I went fly fishing on last Tuesday. It was cold. Cold enough that I got ice in my mustache. It's been a while since I had that experience. I hate to think what made the ice, but it's a nifty phenomenon. I thought that this fishing trip would be about as productive as fishing in a bucket in my back yard, but I went ahead. The sky was gray, the water was crystal clear and very, very still. No sign of fish on the surface, so searching was in order.
Recently I've really been enjoying nymph fishing. For those of you who aren't fly fishermen, nymphs are the underwater form of the flies that we usually try to imitate in fly fishing. Most of the flies you see over and around water are very short lived creatures in the air, but have lives of one to two years under water. Under water they are fearsome predators; in the air they are harmless and beautiful, there only to make love and die.
Nymphing is blind hunting. The fisher turns over rocks to see what kind of critters are living in the water, and then tries to match these with something from his tackle box. (boy, I just noticed how many masculine pronouns I'm using, but "his/hers or theirs" or whatever is so awkward, so just assume the masculine is embracing the feminine) These little bugs are usually very alien looking. Most of mine are what are called "attractors" rather than imitations. They are generic. Here's a picture:
Many fishermen attach a small float above the nymph, that lets them know if a fish has grabbed it. I usually don't. I can feel the tug or resistance, and it's usually just a light drag on the line, when a fish takes the bait.
How does this apply to Freemasonry? In many ways. First, there's brotherhood. Most flyfishermen are friendly to other, brother flyfishermen. Most act with courtesy and are more than willing to chat and give advice; my experience is that most will share information on their favorite places to fish and how to catch fish there.
Another similarity to Freemasonry is harmony. There's the harmony mentioned above, but there's also harmony with the environment. When fly fishing, you are deep in nature. Fly fishing is sometimes called "the silent sport," because there's none of the motor noises, none of the splashing and bashing of lures, or the buzzing of lines; none of the jerking the fish out of the water. The fly fisherman needs to know the water and the animals in it: the bugs and the little fish as well as the fish being targeted. He sees and hears the water, the trees (or he gets tangled up in them) and the birds and other animals around about. The fly fisherman is immersed in harmony with nature.
Another similarity is service. Fly fishermen along with other fishermen are conservationists. We are dependent on clean, cold water to find the fish we seek. We work to preserve the environment. We learn some of the more esoteric aspects of environmentalism, that others might not consider, such as the negative affect of ski areas on the aquifer, or how to sweeten an acid stream.
I find nymphing is also analogous to Masonry in that it is a seeking. Often a seeking in the dark, or through the mystery of the water's surface. You are blind to what is going on with your bait, and blind to what affect it is having on the others in the stream. Your conductor is in your fingertips, guiding by touch on the rod and line. You are connected to this world by a line wrapped around your hand, and only when notified by a tug on the line is the hoodwink removed, and some light admitted.
Finally, there is always something else to learn in Freemasonry and Fly fishing. Learning from the tradition, and learning from the young Turks. Innovation and tradition blend in both. Service and harmony and brotherhood will preserve them.