“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
I love these words by Scottish novelist, John Buchan. I have always felt exactly this about the sport… the art… of fishing, for as long as we have been visiting and living beside one of the greatest places in the world to experience it. To practice and perfect it. The Zambezi, a river that adds even more charm to it all, yes, but it’s the hope inherent in the act of fishing, specifically catch and release fishing, that lures you.
I’m sure many people think that boys Carlos and Renzi’s age, eight and six respectively, should be in a classroom from sunrise to set, reading about the adventures of other people who fish, while never seeing one in the wild themselves, never understanding what drives a person to stay rod-in-hand, waiting and wishing for a bite for hours.
I’m sure we have read books just like this… one of those sweet nights when my bush boys have climbed into my bed, climbed onto me, and listened attentively as we made our way through a Mark Twain here and a Hemingway there. But by spending hours in the classroom of life, with the teacher that is nature, adventure, I think they learn more than they ever will at a desk. At least, lessons that matter. Truly matter.
I watch Renzi patiently casting the line into the dark river water and waiting for a tug, retrieving it and casting it back out… ever hopeful. I see the same look in him that I saw as he sat waiting for the meerkats of the Kalahari to scuttle up to him. I see the same look in Carlos as we amble through the bush on game drives in search of wildlife. Perhaps fishing is much like travel itself… imbued with a hope that never dies. There are plenty of fish in the sea (or river) just as there are always more wild adventures to be had, more wild animals to spot.
Is hope not the best thing we can teach our boys and girls? Is the school of the wild not the best way to feel it for one’s self? Catch and release fishing is only one subject in nature’s classroom but its lessons are vast and vital. Beyond hope, there’s patience, there’s understanding, compromise, abundance…
As Ben Fogle wrote in an article recently that is inspiring me as much as those who commented on our Facebook post…”Instead of pumping time and money into exams, we should focus on well-being and encouraging children to connect with the natural world… The wilderness rescued me. I have been shaped by my experiences in the great outdoors. Feeling comfortable in the wild gave me the confidence to be who I am, not who others want me to be. There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track.”