When I am out there standing in the river, watching the flowing water rushing through my legs, I can see steelheads running upstream fighting for a cause. Cohoes and sockeyes are swimming along side them, fighting for the same cause. Rainbows and cutthroats are second in line, fighting for their life, picking up those eggs which fell from the grace of God. For them, it is all about survival of the fittest – nothing personal. But for me, it is all personal
Long ago during my childhood in Iran, when I learned how to turn on the TV all by myself, everything suddenly began.
Watching me laid out on the floor with both hands under my chin to keep my head up while I stared at the TV, was somehow famous in our household. It was a small black and white TV as I recall, and for a child that I was, color and size in those days didn't matter much to me at all. All I ever cared about was watching my cartoon programs, and then a few nature series like “Raaz-e-Bagha (The Secret of Survival)”.
Besides the cartoons, most of the nature series that captivated me were based on animal behavior and their relationship with their surrounding environment. They were dubbed in Persian, of course, with the great voice of a man who I never knew what he ever looked like. The narrative of the show was so powerful, that after all these years, I can still hear it in my mind. But admittedly, it was the contents of the show that mesmerized me most of all. So that is how, as a little child, I got hooked on nature and animals for life.
Among all of God's creations, there was a particular animal called “fish” that truly grabbed my attention. How they swim and react to their environment, their survival techniques, their reproduction process and diet was so fascinating to me that I still swim with those ideas in my head any chance I get.
For some strange reason, I felt that I needed to be a part of this fishy life. I wanted to get closer to them, just for a touch. I wanted to watch them being suspended against the rules of gravity – swimming in the water. So everything was about fish. Fish for food, fish for fun – fish forever!
Besides this fish fascination of mine, there was a practice called “fishing” which also captured my curiosity. Even though this curiosity of mine wasn't a secret in our family, my parents were the first to discover it. But I remember, that it was my grandfather (Hussein whom I call Babasi) who first introduced me to the practice of this magnificent art.
As I recall, it was the summer of 1974, and my grandfather had returned to Tehran from his European tour. There were gifts of all kinds for everyone as you can imagine, but there was a particular gift, which was destined to become mine.
I was only 9 years old at the time, so picture how I felt when I saw it for the first time. He brought me a “German fishing kit” with all the bells and whistles. My heartbeat went through the roof, and I couldn't breathe properly. I was overwhelmed with joy to the point that I couldn't express the magnitude of how happy, grateful and thankful I was. He handed me the kit and said, “Don't forget to catch and release!”
I didn't know what he meant by it at the time, and I struggled with the whole meaning and the ideology behind it for most of my life. But time, slowly explained that philosophy to me clearly. And now, I practice it truly and dearly, no matter when and where – no matter what.
It's been more than 31 years, since the day that I was introduced to fishing. And during all these years, I gradually moved on to fly-fishing.
What is fly-fishing? Believe me, it has nothing to do with fishing for neither flies, nor your zipper. And for those of you, who are afraid of flying, let me assure you, fly-fishing has nothing to do with flying either.
To some, fly-fishing is an art. To others, it is a passion, an occupation, a spiritual experience, or even a crazy thing to do. Some would say that it is a religion, while others would have you believe that it is a philosophy of life. To me, it is all of the above, but more than anything, I swear to it like it is my religion. And the only commandment which belongs to this religion, is “to live and let fly”.
Anyway, fly-fishing in reality, is just another way to fish! Admittedly, as you become more involved in fly-fishing, you will experience a transformation in the way you view yourself in relation to your environment.
When I'm out there, I can hear God talking to me. He talks to me through the wind, through the sun from the sky, through the movement of the gray clouds, through the sound of glacier water flowing around my feet, through the birds flying by my side, through the rainbows swimming above the rocks which have been resting beneath my feet for a million years, and through the arch angel Gabrielle standing not far away from me.
I wish I was in the water right now. Casting the floating line 50 yards away, just to be a part of their journey of life. I wish I was there watching my stone-fly floating on the river, then dancing beneath the surface of the water waiting to be picked up by a rainbow, just for me to say hello. I just wanted to say hello. Because I always say hello.
That is how I pray. By getting my feet wet in the water. Then I look up at the sky and say hello to the big guy.
“Are you fishing for flies when you 'fly' fish?” someone once asked me, tongue in cheek. This person was familiar with fishing using worms and other types of live bait, or spinners and plugs, but did not really know what it meant to fly fish.
“No, I use flies to fish not fish for flies,” I replied back. “Where are you from?” He asked me. “Iran… I am Iranian.” “I didn't know that you Iranians fish. Where do you guys fish, in the desert?” He asked me with a cocky smile. Suddenly, I realized that this person was not only unfamiliar with fly-fishing, more over, he was ignorant about Iran, all together. So I just smiled back without saying a word and let him drown in the pool of his own ignorance. And I remembered:
Oh slippery fish! You have lost your sense of certainty. In lakes of truth I am the dam of clarity. With the magic of love, Through the narrow paths of truth, Find your way to me. — “Maahi” (The Fish), Ahmad Shamlu
Iranians, like many other civilizations in this world, have come a long way. Some would make you believe that it has been 2500 years, and others go further than that and stretch it all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
No matter what Iran is, and how old it might be, there are waters. And beneath the water are rocks. And beside those rocks are rainbows of our history – the truth, which no one could deny.
Iran is a land of many countries. There are mountains with blackberries, and glacier water flowing down those mountains shaping the rim rock as long as eternity. There are green pastures filled with red flowers, and there are waters flowing among them down the stream. There are deserts, and I have even seen the water floating over the sands of dryness – the mirage. But above and beneath of it all, there are rainbows – rainbows in the sky, and in the water.
Iran is a land of living [See Riccardo Zipoli's photos, “Bare beauty“]. So it must be the Garden of Eden. And I am an Iranian by default. So I must have fished the Garden – just to be a part of it and all. And just to say hello – that's all.
For those lost souls in this world who do not know an Iranian soul, all you need to do is to say hello once in a while. Then, you will see the water flowing upon your feet, and you will know – all there is to know.
So now you know, that we Iranians are like water. We flow so easily, on earth, and in the sky. And we become what might be impossible for others to become. So I'm proud of being one. So you ought to be one. So we ought to let it live, and let fly