by, Tom Johnson-Medland


I have learned to believe – in my better moments – that we are, all of us, on our own mythic and mystic journey; sort of a cosmic fishing trip.  We all set out and journey in order to find some treasure; some pearl of great price, some elixir of life and fountain of youth, some great catch.  We are looking for some great big find that will let us retire, fade out of the limelight, or just disappear from the chaos while living a rather contented if not luxurious existence.  A beautiful “Walter, that crafty-old-son-of-a-bitch” sort of fish (On Golden Pond).  We want to cash in without too much effort, but keep a deep pocket filled with contentment and satisfaction for the struggle and trouble we imagine ourselves to have seen in arriving.

I used to think that this was purely an American Dream sort of thing.  But, then I realized that what makes our country so great is that it is a land in which we realize that all human cultures long for these same things – call them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We all crave for our GREAT AMERICAN FISHING STORY.  America has just become the stage upon which all of the world’s cultures can act out the grandiose nature of their own particular flair and flavor of The Dream in a play that will fill them to the brim. 

We have always had GREAT access to GREAT means – even when poor.  America has become the field in which all of the world’s cultures can plant the rich heirloom seeds of their own mythic and mystic gardens and feed on them until the sumptuousness of the bounty splits them in two.  We are the oceans and rivers of bounty.

America is a place that just fawns over its own ability to drop everything and believe that everyone should get a fair chance at not only success, but satiation as a human being.  Everyman an Izaak Walton or a Thaddeus Norris.  And, to some extent it does happen here.   So, while the dream itself is an archetypal Jungian sort thing, America is the most likely place on the planet for dreamers to dream it into being.  And I do not simple mean the land we call America, but the idea and ideal.  It is a grand place to fish the big waters of life.

God knows, I do not know how it happens.  There must be something in the water.  But, even in our poorest places there is a self-indulging spirit that believes its own proclamations that we have found the promised-land and tasted of its riches.  We have fallen on a sacred hatch.  We have the perfectly tied imitation that simulates in both appearance and approach.   And, that it has all happened, because we hungered and thirsted for it and worked really damned hard to get it.  And, so we did.

But, back to the story; we are, all of us on our own mythic and mystic journey.  And, even if I back the journey out of the whole American Dream thing I just did for you above, and allow it to stand on its own merits as psychological pabulum; everyone, everywhere is on a journey – at some level – that is mythic and mystic. 

Regardless of whether that journey moves us from rags to riches with deep pockets full of stuff and diversions; we all journey in this life.  Regardless of whether that journey moves us in an annual gathering of hackle and flash to tie the fly that will catch the fish that will be the envy, and will end our desiring; we all are waiting on one more good season before we die.  That journey, those rags, and that gathering are both mythic and mystic. 

Everyone is on their own mythic and mystic journey to find one very specific thing – to look out into the night and hold the center of what makes us who we are; our raison d’etre.   To scan all that lay before us and to take from it some small meaning.

I have often found it looming just above the attention of my unconscious consciousness that opens its eye more often than not when I am standing chest high in waters.  It is a simple, mindless connection with all-that-is that blossoms out from our center just after that last holding of the breath; as the fly lazily saunters itself to the surface of the water on that priceless “s-curve” of grand perfection and presentation.  It is escape into the real.  It is escape from the unreal.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

On some legs of the journey we may go it alone.  We move out into big waters without a companion at our side.  But, none-the-less we have them.  They are inside.  I have heard their voices and their sighs a thousand, thousand times.  While on other legs of the journey, we may have a friend, a companion, a guide clearly and physically there to point the way or offer sage advice in the uncovering of the treasure – or the sweet spot.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

This is how the journey is at once both individual and communal.  The treasure is at once both individual and communal.  While others may be encountered along the way – both inside and out –the majority of what we do along the way toward finding the treasure is singularly ours – alone .  We may just have a gathered crowd of onlookers as we singularly journey toward our prize.  At the end of the day –no matter the visitor count on the trip – we are the ones responsible for making the decisions we do that impact whether or not we work toward unearthing that treasure or catching that “crafty-old-son-of-a-bitch”.  And, while there is no guarantee that because we exert energy we will find it and catch it; it is accepted belief that if we seek it, it will – by our seeking – be caused to appear (or some piece of it large enough to assuage our effort).  If I fish it, it will come.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

