Have you ever seen the film ‘About Time’ with Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy and Lydia Wilson? If not I strongly recommend it. It’s a great family film and beautifully brings home the importance of ‘quality’ time. If anything, the recent lockdown has hopefully made many wake up and smell the roses so to speak and shown that we see so much more when time moves at a slower pace. The ‘normal’ that the media keep harping on about isn’t something I’m in a hurry to get back to. To be fair, I was already at that stage in life where I valued far more my time spent out in nature either hunting, fishing, shooting or just walking and taking in the views, than the normal hectic race through every day at break neck speeds in an effort to meet deadlines and commitments that now in hindsight I see weren’t that important after all.
At the ripe old age of 54, I’ve spent my life working away from home, believing it would provide a better life in the long run for me and my family. However, now when I look back I understand that all I did was trade what could have been a great family life then for a perceived better one in the future. In fact, I had all along what I was striving for in the future! I should have listened to all the old sayings such as a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or the grass is always greener on the other side. Being ‘forced’ to spend so much time at home over the last couple of months, as with everyone, I’ve come to appreciate simple things so much more; such as coming together to watch a film, eating rubbish and having a mid week beer at the same time. These are magical experiences, just as much as shooting a deer after a long and hard stalk, or catching a brownie that has eluded all other offerings on a fishing trip; life is all about the experience and we only have so much time allocated in which to create them. Making the most of that time should be the single most important objective of our lives. Once ‘normality’ returns I’m sure it won’t be long before people start saying ‘I haven’t got the time’! Its so easy to tell yourself that you can’t go and do something, or that you will do it tomorrow, simply because you begin to feel that actually doing it will become a chore.
Earlier this week I had planned to visit a new reservoir to cast a line. It’s surrounded by forestry block and hills. I also wanted to explore the area a little and had planned to take Murphy the lunatic for a walk at the same time. It really is a beautiful setting. As Monday evening approached, a rather hectic day was in full swing. My new outdoor table had shrunk due to the heat extracting all remnants of moisture and I had tried to repair it whilst also fitting in a few Skype meetings that were planned before the table decided to erupt. Come 6pm I really wasn’t looking forward to loading the car in a rush and the subsequent 40 minute drive. I hadn’t even eaten! Fortunately my resolve was stronger than that and I did pack the car (forgetting the net) and headed off to the hills. As I left the main roads and drove deeper into the countryside my spirits started to lift. One slight navigational error and I arrived at my destination. I was met by too many youngsters making a bit too much noise for my liking but to be fair I had obviously stumbled upon them at just the wrong point in time as they were perfectly respectful of other people thereafter.
Walking Murphy was wonderfully calming; almost meditative. He had an endless supply of new smells to investigate whilst I scanned the forests for deer trails, and the open areas bordering the hills for deer. Plenty of sign but no actual animals to see unfortunately. By the time my circuit was complete and I was nearly back at the car it was nearing 8pm. I had monitored the few fishermen as I returned but none appeared to be catching fish. I sat for a while to watch the water and did see a few fish rise so elected to go with a dry fly as the wets the other anglers were obviously using didn’t seem to be generating any success.
With Murphy back in the car and my rig assembled, tipped with a small black floating ant I strolled to the waters edge. I was wearing waders so carefully waded out up to my waist. The water was low so I was able to go quite far out but I was conscious I didn’t have a net so any keepers would have to be beached. It was only my second cast when a keeper broke the water, turned and descended again but with my fly in the ‘scissors’ of its mouth. One ... two.. and the line tightened. I never tire of that electric shock you get when the fish pulls back against your line and the bolt transfers from the rod to your arm. Its magic. This fish was obviously going to be a keeper and in my mind I already had it on the BBQ! I managed to get back to the bank without falling, and beached the beautiful wee brownie, all within just a couple of minutes. Wasn’t I so pleased that I had pushed through the ‘excuse’ phase of why I shouldn’t go to the ‘get off your arse’ and do it phase! I fished on until the light was beginning to fade but only managed to turn one more fish. He was too bright however and must have ejected the fly before I had time to set it. Just seeing the water break and hearing the splash as it turned was reward enough though, as it always is. Its about the experience of being outside, sharing and interacting with nature that matters, not the catching. Cooking the trout on the BBQ the following day for my lunch was just the icing on the cake. I seasoned it inside and out with butter, sea salt, garlic and chilli flakes. It was so tasty!
I could so easily have put off my excursion, and maybe if it had been during a period of ‘normality’ I may very well have done so. However, I didn’t, even though I knew I had another busy schedule planned for the following day. My reward was an experience that, whilst small, typifies the benefits of our outdoor way of life. Experiences are everything as they are the results of ‘living’. We should pursue them at the expense of all other things. Sharing them with family and friends is what life is all about. We are here but once so lets make sure we make the most of our short allocated time. Time is the most precious commodity there is so lets not waste it. Make sure your new ‘normal’ is one that delivers you the experiences you thought you could only dream about. All you need to do is go out and ‘live’ and they will come your way!
The Dalai Lama summed up our journey very poetically when he was asked what surprised him most about humanity. He said “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”