Was he losing that natural instinct that guided him all these long years? Why hadn’t he recognized the signs and moved on, just like all the years past? Well, it wasn’t too late to move, he thought; there would still be plenty of time. Not like the season of the big freeze several years ago. That was a bad time - so many days of cold weather, when warmth and food were hard to come by. Even his winter haunts were too cold. But this year he could count on his winter home. It would provide the warmth and food needed to make it until the days got longer and the water warmer.
The journey wasn’t an easy one. There were dangers and challenges around every curve or point along the way, but shortcuts known only to him - small back bays and creeks - would make it safer. Traveling together in a group was always the way to go in the past, but as he got older he welcomed the solitude. Part of him missed the companionship, though; most of the others had long since passed on, and he wondered if he was the only one left. It was rare to see another like him these days. With that thought weighing heavily on his mind, he pushed on day after day, always forward, taking a break only to eat or if water conditions warranted. Arriving on the grounds just before sunrise was always best. The low light provided the best opportunity for ambush. He would lay in wait for some unsuspecting victim to fall into his trap, and then he would spring into action. This morning was different, though - something was amiss. The water didn’t feel right, didn’t move right. Was it a larger predator? Possibly, they were known to frequent these waters, but they were easy to spot and evade. Years of practice had given him the skills to know when to run and hide. No, this was different, something was out of place. He couldn’t quite figure it out. His mind was cloudy, his muscles sore. Had the journey been too long this time? “Have I arrived too late this season?” he wondered. Waiting there in his favorite spot, he caught movement. This is it; this is the one he had been waiting for all morning. Patience was the key, wait until just the right moment to strike. Move too early and you lose the element of surprise, wait too long and the prey gets too far away. Patience is the key.
The time was right, the strike was made; quick and powerful it was, yet something was wrong. This time there was a burning pain, a pain unlike anything else he had ever felt. What was this strange feeling? It was a sharp piercing pain, and the pain led to panic. He had never felt like this before - his muscles were burning, and fatigue was setting in quickly. “What is happening to me?” The fight was long, much longer than before. In times past the fight was over very quickly. “How can this be? Why did the fight take so long?”
The old man looked down at the giant redfish. “How many seasons have you seen?” he wondered out loud. “You’ve been around just as long as I have, I bet…” The old, tired fish slowly made its way back towards the warm, muddy depths of the river, but he knew before releasing it that this was his last - the burning pain in his chest told him so. Watching his prize slowly swim away, the old man got back into his leaky canoe and paddled away in the opposite direction. “This will be my last… this will be my last.”
That day when you pick up your fishing rod and there’s nothing coming through whatsoever - no feel, no balance, no desire, no feeling of escape you get from being on the water… There’s always that point that might happen to you, or you’re too old to pick up a fishing rod, paddle, or oar, and escape to your sanctuary. That day, we are trying to keep far, far away.