ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

When I Used to be a Fisherman

I used to be a fisherman.

I'd spend hours dreaming about it. I'd clean my rod and reel and practice casting in my driveway. I'd get up at five in the morning, just so I could beat the morning sun and be there when the fish awoke hungry.

My mother taught me how to fish when I was just a tiny git. I had a bamboo pole with a line and a bobber
I was 7 or 8 catching Perch in South Dakota
and a hook and I was crazed with fishing. In fact, when I was about three years old we lived in a place called LaGrange, Wyoming, about an hour north of Cheyenne. About two miles outside of town there was a little stream full of crappies. Every morning my mother and I would dig worms in the back yard, and every afternoon we'd go down to this stream, and I'd pull in fish as fast as I could bait my hook.

I have such amazing memories of fishing.

On my grandfather's boat on Pactola Dam, South Dakota, night fishing, pulling up so many rainbows and almost setting the boat on fire with lantern fuel.

Me and my dad fishing the Tellico River in the Appalachians. It was so rainy, no one else was fishing and we were having one of those days where only the big fish were biting and they never stopped. We had to buy a new cooler to take all of them home.

Or the day we discovered the new trout stream by the pig farms in some backwater Tennessee county, where it seemed all the trout were at least twenty inches long. The fish were there to be had as long as we were careful not to get shot.

Or when we all went camping  on Tellico again and we had to fight the water moccasins who came up on us when we were cleaning the fish one evening.

Or the last time I went fishing with my dad, when my old friend Chuck took us on his boat on the Columbia River. After three hard days of fishing, both my father and I caught 25 pound salmon.

About 15, holding up a pair of catfish I caught
on a trout rig. The big one took an hour to land.
Or the last time I went trout fishing in Rapid Creek, high above Pactola. The creek wasn't any wider than a Cadillac, but I caught a thirty five inch trout out of it, and as we walked home, we passed a boy scout troop and I saw the wonder in their eyes as they saw me carrying the fish at my side, much like I was when I was a kid, hoping to one day catch an immense fish just like the one I'd caught.

Or the time me and a friend were fishing for giant catfish on Chicamauga Reservoir. I wrote about this in a story called Catfish Gods. When I wrote it more than 15 years ago, I understood that fishing wasn't about catching.

Fishing is more about being a part of something than anything else. A fisherman cares about the water and nature more than most people. How we take care of our world directly affects a person's ability to fish.

Then there's the solitude. Although, a lot of the time when you're fishing you go with others, you're always fishing within yourself. Fishing with my grandfather on the lake or my father on a river, we always went together, but we'd end up alone. Even with one of them five feet away, it's just you, the water, your pole and the possibilities that run deep beneath the surface.

Oh, how I miss fishing.

My Father and I in 2012 on the Columbia River
So I thought a lot about fishing today. I'm not sure why. I can't tell you what brought it on. But I can say that it's something I miss terribly. I've felt incomplete without it. In fact, I'm 48 years old now and I don't even own a fishing pole. Where it went, I just don't know. One thing is for sure. You can't call yourself a fisherman without a fishing pole.

So here's my plan. I'm eventually going to leave Afghanistan. When I do, I'm going to get a fishing pole and
some new gear and I'm going to become a fisherman again. Someone better tell my wife that we might even start camping, so she can start praying I change my mind. I want to get back in touch with the beauty of nature. When you're alone on the water, quiet as you attempt to become one with the land, there's a special beauty that you become a part of.

To steal a cliche, you achieve a lightness of being you aren't normally afforded.

I want to feel this again. I want to do this again. I want to be a fisherman. Not because I want to catch anything. I've caught enough for a campfire circle full of stories. No. I want to be a fisherman because I want to be a part of the universe again. No more looking in. I want to be inside and looking out.

Weston Ochse
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