Everything about life is about rhythm. The rhythm in music is an obvious example. But music is merely an outgrowth of the millions of rhythms that we are part of, that we mostly experience without conscious thought. Fishing has a rhythm, or several rhythms actually. Before we get into that, let's explore some of the rhythms that we dance to without thinking.
The big rhythm is our own heartbeat. It begins in the womb, a dual rhythm there, our's and our mother's. The fetus experiences both from very early on, and it sets the pace for the rest of our lives. We're not generally consciously aware of our own heartbeat, but subconsciously we are, and it's continuous until we no longer have one. Much of dance music is based on the heartbeat rhythm. Dancing of course is all about rhythm too.
The next big rhythm is our breathing, again generally we're not conscious of it, but it's there, and it's pervasive in our lives as well. When we are conscious of either of these it's because the rhythm has changed from the base rate to something else. But it is a rhythm that underlies our very beings.
The big external rhythm that affects all of us is the sun's rhythm. Our lives, not just personal lives but society itself, is dramatically affected by this slow steady day/night rhythm. Our bodies are tuned in to it in a way that is, well like the foundation of a building. We eat, sleep, work, rest, play by this rhythm, in one way or another. Up until a couple of thousand years ago we were in tune with that rhythm. Darkness was extended by fire light for a few hours only. Now we are out of whack with this most elemental driving rhythm and the stress that has caused is immeasurable.
Stress is what occurs when we lose the rhythms of life.
The moon has a rhythm, and it physically impacts our bodies in ways that are barely understood. But imagine that an influence so large that it causes the oceans to bulge up many feet didn't also affect your body. Subtle impacts perhaps, but real. Again, a rhythm we are only aware of at an intellectual level.
The seasons are a rhythm, a much slower one than the sun and moon impose, but one that is imposed all the same.
Every day we experience the rhythm of waking up, dressing, commuting to work, the rhythms of work, commuting home, doing whatever we do for a few hours - like watching tv or reading or working a second job or studying - and then going to sleep. Sleep has its rhythms as well. Sleep has cycles of deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep, and so on. Then we wake up and repeat the rhythm. A disturbed sleep rhythm is a big stressor.
Love and grief have rhythms of their own. A long term relationship with a lover has a long and predictable rhythm. Grief has a predictable rhythm. The rhythm of love is a primal driver in our lives. Being in that rhythm gives us something much deeper than satisfaction, something so basic it's hard to comprehend and define. Something necessary. Something that if we don't have, makes for a miserable life.
Each of us has our own pace or rhythm. Walking for instance, there is a clear rhythm to our walking, and it's different for each of us. Some walk fast, some slow, some smoothly, some less so. Watch people walking down a sidewalk and look at their rhythms, pay attention to your own sometime. We talk with rhythm, speak with a rhythm, type with rhythm, listen with a peculiar rhythm that often drifts off into other thoughts.
Conversations have a rhythm, different depending on who is in the conversation and what kind of conversation it is. A conversation with your boss about a work activity has an entirely different pace than one with a friend over a beer. Our thinking has rhythm, we have a constant inner dialogue running through our heads that has its own rhythms.
Rhythm is to us what water is to fish - we swim in a sea of rhythms, completely surrounded and dependent upon them, and yet we rarely give thought to this ubiquitous thing, perhaps because we are so immersed in it that it has become largely invisible. I can sit on my porch quietly and watch and listen to rhythms all around me. A bird's song, a squirrel's run, a chicken's walk, the flight of a heron, the sound of the river, the sun's arc...all of these have a rhythm encased in larger and larger rhythms, and driven by internal rhythms as well. The combination of all these rhythms combine into a symphony.
One of my favorite things to do is sit on my porch with a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up, watch the world wake up, watch the interactions, listen to and feel the symphony of sunrise. It is an exercise in harmony, built on many rhythms, including my own.
I've spent my adult life managing construction projects. My mentor when I first got into this business told me that a successful construction project has a rhythm to it - his words. Over time I saw what he meant. Now I can walk onto any construction project anywhere in the world, a project that I know nothing about, observe the work for a bit, and tell you how good the manager and superintendent are by the rhythm of the project. I can tell you if it is on schedule, or behind, or even ahead of schedule. Managing a project is truly all about establishing and maintaining a rhythm. All construction management actions are in service to that need for project rhythm. My mentor was correct.
A harmonious life begins with being in rhythm with life itself. Understanding, if not consciously at least intuitively, that it is necessary to be in tune with life's rhythms. To be in tune with our own personal rhythms. A stressful life is a life that is out of rhythm, out of harmony. Stress comes from disruption of harmony. Example, you're driving to work and your engine begins a slight stutter - your level of harmony drops and your level of stress rises immediately. The change in your engine is disturbing, it means something is wrong, and from there your imagination takes flight down a path of stressful possible outcomes.
