One day in June, Leopold goes to a nearby stream to fish. At first he has little luck, but then remembers that the stream has tributaries. He imagines he is a trout, and tries to envision where he would go were he a fish in the water. Thinking this way leads him to a new fork in the river, where he finds a trout the next morning.
Leopold does his best to think like a fish. This is a kind of knowledge not taught in schools, and not even particularly useful, as it barely helps him catch a fish, but it brings him joy and makes him feel closer to nature.
Leopold spends many hours trying to catch a trout. He reflects that men are like fish: “ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time!” He also notes that men, like fish, are attracted to glittery “gilded morsels,” even if they might contain a dangerous hook within them. Leopold is glad he isn’t “a wholly prudent man,” reflecting that life would be dull if he did not sometimes take risks. The next day he returns, and eventually catches a trout, and though it is not large or impressive, he is happy that he, like the fish, was willing to take an uncalculated risk.
Although it is not until later in the book that Leopold puts forth his theory of recreation, here he is practicing what he will later preach. Recreation, in his mind, doesn’t need to be practical, it just needs to connect a person to their roots in some way, either by making some simple task more challenging and purposeful, or reminding them of the way their ancestors caught food.