The Puzzle…

I’ve stated before that fishing is a puzzle that I like to put together.

Unfortunately, this jigsaw puzzle doesn’t come with a picture on a box, or even a box. We have a vague idea of what it could look like but we don’t even know how many pieces we are dealing with.

For me, the puzzle pieces begin with an idea and a plan. Those are the “edge pieces.” The more planning I do, the more the edge pieces appear and begin to form a frame or border. Maps and fishing reports gleaned from as many sources as I am able to locate help make additional pieces of the puzzle begin to appear. Colors begin to show and a pattern starts to develop.

Likewise, further research and planned expenses as well as reconnaisance trips add yet more pieces. Drive times and mileage. Stream gauges. Weather reports and forecasts. All pieces to the puzzle.

Out of nothing, a shape begins to form upon a blank canvas. Gathering momentum and rapidly taking shape.

But we are not even close to completing the puzzle!

Even when I pull up in the car along the stream…I am still missing an incredible number of pieces.

Gear selection, time of day, water temperature, water clarity, flow rate, stream condition, timing of hatches, season, month, day, hour, seconds…yet more pieces for the puzzle. It’s ephemeral, conditions sometimes lasting minutes to hours at best. But the challenge beckons and so we go forth.

With each cast our confidence builds and the understanding that we are filling in the blanks by slotting puzzle pieces into position encourages us.

What depth, what speed, what color? Testing our theory and trying to find more pieces with each step forward. Always probing for clues and asking questions we deem important to our goal of completing this puzzle.

We catch a fish…another piece falls into place. We are almost finished. We continue forward and try to develop a pattern. More fish come to hand and we know that the puzzle is almost entirely filled in.

We dig deeper still and strive to understand the “why” of it all. Why this color? Why this exact time? Questions, questions…ad infinitum.

Do we ever actually complete the entire puzzle? I don’t. Even after a successful outing, I am left with many unanswered questions. And I love that! It tells me I need to work harder and find the last few remaining pieces. But I rarely do that. Sometimes my puzzle is “good enough” and the last few pieces are left to fate and adventure. Sometimes I leave out clues in my fishing journals so if anyone else reads them long after I’m gone, they will have to work hard to solve the puzzle. In other words, they will have to earn it just like I did and hopefully experience it on the same plane as me.

I enjoy reading stories about fishermen/women who have a similar thought process. As well as interacting with like-minded individuals while out on the water. It is easy to cast lures while hoping for a fish. Yet this form of fishing is complex and requires effort and thought. Refinement through experience and wisdom.

The puzzle might have 10 pieces or 10,000. It is entirely up to us to decide. Personally, I like the challenging ones. It’s about “the Puzzle” and any fish caught are always a bonus!

Thanks for reading…

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