Not long ago, I watched the world's greatest fisherman come away from the lake without his dinner.
I watched in awe as a bald eagle demonstrated his incredible skills and still could not catch a fish.
The lake was just beginning to thaw with the ice around its edges, thinning and transparent, allowing the eagle to see fish but not catch them.
When the eagle made his first pass at the fish, he seemed to realize something wasn't quite right. As he finished this low-level reconnaissance run, he moved his tail, the way an expert pilot pushes on his rudder pedal to begin a slow, controlled turn when making a go-around for a missed approach.
As he came around for a second attempt to satisfy his hunger, the eagle aligned himself with the trout, set his wings to prevent a stall, extended his talons, and got ready to pick up dinner.
This time he actually touched the ice where his prey was safely watching from beneath.
Once he felt the ice, I could see his powerful wings make the graceful pull against gravity as he climbed upward.
The pure grace of this magnificent animal brought to mind the true beauty of watching a gifted fly-fisherman make an artful cast. For a correctly executed cast does resemble a wing, as the fly-fisherman coaxes the line to briefly defy gravity and then land with the gentleness of a butterfly on a tree branch.
As the eagle made his way to the trees, to sit and contemplate what had just happened, I tried to imagine what was going through his mind. I'm sure his thought process was different than mine would have been.
I like to think the eagle sat in his tree, looked at the spot where the fish was hiding, and somehow marked it for future reference. It made me happy to imagine the eagle had a little self-directed talk to remind himself that fishing is not a one-day experience, but something he does every day to sustain himself. He knows that as sure as the sun warms the earth, the ice will melt, his prey will not realize it, and that fish will feed his body.
And, while I would never compare my humble attempts at catching fish with the incredible talents of the eagle, I do take some comfort in knowing I can, and do, learn from him.
As a fly-fisherman, I can learn persistence. Don't give up with the first cast, sometimes several casts are needed.
As the frustrations of today seem to create havoc in our lives, the warmth of the sun will make tomorrow another day, and the challenges conquerable.
Use the challenges to learn. Practice the casts on other fish, just as the eagle hunts for other game.
Then, when the time is right, remember where you marked the spot and cast to that fish. I assure you the eagle remembers and will return.
Life, for me, is like that.
I have so much to learn and so little time.
I find great comfort and many life skills in fly-fishing. I truly believe the evening I return from a day of fly-fishing, without having learned something new, and not being able to apply it to my everyday life, is the day I should stop fly-fishing.
So as eagles soar, hunting for food to sustain their bodies, I want to be out and among them, fly-fishing for whatever it is that nourishes my soul.
It has been said many times, by many people, "Life is short."
I want to add, learn from the eagle. Cast your line, defy the bonds holding you down, and soar with the goodness of life.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.