Zen and the Art of Following Your Nose

Zen and the Art of Following Your Nose

You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

I used to be fucking susceptible to #FOMO. I’m not 100% cured, to be sure, but I’m a damn sight better than I was when I was a teenager. This has everything to do with fishing…

Out of the kitchen window I could see stars and the small wind vane hanging from the tree was motionless. The second espresso was sinking smoothly and the family still happily in slumber. Thanks to the seasonal shift it wasn’t that early – sunrise would be only at around 6:30. On the kitchen table lay a small forest of rods and enough tackle for a three week cross-country mission targetting various species in sweet and salt. I was planning to be gone for no longer than three hours.

I had – as Fred Davis so aptly described some years back – options. (READ HIS PIECE HERE) And I wasn’t about to miss out.

Sure, I’d checked good ‘ole Windguru (and two other weather apps) the day before and had a fairly accurate idea of what the tides were doing, but I was determined to not let any of that influence my decision.

Missing out on parties, events and happenings, that’s not what this is about for me. That type of stuff never much bothered me. No, growing up I always had this sense that someone else was having it better than me, in fishing and surfing terms, right at that moment… If I was surfing a spot, there was this lingering inkling that someone else was getting better waves not too far away. If it was blowing onshore and I was fishing (that’s how simple life was back then: offshore = surf, onshore = fish), I always found myself wondering if someone other dick was not on a better spot, hunting a better species with more success…Dick!

It doesn’t take a doctorate in psychology to see how this would cloud the enjoyment of the moment…

Over the years I’ve trained myself to be more present in the moment, appreciate where I’m at, focus on what’s going on right then. Sure, modern technology has made this a lot easier – it’s very difficult to now NOT know what another spot is doing in terms of conditions and, and…

Anyway, I’ve become a far more ‘conscious’ person – when I’m with my groms the phone stays in my pocket and I force work out of mind. When I’m drinking wine and talking shit with my (very understanding) wife, it’s all about her. At the risk of droning on like some fluffy, esoteric, self-help  manual. I’ve learned to let the moment lead.

That’s exactly what I planned to do during that three hour session. Work had been extremely taxing, with nearly two weeks of back-to-back 3am mornings wrestling the deadline monster. The last thing I needed was the stress and pressure of a fishing trip. You know what I’m talking about?

So I went Zen. Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda had nothing on me that morning – I was more zen than a brushed freakin rock garden in Kyoto.

When I tip-toed out the door (careful not to wake said groms and missus, ‘cos fuck knows the Zen would’ve evaporated in a mushroom cloud right there) and bundled my gear into the bakkie, I still wasn’t sure whether I’d be rigging a 5, 7 or 9, or what I was going to be chucking and at what.

I could’ve headed East, to the default estuary: There are still garrick around in numbers, but these are mostly the juveniles that stay in the systems throughout winter so I was going to be lucky to find anything over 30cm FL. Great sport on the 7 (could step down to the 5 but you need to throw slightly bigger flies and you don’t want to tire them too much).

My brah Wikus was going to try and tempt a tricky late season grunt. I could’ve hit the mud with him.

Or I could’ve taken the N2 West-by-South, and driven 30 minutes further to try for kob.

My nose took me toward the rising sun. Just as the sky was starting to colour oranges and purple through-blues, I found myself at a spot about 10km up-river on the default estuary, the tide on a steady push. Thanks to the little heat wave we’d been experiencing I was in shorts with a thin softshell jacket. The river was mirror glass, disturbed only by mullet getting smashed in the shallows.

Sunsets are cheap. Dawns are money
Sunsets are cheap. Dawns are money

I rigged the 7, my go-to estuary wand, and went prospecting, going through my regular order of flies for leeries, starting with the olive clouser and going full circle to the NYAP. No dice. Not so much as a follow in 30 minutes.

Micro leeries will stay in the system
Micro leeries will stay in the system

Just enough time for FOMO to start bubbling to the surface and for me to question my morning’s call. I forced it down and centred in the Zen. So Zen brah. Jumped back in the bakkie, destination unknown.

I had a vague idea to go and join Wikus for grunts when I drove over a familiar weir. On a whim I took the next dirt track inland, tracing a smaller tributary through the farmlands and private game reserves. I’d heard rumours of carp and bass being taken by the art lure guys but had never really considered it much of an option because of access. A couple of kays up the drag I rounded a bend where there was a weir and easy entry to a likely looking pool.

'Smallmouth' is a misnomer, that is a
‘Smallmouth’ is a misnomer, that is a “3 pattern

Reward…A brace of these came to hand before I hung up the pattern on a drowned stump. Then a few more off the surface. Those little guys meant more than I reckon 10 micro leeries would’ve on this day, because it was so unexpected.

Or not, as Pirsig points out. Zen brah.

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