October fishing is bittersweet. I am never sure if my latest outing is going to be my last for the season before I pack it in and call it a year. This last week I was lucky enough after a long weekend of work to get a Monday afternoon to fly up the hill and get some fishing time in.
While fishing the creek of choice on Monday I was able to slow down to appreciate the simple stuff around me. The leaves on the trees had turned golden and the air temperature was holding in at a very comfortable sunny 70 degrees. The water was clear and the flow was very fish-able with delightful aerated pockets.
I was thinking about the imminent ending of the season for me. This shifted to thinking about work I had ahead of me, wondered about people, life and my personal challenges. I felt the familiar anxiety that I deal with on a daily basis building up. Suddenly, I am not paying attention to my fishing as I like to while lost in the distraction of my mind my cast sticks my fly into a tree.
I pulled my rod in and tried to wiggle the line free. That didn't work so I decided to pull the line and risk the break. The line and fly finally sprang free from the branch, but not without getting itself into a rat’s nest of a knot. Still holding in my expletives, I could see this was a nasty one. I set my rod under my armpit and took a look at the mess. All I could do was sit there by the water’s edge and take a deep sigh.
The furled line I use gets a lot of comments from others because it is rainbow colored. It is my own creation of sorts. A line I stumbled on at a garage sale that turned out to work really well for tenkara. The line variegates through the colors of the rainbow again and again in about one foot color sections. It is very visible in most lighting conditions and casts as well as most of the other furled lines I have tried. At this point though, my rainbow line was in garbled heap.
I have considered knots as an analogy before. We can see the similarity of the way a knot binds on itself the same way that all of the things in our lives can kind of bind on each other. I have pondered before that knots are best carefully untangled by pulling outward from the mess instead of pulling the bindings tighter. You must slow down and decide carefully what you are going to untangle first. If you pull too hard on one part of a knot, you cinch down tighter on another part. Knots come undone when we slowly pull them apart at the easiest points first. Often times this makes the difficult parts easier to untangle. Life can be like that too.
The knots in our lives seem to happen when the things in our lives bind up too much on each other. The demands of life sometimes pull too hard on every part of us. Our fears, obligations, relationships, hopes, ideas, challenges, projects and desires start to wrap around each other. We see how our lives get tangled with these different concerns and thoughts that we have. We find our life line spinning out of control and balling itself up.
One advantage my rainbow line has is that you can tell the different parts of the line from each other. Single toned lines get into knots and it is difficult if not impossible to see what part is attached to what other part of the knot. With the rainbow line I could see that certain parts of the mess were related and more easily untangled. These clues of color actually make the knot more understandable. You can see each color in relationship to the other parts of the mess.
If only the knots of our lives could be as easy to decipher. To this I suppose we could try. If our fears could be one color, our hopes another and our relationships, troubles and cares each have their own color, then we could see that knot as less daunting and stressful. We could pull apart the colors and let them untangle from the places that they were binding on and allow us to untangle faster. Perhaps they would open up solutions to other entanglements?
The lesson I experienced goes a little deeper still. Even figuring in the color clues, some knots are just too tight to undo. What we have to sometime do is separate the tangle as best we can then analyze what can be salvaged and what can be sacrificed.
As I looked at my line I was able to see that in pulling apart and decoding the colors I had inadvertently pulled a knot that was not going to come apart. Looking at what remained I decided to not spend 15-30 minutes of my fishing time trying to save the line. We have to make the decision sometimes to just cut the knot out and try to fix what remains. I took out my nippers and cut the free ends of the tight knot and was able to find my line now in two pieces with a very small section where the problem had been. A simple splice and the line was still usable. Sure, it had a splice point, but it was functional and was a reminder of the struggle.
When we try to undo those tangled lines in our lives sometimes we find that there are knots that we just can’t undo. We need to learn when to take and spend time working on them and when to just cut those impossible issues away and splice the good parts together again. The chaotic knot goes away and is replaced by one that is good enough to hold things together. It is in some ways a stronger knot that will not interfere too much with the function of the line. The splice becomes a reminder of the struggle we faced and got past and we find ourselves back on the stream…casting again.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.