Water rushes between my hip waders as I see my hunk of eggs, hook and Spin-n-Glo drift along the bottom of the Ninilchik River.
Suddenly my rod appears in hand as my hook snags on a smooth hunk of rock. I pull and nothing. I pull again and see the stone budge slightly. Splashing, but not getting wet, I scuttle over and pull the rock off my line to see my hook snagged strangely deeper in the riverbed.
I pull and the riverbed tears slightly like an old T-shirt under the armpits. There's a flash of light. I've now tossed aside my rod and start curiously pulling and tearing at this river lining. After some thrashing, an unearthed king salmon lay gazing up at me, mouth open. But there's more. Now I'm frantically clawing away the river's fabric like a kid on Christmas morning. Underneath is a scaly layer of fish -- halibut, trout, rockfish, grayling, lingcod and salmon.
They're all staring up at me, not blinking, not moving, but alive and arranged neatly like a New England cobblestone road.
I'm overwhelmed. I'm devilishly pleased. I'm dreaming, of course.
I've often dreamt of fishing or about fish, but this winter my sleeping mind did gymnastics over the idea of it. I chalked it up to 30-below-zero weather giving my subconscious an itch it just couldn't scratch. I'd heard of fishermen having fish dreams and thought it just the natural state of things.
But that one seemed stranger than usual. What did it mean?
Most of my fish dreams are somewhat similar -- I'm failing to catch the big one, I get to the lake and realize I'm without any gear, or my feet are being swarmed by a tide of fish that won't bite on my lure. The theme is I want to catch fish but can't. The goal is out of reach.
Well, the more I thought about my tearing at the lining of the river dream, the more I started to wonder why fishermen dream of fish.
Does the postman dream about stamps? Does the gardener dream of fertilizer? Does the airline attendant dream of properly distributing those little packets of pretzels and soft drinks?
I did a little homework and found Michael Francis, owner of the Homer-based Alaska Intuitive Arts, to help me sort out my questions about fish dreams and my most recent dreaming episode.
Francis, who teaches dream interpretation classes during the fall and winter all over the Kenai Peninsula, gave me a few things to chew on. He said our everyday activities plant mental seeds that grow into dreams when the lights go dim.
So if all we do is fish, then the likelihood we'll dream about it increases. Easy enough.
But on a deeper subconscious level, Francis said, dreams feed on life energy we unknowingly absorb.
"That energy is talking to us in a metaphor," he said, adding dreams are sometimes hard to interpret, but almost always have meaning.
Alright, I suppose I'm on board with that. Fishing has a unique energy. So what am I to make of my tearing of the river to unearth a treasure trove of fish dream?
Francis said I could look at it several ways, but the dominant theme here is that tearing represents change. Perhaps I'm uncovering a secret, moving through a transition or removing a barrier that was preventing me from a goal, he said.
Geeze, and here I thought I was just obsessive-compulsive about fishing. Glad to know that's not the case.
But, he added water and fish have their own unique symbolism -- water is purity, transition and intuition. Fish are luck and serve as a living protector against negative energy, he said.
So, the main point here isn't that fish dreams are a particular affliction suffered by the listlessly dreaming fisherman, but rather in a fisherman's dream theater the cast is mainly comprised of fishing elements and energy.
It's getting deep now. Taking a break from the metaphysical world, I asked Francis what I and other fishermen should do with these dreams. He told me that we should pay attention to them, try and interpret them and let their spiritual energy work and guide us.
Keeping an open mind, I told him I would do so and spread the word to other fishermen. I've since thought about it and can see how parts of my recent life would fit into that dream. And, I think I'm a little better for it by taking a minute to further ponder it.
A few days later, as I arranged my new collection of leeches in my fly box, I remembered another thing Francis told me. It rang like a bell in my head and I couldn't wait until I could throw on my pajamas and hop between the sheets again.
"Why don't you try talking to these fish?" Francis said. "Ask them why they are there."
Capital idea -- maybe they can tell me how to be a better fisherman.
Well, one can dream.
Brian Smith is city editor and reporter for the Peninsula Clarion and an avid fisherman. Share your fish dreams with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.