Learning From My Fishing Buddy

Learning From My Fishing Buddy

This is Rosie, giving me the Rosie mind-meld because there’s a mink on the bank…so why the %&*# aren’t we rowing over there? NOW.

Rosie began fishing with me eight years ago. To her, a day on the water is never long enough, and her enthusiasm is only slightly about the fishing. We can learn something important from animals.

Rosie simply loves being outside. So many things stimulate and fascinate her. At times she’s a bundle of frantic energy, sniffing, exploring, bounding. Other times, she’s quite content to simply sit quietly and observe or even nap, especially in some sunny spot, perhaps a patch of grass or lying on her blanket in the boat. She is a different dog when she’s in wild settings.

Much of her enthusiasm is about hunting, of course. I’m sure the environment awakens her wild heritage. All dogs descended from wolves, naturalists tell us. Any wild thing focuses her attention, especially waterfowl, deer, bears, beavers, mink or a jumping fish. She knows, by my sudden movements, when I’ve hooked a fish or even had a bite. If I bring the fish close to the boat, she’ll all but jump over the gunwale to get to it. So I must pull her away to use the net. The splashing and thrashing engage her like nothing else. But once the fish is in the boat or on the bank, she sniffs it a few times, looks at me as if to say “meh,” then looks to the water for the next fascinating thing.

Until Rosie came along, I had never fished with a dog. I did not want the intrusion or the responsibility. It was all about keeping that total focus on finding and catching. Going into that zone, where I studied the water and the wind and weather, insects, light and shade. Signs of feeding fish. I was a keen observer of many things, something that came naturally.

Fishing with Rosie, I’m forced to get out of myself. If she’s in the boat, I must watch my back cast. She’s generally underfoot, and it’s a small boat. If we’re fishing on the bank, I must ensure  she’s not swimming after a duck or a beaver, or not out chasing a deer or a bear (I know the “bear bark” immediately), or getting tangled up in reeds and weeds.

But you know what? I can’t imagine fishing without her. Usually it’s just us on the water, and she has become a welcome companion. I talk to her, of course, like all neurotic dog owners.

“Some fish feeding over there, girl. What do you think?”

“Doesn’t get any better than this, eh Rosie?”

“What do you think, Muttley? Time for lunch?”

“Well Muttley, it’s getting late. Maybe we’d better call it a day.”

She talks to me, as well, in her dog language. The mind-meld. The pleading eyes. The paw on my arm. The switching tail. Each can mean a number of things, depending on the situation:

Let’s go chase that mink. Do you see that mink? He’s right over there, for *&%$# sake! Why aren’t we chasing that mink?

I’m hungry. Are you going to hog that whole sandwich? When do I get a hunk of that sandwich? And why aren’t we chasing that mink?

Really? You still haven’t launched that stupid boat? Seriously? We’re burning daylight, here.

Some of my happiest times are sitting in that boat, in the middle of a sunny, quiet lake, simply scratching her head and having one of these conversations. Catching fish has become quite secondary, and I suspect that’s one of the things she was meant to teach me.

The day will come when she’s no longer able to get out on the water with me. I know it’s coming. She’s ten now, and, like me, slowing down. I see the signs in both of us. But the math of dog years tells me that I will, most likely, be fishing without her one day. I must accept that. We’ll still talk, though. I know this, and it gives me some comfort. I just won’t be giving up part of my sandwich.