There is a scene in the movie Gladiator where the gladiator imagines his return to his home in Trujillo, Spain. He walks through the wheat field leading up to his house, right hand outstretched, his fingertips brushing the wheat flower.
It is a scene that has stayed with me since I first saw it, so strong visually, almost evoking a sense of melancholy.
On every river, every time I fish, when I think no one is watching, I allow my fingertips to drag in the flow. The cold always comes as a shock, although it should not - steelhead are creatures of cold water. I can always feel the water dragging past my fingertips, as though steelhead water is possessed of a special friction.
I have lived the life of a city dweller, trading crowded schoolroom for busy office. I drive crowded highways to work, drinking coffee that others prepare for me. My food is rendered by others, often to the point that I no longer recognise the source.
I touch water most weekends but only touch something truly wild 10 or perhaps 15 times a year, when I land a steelhead.
I know my brother Ken aspires to fish without a hook point, in homage to our fish. He is inspired by one of the ghostly figures of our sport.
I find a I cannot consider doing so - the act of touching something truly wild comes to me so few times in a year, in a lifetime - I certainly cannot do so.
Not so long ago, a river, a river of my heart, opened for the first time in several years.
Only 600 fish have returned, from a race that once numbered 6000.
I will not fish, even though I could. With only 600 fish, if I risk killing even one, the loss is too much. I cannot face the possibility.
And to fish with no hook? Pointless, if the object of my desire is to touch something truly wild.
For now, I stand on the bank, unable to drag my fingertips through the water, with only memories of wild beasts.
Will the run ever recover? Will I ever feel the friction of those drops of hope, dragging against my fingertips, on the River of My Heart?