When I'm anxious and agitated I pace. What's running around in my head is pretty much undefined and in the long term, irrelevant. Something is bugging me.
If I can't pace, I weave. Shifting my weight from one foot to the other. If I'm sitting, my leg bounces. First one, then the other. This is something I've done all my life. For the most part, I'm unaware it's happening. Until I hear a voice.
"Will you knock it the hell off, you're driving me nuts." The voice of my wife, annoyed and agitated.
"Go, get out, go fishing. I can't stand when you do this. Fishing's the only thing that calms you down. You know you need to go, so just go. Where you going and try not to kill yourself, will you."
Hmm? What? Okay, I'll be at the creek. She knows where that is and she knows that the information is meaningless. She'll know where the car will be, it would still take bloodhounds to find me if something goes wrong.
It rarely does.
Fifteen minutes later I'm in a parking spot, hatch open on the back of the car. The road here sees little traffic and there are no homes too near. Wind over restored prairie and through the wall of trees takes on different tones. The sound of wind is only broken by the songs of birds I refuse to learn to identify. Knowing their names wouldn't make their songs any better.
Brain waves begin to synch to the surroundings and a calmness envelopes me. The preparations of layers of clothes, waders and boots becomes methodical and unhurried. Water, camera, keys, lighter, cheap cigars and a hat, all are done the same way every time. Last is the wading vest, grab the rod from on top of the car, lock the doors and head for the creek.
By now I have no idea what I'm even thinking. There's a deer path to follow, mosquitoes to swat. Duck under branches a perfect height for a deer, but a bit too low for me.
The sound of the nearby creek, water over rock, I already know how deep the water is, how fast it's moving and I haven't seen it yet.
Out from the shadows of the trees into the stark slashing sunlight reflected off water.
The song of the water over rocks and between my legs holds promise of what is further upstream as I cross to the other side and disappear into the woods again. All of this done with no real thought and whatever was bugging me is no longer even a memory.
I hit a wall of green so thick and dense I have no choice but to turn toward the creek and drop into the water.
Wade to the first pool where I know a 16 inch smallie lives. Sit on a log tucked against the shore and enjoy the view of sun streaks through trees for as far up the creek I can see.
On my feet and a few feet out into the water. Casts into the hole go unanswered till the fifth one, then the creek explodes with a fish that has nowhere to go, but goes there in a hurry. In two weeks I can come back and catch this same 16 inch smallie again. In three years of fishing here I've never seen another set of foot prints and in two weeks, the smallie will forget it was hooked.
I was a mile up from the car and the hike back was leisurely. Wade down and cast to likely spots, catch a fish now and then. The smallies were sporadic, but the Illinois Creek Chub Trout were impossible to keep off the hook.
There is enough rock on the bottom, with the occasional boulder, to make hurrying an impossibility. There is no choice but to give in to the slow methodical wade and cast routine. All the sounds of the woods and the wind and the water pulse in waves and the brain has no choice but to match those waves. Fighting that seems futile, so why?
The power of the water at high times is evident by log jams at curves in the creek. I keep meaning to come here and stand near but not in the creek when this is happening. I want to know what all this sounds like when massive trees are stacking up like cord wood.
The fear of standing too close to an edge, the possibility of becoming a part of the log jam is the only thing stopping me. I have my limits.
The long wade is finally stopped by a fresh tree fall that blocks more than half the creek. It's too much effort to go any further, too hard to go around. The tree lies on top of most of a pool, one that's normally good for a fish or two. Without any hope of setting a hook on such lame casts on the remaining water, an 18 inch smallie cooperates and protests being hooked by almost leaping into the tree.
The walk back to the car is slow and methodical. Walking without watching where feet go is asking for trouble. Too many things to trip over that would result in an unpleasant landing. But then, not watching where feet go would miss the small things you normally wouldn't see.
The short ride home through endless fields of corn drives away the last of the anxiety and agitation that caused the fishing trip. The wife's hanging out on the lawn when I pull up and I plop my ass down in the chair next to her.
No twitches and taps or shifting of weight.
"Feel better now?"
"I always do, don't I?"