Her hips swayed in opposition to her arms. Hands held just so -- fingers extended, as if accentuating the beat. Head bent. Neck elongated, in contrast to her chin and closed eyes downcast. Gazing past her swaying thighs and knees and feet and toes, pointed just so. To her daughter. The mother was not watching the daughter. The mother was dancing with her pre-teen daughter. And I was a voyeur -- captivated by this innocent couple dancing along side the stage of a outdoor music festival.
I was sitting in the grass enjoying the music, a rhythmic mix of drum and guitar that thumped an endless dance tune. The summer sun was beating down, warming the gathered crowd into a perfect reverie of delicious relaxation. Except for the little girl dancing with her mother. She was exuberant. She tapped, tapped, tapped with the rhythm ... mostly. Bare feet shuffling and stomping and tapping with arms akimbo. Fingers snapping, this way and that. Head jerking -- occasionally seeking a sideways glance of approval from her mother. Mostly ... mostly ... she simply danced to an inner driving energy, led by the drum. She duplicated the base beat while the mother smoothed out the recurring rhythm line and built on the sensuality of the intricate harmonies.
And I was taken back in time to fishing with my mother. One of those early times. When my Mom put a fly rod in my hand and waded upstream of me. And we fished side-by-side. My mother has always had a graceful, intuitive cast. My mother has always mended the line with a subtle rod lift or twitch of the tip, correcting the drift of the fly into a feeding line enticing the trout to come take a look ... if nothing else. My mother moves as if she is connected to land and water and air with an intimacy to make one blush. At least that was the recollection of this ghost of a ten-year-old me, who had managed once again to wrap her fly around the choke cherry bushes crowding the bank... for the second or tenth or 100th time ... in the bat of an eyelash or sting of a furrowed, sweating brow.
It is amazing how our child-selves learn from watching our parents. We learn to smooth out all of those uncoordinated early efforts into something like a expert dance move. Sensual and connected to the surroundings. As girls we watch our mothers for cues how to become physical beings that mesh with Mother Nature. We become creations that are connected. We learn to pulse with a deep resonance of our surroundings picking up the beautiful bits and pieces of who we might become. Or at least, that was my throw back memory on how I learned to fly fish from my mother -- and how that little girl was learning how to dance.
This, to me, is the highest pinnacle of becoming a “good” fly angler - that is, to become intimately connected to my surroundings. Nothing about fly fishing is natural. But the best anglers are the ones who are so intimately connected to the resource that they become a part of the rhythm ... the zing of the fly line, the resistance of the fly, the swirl of the breeze, the bump of the current, the pulse of the fin, the slurp of the tiny fish mouth. And then the fingers that take out the elk-hair caddis with the gentle delicacy of a mother pulling a breast way from the suckling babe’s mouth, allow the mother angler to say, “Thank you fish for noticing my offering, and I’ll send you back to do it again.”
If a female angler has been lucky enough to have been able to watch her Mom dance in a trout stream or not, I believe there is some deep female wisdom storehouse of nature connectedness that lends itself to the gift found in the sport of angling. So, thank you mothers for connecting us to the fish -- and to ourselves.