I don’t like the burden of secrets, especially when I have kept them from those closest to me for so long. But, at the time it was something I wanted to do, perhaps selfishly and more so, foolishly without thinking too much about the potential bad outcome if something had gone pear shaped, as it can do so quickly and easily in wild places!
It happened more than 15 years ago when on the strength of a carefully constructed unintentional intentional untruth, I snuck away on a couple solo-fishing trips spending two nights out alone in the mountains and fishing my favourite upland streams. When I’m alone on the stream there is a sense of the innocent again, I think of memories of my youth, hanging out with friends, riding bikes, the infatuation with pretty brown-eyed girls; along with these, the memories of angling for wild trout in forested streams with my father, traditional flies and sizzle of a brace of trout in the pan on the old primus stove. The stream with all its colours and sounds is an education, a place where I learn about myself and other creatures as well; I’m reminded of Izaak Walton’s first philosophy, “ Study to be quiet”
I hiked with just the bare essentials and a small bivouac for shelter. I recall the uneasy feelings I had on the first night sitting alone in the cocoon of dim yellow lamp-light surrounded by a sea of darkness and unfamiliar night sounds; my imagination ran wild, instinctive anxiety of the unknown, of being exposed and vulnerable with just the rhythmic splash and gurgle of the stream nearby for company. But, I soon learnt that solitude has its place to decompress, reflect, heal, and relax, of privilege at being alone in wilderness and away from the hurried pace of the city. I experienced a fundamental sense of belonging.
The days passed in a flash between moments of rapt attention and the eagerness of discovering what lay around the next bend, the unseen tug on the nymph, the cautious sip of the dry fly or the explosive splash to the hopper and then the release of pepper spotted wild trout; the pleasures of releasing, but not before marveling at its perfection and beauty, and just long enough for him to give me a good once over before, with a flick of the tail, sliding out of my hand back into his dappled liquid world.
In the evenings not far from my camp as the sun edged towards the towering peaks and the light softened, I’d sit on a rock still warm from the days sun, over looking the stream and alone with countless thoughts, among them, why I do this? Maybe not what I’m escaping but rather what I’m seeking. My senses are intoxicated with the verdant smell of every shrub and flower after the rain, the cacophony of bird calls and cool evening breezes on my face. Below me the stream, like life itself flowing silently at the tail-outs, then rushing energetically through riffles and plunging purposefully into deep mysterious pools before being squeezed through narrow boulder strewn slots and further down flowing gently again through pastoral lands and past towns and cities, until its eventual resting place in the ocean – natures balances, the ebb and flow of life, like our own. Maybe what I have learnt from this is that solitude is beneficial to a healthy balance with community.
There are no more rises to the few remaining dancing mayfly, their wings illuminated against the last rays of sunlight, the air cools quickly as I walk back through the small forest to my camp. In no more than 24 hours I’d be home with my loved ones – the daily routine will begin again while I dream of my next trip, to be shared with a few likeminded companions, honestly this time, without the burden of secrets.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2014. All rights reserved.