes dear, Man was in the forest.” I know this will sound elitist and contrary to the worshipful experiences I have written about. I confess the sin. But it is highly possible to spoil nature. Mankind has been doing it exceedingly well since the industrial revolution. What about the “Wormers”? Weren’t they reaching out as best they knew how to come back into nature? Perhaps at some deep DNA level the urge to return to nature prompted them to pick up a can of worms at the gas station and head down to the creek. But they were doubtless unaware of it With their cell phones, noisy stomping, dogs and dope, they had brought the industrial world into nature. That is not at all the same thing! Man into nature equals destruction. Nature into man equals awareness….and just the little possibility that the thought of a Creator might slip into his cybernetic modern brain….
I had to get out of the house! It was a great spring/summer day and I had been working hard on the computer for days on a project. I was going computer crazy. Those little elfs (“extra low frequency signals”) coming from the computer monitor were eating into my brain. I needed a trout!!!! That is what came into my head. “I have to get out of here and go to my little creek. I need those negative ions and I need a trout.” It is quite possible that I will now have to found “trout anonymous” for people like me who are addicted to catching, looking at, admiring, holding, releasing trout! All I really needed was a little break into nature, and just one trout, just one. So I raced to my car and sped as fast as I could to my secret spot on Still Creek. A quick glance showed that nobody was there. No pain in the butt joggers, and thank god(!), no wormers, that dreaded homosapien offshoot that likes to bring their pit bulls, cell phones and marijuana down to the creek, along with an old Zebco and a can of worms! Thank god none of them were there. I had a new in-line spinner that I had great confidence in. On this warm day the trout would be in the mood to chase a bright flashing lure. My secret spot requires me to slip through some brush as quietly as possible, avoid falling into the creek, and not spook the trout. The blackberries are red now. Maybe next week when I go back they will be ripe enough for me to eat if the birds leave any for me. To be back at my spot bled out most of the tension the computer had pumped into me. On the third cast I got a strike and could see a baby trout as the culprit. He was no more than four inches long. I didn’t hook him, which is a good thing, because trout are delicate little things. Two casts later and a familiar “Bam” hit my spinner. This was a beauty! He was a good 12 inches long and shimmering beautiful in color. I enjoyed letting him fight my micro ultra-light rod with 4 pound test line. He jumped and twisted and dashed but would not give up. I got a little concerned about exhausting him in this little creek where the oxygen content is known to be dangerously low for trout, so I brought him in. I tried the old hand under the belly trick that we use to make bass relax, but it didn’t work on him. He kept jumping and twisting as I tried to get the hook, firmly set, out of his mouth. Finally I got it out and released him back into the creek, blessing him all the way. But there was a problem. He was exhausted and unable to move. I switched from fisherman to doctor as panic almost hit me. I would never want to hurt one of these little angels. I reached into the creek to get him and help him get his breath back. The creek was just too low in oxygen after such a long, hard, battle. It would be like a school kid trying to run a mile at 12,000 feet altitude! I was almost in tears to think that I might have fought this little guy so long that he might die of exhaustion! Finally though, after a little help, he slowly swam away. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “That’s enough for today.” All I needed was one trout, just one.
There are lessons in all of this. Trout are great for life’s lessons! This world of delicate balance requires that we deal with it gently. How easy it is to tread heavily through the earth. That is, after all, the human “disease” with nature. We want to control nature, bring the earth under subjection to us. So we gouge out huge quantities of mother earth and fill the holes with monuments to ourselves in steel and concrete. We like to “develop” the earth! That has now been shown to be a form of madness and yet the inmates are still in charge of the asylum. Any little glimmer of knowledge—let’s not even talk about enlightenment—will tell us that we must walk with a lighter tread, especially if we hope to find our own connection to nature. Don’t play the trout too long! Care more about him than you do of the thrill.
I will never forget an experience I had of taking my children fishing at a little pond. A young boy had caught a bull head catfish and was busy beating it on the head with a rock. My daughter yelled at him to stop it. We were all horrified. That little boy was playing out the game of civilization as he had been taught it: “Bring the world under subjection to you. Conquer it. Beat it. Whip it. Be the master of your fate!” In such madness, nature is the enemy and we are here to conquer it…or develop it for a profit. How heavily mankind has trod this beautiful planet. When we left Eden we founded “The World Industrial Development Corporation” and have been ill at ease ever since. The WIDC views the “trout” as an enemy, or a resource for potential profit.
One of the Bible’s great stories says that God came to feel He “repented” He had ever made man? We are told that was what God was feeling during the time of Noah. And he flooded the earth to get rid of every human being, except Noah and his family, who knew how to live with the animals! The trout were spared of course!