Austen puts very few “sports” in her books, but fishing is one of them. And she gave this noble pursuit to two of my favorite men – Darcy and Uncle Gardiner. Others may like to fish, but these are the two who seem to relish the adventure and the only two Austen puts forth.
Today I’m feeling a little like Pride and Prejudice’s Uncle Gardiner. I expected he was the most excited – even honored – to be invited fishing. He was “very fond of fishing” and I imagined him salivating at the sight of Pemberley’s streams and in awe of Darcy’s invitation. But the rest is left to our imagination…
Mr. Gardiner left them soon after breakfast. The fishing scheme had been renewed the day before, and a positive engagement made of his meeting some of the gentleman at Pemberley before noon.
Nothing about the fish… The place they fished… The conversation… The lures… The flies… The pursuit… Now I feel like Mrs. Bennet lamenting Lydia’s improper wedding announcement. “without there being a syllable said of her father, or the place where she lived, or anything…”
Austen never took us places she could or did not go. Anything she could directly experience was outside her purview and, therefore, ours. But here I am… I’ve gone fishing with the men. My father, my husband and my son asked me to join them this week in Patagonia to fly fish. And I can’t wait to experience all that Austen withheld: The fish… The place… The conversation… The lures… The flies… The pursuit…
So next month, I’ll tell you all about it. But for this month, I’ll share with you how much it’s been on my mind lately. Here is a quick scene from my upcoming book, The Austen Escape (HarperCollins, Nov. 2017).
I turned my attention to the bank beneath me. Rather than slope into the water, it cut a jagged descent to a foot below us. The water ran fast in the center of the stream, making little white bubbles and ripples as it passed over submerged rocks. The water near the shore moved more slowly, creating whorls and eddies in the current. Closest to the shore, right beneath me, the water sat like glass.
“That’s where you want to cast first.” Nathan moved closer. “Right at the shore line. It even digs in a little beneath you. Fish love to hide in those crannies. They get the bugs that drop from the land into the water and if you start there, you can work your way out without losing the chance for them. If you start out and come in, you’ll spook any fish hiding close long before your fly gets to them.”
I let the fly drop.
“Do you know what to do?”
I shook my head. “I used to fish with my mom, years ago, but only spinner rods for catfish or bass in a little lake near our house.”
“This isn’t too far off that. Watch.” He stepped back and bent his arm. His rod pointed straight up. “Pretend there’s a clock on your shoulder. Up to midnight. Pause. Smooth to ten o’clock. Pause again to send the line out. Then drop the tip down to nine or eight.”
“Do it again.” The fluidity of the motion was mesmerizing and the line shot straight, despite the breeze, at least twenty feet into the stream. “It’s like you’re cutting the wind with nothing at all. Did you mean to do that?”
“Of course. I’m trying to impress you.” He smiled. “That was one of my better casts. The next will probably be a disaster.” He cast again. “It’s all in the plane of your cast. That controls the loop of your line. You want to keep it straight. No loop is best.” He pulled the line in and let it puddle at this feet then cast once more.
“Amazing. The physics of it, the lines and angles… Once more.”
He cast again, and with the most wonderful grin. “You try.”
I did. It was a jerky motion that sent the fly two feet and plopped it in the water right along the shore.
“It’s a good start.”
“Liar.” I pulled in the line as he had — it caught on the hem of my dress.
“You’re right.” Nathan laughed then swung his head in an exaggerated motion as if that was the only way to become serious once more. “Try again. Think of it like flicking paint off a paintbrush. Pretend you’re Jackson Pollock.”
“Well then…” I did exactly what he said and fared no better. But it didn’t matter.
Nathan knelt and untangled the line from around my feet.
“I’m clearly not an artist.”
“It takes time.” He cast again.
After a few minutes, I reeled in my line and watched him.
He spared me only a glance. “My grandfather used to say that everything in the world could be solved at the cadence of a cast. Think about things, don’t rush them, get a feel for them, live organically, meaning you give, you accept, you engage in life around you. Live life like you cast.” He bent his arm again, and with fluid slow motion, he shot the line straight across the pond into the slow moving water near the far bank.
It’s just a teaser, but fishing has clearly been on my mind…
Enjoy today and thank you for dropping by. Please forgive me if it takes a couple days to reply to comments. I will, but I am in a place with sketchy Wi-Fi… But there are lots of fish!