On my trip to the Bahamas I picked up a copy of Esquire for those hours of plane and airport reading. One story, talking about the Olympics, mentioned the ancient Greek word “arete.”
“arete” — a nearly untranslatable word meaning spontaneous excellence or vitality, a human being human perfectly. (Esquire, February 2010)
That concept bounced around my head for a bit. There are those moments when you are “in the zone.” It could be in a pick-up basketball game, in a product development meeting, on the river or on the flat, but you know it when it happens… when it all comes together.
I think the line between arete and waving a stick around like an idiot is most easy to see in an activity like bonefishing. The arete comes into play when you are at the right place at the right time because you knew it would be… when you see the fish coming from far away because you knew it would be coming from that direction on this tide… when you make a single cast to put the fly in the spot the fish is going to want to see it… when you impart the action the fish would want to see and when you set the hook at the moment and in the way that sets the hook when it needed to be set.
When it all comes together, it is a human being human perfectly.
Now, I’m still green in the world of bonefishing, but I know the feeling. I’ve felt it while tight-line nymphing my favorite pocket-water rivers in Northern California. There are times when I set the hook without knowing why, when I can’t recall seeing or feeling anything, but I just knew there was a fish.
That may be a bit of that arete, but being out on the flats of Grand Bahama on the wrong tide, with the wrong fly, making the wrong cast, imparting the wrong action and making the wrong hookset… I would like very much to feel that arete feeling on a flat somewhere with the singing song of a screaming reel.