We want, expect, and ever-long-for that one thing, that tipping point event, that perfected state / relationship and our subsequent unbarred entrance into Neverland, paradise, or at least "THE" club.  We truly believe that we are the "one and only" who will make the journey and uncover the treasure.  It's a part of our own individual psyche.  It’s written on the surface and the depths of our DNA and rivers.  We want to hold our reason for being in our very hands.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

It is no different with fishing itself and we that are called into the deep of waters.  We believe we are the one on the journey, the one that will receive the prize.  We hold ourselves to be fisher-folk elite.  We believe it is our attitude, our skill, and our posture in the fishing world that represents the true way.  I think fishing is as good a model for the journey as any I know of (with the exception of writing – perhaps).

All of us seem to find that great treasure of life and meaning hid among the part and the whole of fishing.  We find what we come to fishing for among the gentle flowing weeds, said auburn, green, and golden patina and shine on rocks under the water, the hope that a fish will rise, and for the perfect tying of the perfect knot with feeble, shaky, aging hands.  In fishing we hope to catch beauty and truth (albeit as a Rainbow or Brown).  We want a haul that is satisfying, and capable of filling us up.  Fishing for our reason, we know we will find it.  We go because we know we will return – FULL.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

The journey for the treasure is mythic as it is a hologram of the journey – for each, and also every-man.   It is not just ours alone, and it is not just one specific journey alone.   It is an image for all our individual journeys and for the journey we take as a species overtime.  We have all always been about the task of coming to the BIG WATERS and approaching them with the hope – yeah the belief – we will pull out some small thing from her depths.  It is mythic because it tends to involve someone that enters the journey alongside us and has a key and instructions and powerful directions that help us navigate through some portion of or totality of the journey – someone who helps us to make our own choices.  A guide, a mentor, a keeper of boons.   Is this not mythic and mystic?

Fishing is mythic.  There are all sorts of inner fisher-folk who call to our cast and presentation; beg us to wait and to hold our breath.  There are lines we hold in our insides that we repeat again, and again, and again, that make us remake ourselves (some of mine are from Maclean) into new people upon these waters.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

The journey for the treasure is mystic in that it often involves interaction with and small attainment of things that are invisible and not simply matter which we can hold in our hands.  For that, it is made of subtle energies, infinitesimally small vibrations, and forces, characteristics, notions, and ideas which border on  psychic, imaginal, and intuitive.  Hunches and leanings.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

Fishing is mystic.  We wrestle with our impatience and demons of despair.  We weave hope into the flow of our veins and learn to feel subtle signs on the horizon of the stream.  We walk away from a day with human betterment running out before and after us.  We imagine enemies to be smaller than we believed.  We get less angry at those we love.  Is this not mythic and mystic?

We go out on the waters because we must.  We go to coax small things from big spaces.  We stand before the universe of things asking to participate in some small way in the majestic overwhelming cosmos of being and dread.  We are tiny fisher-folk, with a tiny fly, on a tiny line, thrown out into the endlessness expanse of 2 trillion galaxies of space and time – only asking a trout.  But, we ask.  Tell me that’s not mythic.  Tell me that’s not mystic.

And, and when we walk away we have our trout.  It may be in the form of getting eight hours in under the open sky.  It may be in the form of satisfaction that comes from having used your own self-tied fly.  It may be in the form of loving the chase of it all; or, in the excitement of having a community of equally given-over individuals that understand your sickness.  It may be in the form of recognizing that the menial drivel we have allowed to masquerade as vocation and career are not allowed to hold sway over our souls – that only this can have that.  Or, that we really love someone we thought we were angry with.

Whatever form that trout takes, whatever visage that bass reveals, whatever sentiment that shad imparts, we stand at the edge of mystery.  And, we ask that mystery to give us a nudge toward wholeness.  Tell me that ain’t mythic; tell me that ain’t mystic.  But, do it with your waders on.




Character is somehow a result of skill, temperament, and resources working to cope and subdue external forces of conflict.” – John Aaron Tierney


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