I love to fish. Although my favorite is stream fishing for trout with my fly rod, I also enjoy fishing lakes and the fish that swim them. My wife can tell you that I have talked about buying a fishing boat for decades. And yet, there is no boat in my garage.
Part of the answer is that as a family man with a wife and four children there always seemed to be other things to spend our money on. That was especially true as the kids got older. It seemed like every year another one was turning 16 and wanting a car. And there were all of the usual things that require lots of investment like house repairs and upgrades. I never lost sight of the hard reality that a boat was a luxury and it was down towards the bottom of the priority list.
Then as the kids left home and started families of their own, I have weighed the boat against other “want to haves”. And while I love to fish, my wife Michelle does not. I struggle with buying something that expensive that I know is really is mostly for me. It feels selfish.
But the biggest obstacle to purchasing a fishing boat is my love of paddling. For many years it was the canoe. But for the last eight years it has been the kayak. The kayaks were Michelle's idea; she enjoys them as much as I so it is something we can experience together.
There is something about slicing into the water with the paddle blade and feeling the solidness of water. The boat slides forward as you pull back hard; the paddle blade slightly ahead, now even, now behind you. You can hear the little trickle of water that runs off of the blade as you lift it free. A small wake radiates from the bow only to quickly flatten back into the stillness of calm surface. You can feel the motion and confirm it by watching the shoreline slip past you.
My last paddle was a bright sunny day. The lake – a large, shallow lake was unusually calm for mid-afternoon. There was just the slightest breeze that barely rippled the surface. I noticed as my eyes followed the paddle blade down onto the water that the ripples were each like prisms that concentrated the sunlight onto the lake bottom, so that there were shimmering lines of sunlight reflected in the sand.
A loon called to my left and I turned to see the two young ones from this year both dive down and head back in the direction of the anxious parent. Then a croaking blue heron lifted awkwardly from the bull rushes to my right.
Just then, a fishing boat came buzzing by. The two occupants were both holding onto their caps and huddled to avoid the water spray; their eyes were fixed forward. At that speed and making that much noise they never noticed the sunlight dancing on the lake bottom, nor did they hear the wavering loon call, and they didn’t notice the heron heading off for a more isolated spot of shoreline.
Especially as I get older, my mind thinks more and more about it being time for an engine-powered fishing boat, but my heart still feels that I might just keep paddling for a little while more.