Fishing on ones own every now and then should be important to every angler, especially the contemplative type. Fishing with a companion has its merits, but is only when fishing solo that the 'Zen' moments occur. Fishing alone allows you to focus on what you are doing without interruption, and is hard to beat. When a solo trip coincides with one of those days when the weather is good, the breeze is upstream, the fish are willing, they love your fly and you can do nothing wrong, it is even better.
While I may not understand the true deep meaning of Zen, I believe it is that moment on the river when you are confident about your set-up and fly, you stop concentrating, stop thinking, and just be in the moment, rhythmically casting into all the right places without a conscious thought. When a fish takes your fly while you are in that 'auto-pilot' mode, there is no thought process that says 'lift your rod', or 'do this', it just happens seamlessly and effortlessly.
You snap out the reverie only when the fish is tight on the line. Suddenly the world comes back into focus, your senses are heightened, the sound of the river rushes from the background, back into your ears. The light sparkles brighter off the water, and the splashes of the fish launch bright stars into the air. You sense the coolness of the water as you slide your hand down the leader to release the fly. The fish looks prettier and better proportioned than any you have ever seen, and you watch in quiet reverence as it swims back into the current.
You realise the good moment wasn't when when you hooked the fish or even when you released the fish with a spoken or inward 'thank you'. You were 'in the moment' or experiencing 'Zen' while you were fishing confidently, but more so at the moment you stopped trying to catch fish and just fished.
This is the moment when your mind is clear and you are at peace with yourself and engrossed by your surroundings, when the background sounds of the river and the birds kind of fade way into the distance; your focus is on your fly but also everywhere else at the same time. You are not moving your casting hand or arm, it is just happening; the fly is landing where your mind would say it should be if it was working. At that point you almost become a spectator to yourself from within yourself. At that moment, you are in a meditative and enlightened state and part of the environment that surrounds you.
Isnâ€™t that why you go fishing?
Aside from getting into the Zen moment and the Nirvana it encompasses, the fishing overall was pretty good. When you pull around a dozen fish out of the first pool, things can only get better.
The thought that came to mind is that what I was experiencing was 'ZenKara' which could actually be translated from Japanese into the English phrase, 'out of Zen'. Perhaps I will make it my personal mantra while fishing Tenkara style. Certainly it was an exceptional day on the river in more ways than one, and I was pleased that I shared it with myself.