Changes to your life's rhythm that you do not welcome cause stress. Being laid-off, getting a divorce, death of a close one, these are big stressors. Life is full of smaller stressors, like the car engine example, as well.
So, we go fishing. Why? Unless you are living at a subsistence level and do it for food, why? I believe that we go fishing to restore our harmony. Life is full of stressors and those stressors accumulate. They may accumulate rapidly or slowly, but when they reach a critical point the harmony of our life gets out of whack. It's like an orchestra that loses the beat, where some of the musicians get out of tune. It sounds awful.
Life is just like that, when we are in harmony we find pleasure, when we life is out of harmony - we find stress instead. Life you might say boils down to either being in harmony or out of harmony. Rhythm is the foundation of harmony. When the orchestra drifts out of harmony the conductor must restore it in one way or another. One way is to stop everyone, then start them back up again on the same beat.
Fishing restores harmony. Fishing is like the conductor stopping the orchestra, and then starting them up again on beat and in tune.
There are many rhythms and sub-rhythms in a fishing trip. There's the rhythm of preparation, of travel to the point of embarkation, of the fishing, of wrapping it up and going home and putting the instruments away.
They all play their part in the fishing symphony, but the main thing is the fishing itself. Every sport has a goal for the participant of getting and staying "in the zone". For most sports getting into the zone is difficult and short lived. If you play golf for instance, you'll recall those games when you were in the zone. When you swung the club without thinking, when everything just flowed. It's a zen sort of thing.
If you watch football you'll see a team go into the zone together sometimes, when they play with an unstoppable momentum. You'll also see that flow interrupted by the referees or an interception and watch that same team seem to stumble around on the field afterwards. There's a beauty to being in the zone that defies description, but that we've all recognized and felt.
With fishing, getting into the zone is smooth and natural and it lasts a long time. Being in the zone is being in harmony and that harmony is based on rhythm. It is a place we naturally want to be, instinctively and automatically need to be. It is soul satisfying in the most basic way our soul can be satisfied. We crave that place instinctively, longingly, lovingly. Fishing is a natural for getting and staying there.
Each fisherman has his own pace, a rhythm to his casting and retrieving and moving to another spot. Just like we all have our own walking pace.
The reasons for fishing getting us into a harmonious zone are fairly straight forward. First is that the objective is extremely simple and plain. The objective is to catch a fish. Many of life's objectives have multiple and confusing components. Not fishing, it is a clear and basic objective that allows us to focus very tightly. Catch a fish, that's all there is to it. Second, to catch a fish we cast out. We retrieve. We cast out. We retrieve. Over and over again. It's a rhythm. It's a rhythm that creates a harmony inside of us. We don't have to do much thinking about how to cast, that's a skill we develop very early on and give not much thought too once we've learned it. There's a pace to the retrieve, we often vary that pace based on what we think might work, but it's still a basic rhythm.
A typical fishing rhythm might be: Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve, move three steps (or move the boat with the trolling motor a bit), cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve...there's a simple form of beauty in this. The slow, steady, methodical physical actions take over. We're outside in a beautiful place, we feel the sun on our skin, hear the breath of wind in the trees, feel the water on our legs, and we stop thinking about anything except the immediacy of what we are doing. The rhythm of the natural world seeps into us. The constant inner dialogue slows, slows more, and finally stops. We are in the zone, casting, retrieving, moving a bit, casting retrieving. Our minds and our bodies become tuned in to this, get in harmony. Our heart rate slows, our breathing slows, our thoughts slow. We are simply there, in the moment, in beauty. If that sounds like a hypnosis induction, it's because it is. We self-hypnotize without realizing. We flow into the zone, and stay there for long periods. The zone heals stress by restoring harmony.
This orchestration, this fishing symphony, has crescendos; the fish biting. The crescendos only add to the harmony, they aren't the objective of the piece, these crescendos. They aren't a necessity to the harmony, they add to it when they happen, but do not detract from it when they don't. We've all had those fishing days when we didn't get a bite, but we still had our harmony restored by the beauty of being in the zone, at one with ourselves in a place and time with no stress.
When we go home after fishing, we are relaxed, at peace, restored. That peace and restoration comes from re-harmonizing ourselves. And it lasts for however long it lasts, depending on what happens in our lives. But inevitably, inexorably, stress returns and harmony diminishes and we reach a point where we need to go fishing. And fishing is reliable for restoring us, for bringing beauty and harmony back to us.
That's why we go fishing. We don't need the fish, we need the objective of catching fish to put us on the water to cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve. It's the fishing rhythm that we need.