Trout season is a wonderful time of year for those of us who live in regions where this beautiful fish is found. When it starts, winter is on the way out and the smell of spring richly fills the air. Everything is getting ready to burst forth with new life and the promise of summer yet to come fills every heart with joy. People in the northeast may be dealing with “cabin fever” but they come back to life as the snow melts and the streams fill with ice cold runoff. As the water runs, maple sap starts to run as well and so do the trout!
Of the creatures found in freshwater streams, a native brook trout is one of the most aggressive and it can also be the most elusive to catch. It hides under banks, on the downstream side of half-submerged boulders, under logs or in the shadow of an overhanging pine. As a member of the Salmon family it loves the cold, clear water of a well aerated stream and will quickly vacate streams where the water becomes muddy or warm. Brown trout can thrive in such turbid, tepid waters but Brookies only inhabit the cleanest, coldest streams.
Two things I learned from my father when I was very young is that trout have well developed vision and they also have a line of vibration sensors that run down both sides of their body. Their eyes are especially designed to detect light and dark, such as shadows cast on the water, or a bright shirt worn by some lurking fisherman. The sensors on their sides can pick up the slightest vibration and alert them to any source of movement. More than once I have missed a big trout just because of a heavy step at the last moment as I was casting a nightcrawler into the perfect, deep pool.
Having this basic knowledge, and withholding it from one of my fishing buddies, resulted over the years in me acquiring the honorary title of “Trout Master”. We have been friends for decades at this writing, and over 20 years ago I reintroduced him to trout fishing. Over the years I have taken him to several of my favorite streams where I inevitably caught more trout, bigger trout and the first trout of the season on a regular basis. More than once I would let him go first to a promising spot where he would catch nothing. After a few minutes, I would move to the same location and gently toss in my line. The moment the bait hit the water it was often grabbed by a hungry trout. After a brief fight it would be hoisted in the air and soon found gloriously slapping the inside of my creel. Since he never asked me why I was able to do this time and time again, I never told him.
Finally one day after losing the coveted “Trout Master” title for about 6 consecutive years in a row he finally swallowed his pride. “OK how do you do it?” I told him “compare how you and I are both dressed”. He had on a white tee shirt and bluejeans. I, on the other hand, had on a drab green, long sleeved shirt, sun glasses, a drab green hat and dark jeans. A lightbulb went on in his head and he understood what he had been doing wrong. However, our next fishing trip ended up with the same results and I was “Trout Master” once again.
He had fished a beautiful hole with no results and was ready to just give up. As he prepared to leave the stream out of mock humility he asked, “What am I doing wrong O mighty Trout Master?” With a laugh I said “Lets sit down and wait a few minutes. Compare what I do to what you usually do”.
We waited about 10 minutes and then I slowly moved to the side of the stream. I whispered and watched each foot step so as not to make any vibration. I made sure to keep the sun in my face so my shadow did not fall over the water. I slowly crouched halfway behind a big tree to block the motion of my cast, and then quietly flipped my nightcrawler into the water. It naturally flowed with the current and within a few seconds a trout flashed out from under a bolder and I was about to have diner in my creel.
The lesson of the trout stream as many implications. I learned how important it was to instruct people in the right way to do things or they can become frustrated and give up. My friend, on the other hand, learned that it takes the right preparation, the right approach and careful patience to gain the prize. Isn’t this just how God deals with us? We go blundering through life without praying, or taking the time to just sit quietly with God. We fail to ask Him for His help, for His insight or for His heart. Our clumsy actions only drive off the very things we were hoping to get hold of, and in frustration we often blame Him or others for the wretched results.
Has that been you? Have you fished in the stream of life your own way and come up empty-handed or frustrated with the outcome? Learn the lesson of the trout stream! Slow down and carefully watch how you walk. Keep the Son shine on your face and move with quiet focus into every situation. Present what you do with care and let things flow naturally. You don’t have to force the issue to get the job done. You might just be amazed at how much God can accomplish through you if you simply invite Him into your daily life and then follow where He is going. That’s what makes life as a christian a genuine adventure!