The closest I ever came to fishing was winning a goldfish at the Mendocino County Fair. Up until the last few months living in Loreto-Baja Sur, Mexico, I couldn’t even imagine myself interested in the activity. But deep-sea fishing on the Sea of Cortes has been an awesome, soul-stirring experience. Pardon the pun, but I’m hooked.
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortes “the world’s aquarium.” Abundant with marine life, the Bay of Loreto is a national marine preserve and has been inscribed to the United Nations list of protected World Heritage Sites. Over 800 species of marine life inhabit the Sea of Cortes. So you can imagine, any activity in these waters has the potential for awe.
When the student is ready the teacher appears.
I’m a total beginner, so I asked around to find an expert to teach me. Everyone in Loreto has a favorite panga boat captain, though most of our queries led to Pancho. A swarthy guy who’s spent his life on the water, Pancho knows every location for the best fishing sites in the area, and is dedicated to making sure we have a successful day of fishing. He’s a patient teacher with a great sense of humor. You feel like you’re ten years old as he baits your hook and tells you when to let line out and when to close the bale. His wisdom of the sea comes from a lifetime of experience and from his elders’ teachings to respect the water and the winds.
Lose track of time. Become present.
Fishing is one of those activities where you totally lose track of time. Your senses are engaged: watching and listening as the pelicans dive for food, schools of sardines glimmer in the water, playful dolphins surround the boat. You become present and aware of every slight shift in the water.
Cast your line. Engage your patience. Imagine.
As most people know, fishing is an early morning start, way earlier than you ever consider getting out of bed. It’s cool, and still dark. On calm water, the light begins to dawn, and you witness the rising of the sun over the horizon—and its balance point, the setting of the full moon behind the mountain. There is a strong sense of expectation. You cast your line, engage your patience. You take in the beauty around you. Let the live bait sink and swim and play in the watery depths. You get a nibble. “Fish on!” The line reels, pulls, and immediately your imagination starts dancing. What is on the other end of the line? You try to picture it, but have no idea what you may have hooked. The expectation builds.
Set your intention. Stay with it.
At first you yield to the pull of the fish. It’s strong. It fights for life. You let it run with the line. Then you get down to business, set intention, and get into the rhythm of reeling it in. Oh, reeling in a fish takes time. You stay with it. You wait it out. Keep the pulse going. You imagine the species, the size, the color. But not every fish makes it into the boat. Sometimes you reel it in – as your friends offer advice, support, encouragement. Sometimes you lose it – the same friends offer sympathy and hope.
And when you succeed, after you’ve wrapped yards and yards of line around your reel, someone in the boat shouts, “I see color!” and then comes the final frenzy of hauling the 20+ pound yellowtail into the boat. Ah, there’s nothing like the pride of accomplishment!
Yield to the process. It’s out of your control.
So why is the experience of deep-sea fishing so appealing? Recounting it through the eyes of this novice fisherwoman, it’s the process of life. It’s the greatest metaphor for yielding to the process, because, as in life, we never really know what’s ahead.
Photo Credit: “Scad in Cortez” by looseBits, Flickr.