I think we all benefit from a good dose of courage. It challenges a person to the core to lose the ability to see the million daily details of life. Poor vision makes it difficult to manage a life on your own, all by yourself. After years of resistance, I now regard the limitations I face doing things on my own as a fact of life, something I simply must accept.
I learned how to fly fish before I lost my vision. It is indeed a fussy hobby, requiring lots of tasks with tiny objects and quite a bit of eyesight in the water. But I met my first magnificent trout on an Idaho lake, learned to release these beautiful fish and remain imprinted by our frisky dance in the water. The sport required that I have all my wits on board to be safe. But it also required me to be present, at the moment, in my environment. I got good at it, but as my eyes crashed, I needed help from others in order to continue.
In 2000, I experienced every fly fisher person’s dream in a hatch on Silver Creek, one of Idaho’s famed dry fly fisheries. At that point I had the lowest vision ever in my life. My beloved friend Gail invited me on her annual Purdy Ranch fishing invitation. We slept in the cabin where Hemingway slept. Outside the door was one of the most famous stretches of trout-filled waters in the world, seducing us in our planned adventure the next morning. Once on the water, we hit four different bug hatches. For four hours solid, the fish were flying out of the water gulping at emerging insects and our dry flies. My waders are still chalked with bug casings. The fishing was exhausting and the thrill of a lifetime.
Gail’s friend Keith helped me by tying the fly on my line. My fellow anglers changed flies frequently, repositioned themselves as they could. When I fish, I always stay with the same fly and stay in the same spot. My friends helped me release the fish I caught, too, which became a chore for them as I caught so many fish. I caught trout after glorious trout, casting to the fury of their feeding. I especially loved it when I felt a fish tug on my line and spit the fly out in mid air! Without vision, other sensations are acute, and that one was the best.
It helped that I knew some of the basics of fly fishing before I lost my vision. But my vision impairment did not hamper me as long as I had the muster to get friends on my side. The most important recognition of all is to put your feet on the side of doing what gives you pleasure, being where you find joy and satisfaction. And do not remain alone. You are a joy to others. Keep doing what you love, being who you are. All it takes is a little courage and you will be fine.