The Rockwood Files: In-flight fishing

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I watched a man fish today at 30,000 feet above the Earth. He was sitting across the aisle one row ahead of me on an airplane heading for home.

Wearing tiny white earbud headphones connected to an iPhone, he fished for nearly an hour on his lake in the sky. I don’t typically stare at strangers on a plane, but he was hard to miss because he kept making a dramatic casting motion with his phone, which flung his imaginary line out into the water. Then he slowly traced his thumb in a circle against the phone’s touchscreen to reel the line back in again, slow and easy.

I bet he could hear the “click-click-click” of the fly wheel in his headphones and maybe the gentle sloshing of water against his hip waders. I wonder if he felt the line go taut and quiver under the weight of his imaginary trout.

The airplane fisherman was a middle-aged businessman in a tan sport coat and light blue dress shirt, but the way he cast his pretend fishing pole reminded me of a 5-year-old boy embroiled in a pretend sword fight. I don’t know how many fish he caught as we hurtled through the sky, but I certainly couldn’t blame him for pretending to be anywhere but on that plane.

After all, fly fishing might actually be fun. Airline flying is most decidedly not. Air travel is exhausting, and if you’re one of those people who must do it for work on a regular basis – well, I’m sorry. And I admire your fortitude. Perhaps you should look into a good fly fishing app.

The tediousness of air travel begins long before the airport. You can’t throw things in a bag and take off. You must pour your liquids into tiny approved bottles and store them in a sandwich bag that can be passed through security scanners. But is hair mousse a liquid? What about toothpaste? Creams? Ointments? It’s so confusing.

If you somehow manage to pack according to regulations, you’ll have an easier time going through security, but you’ll still get the distinct feeling that you now know how cows feel during a cattle drive. You and your fellow cows must hoist your carry-on bags onto the conveyor belt, take off your shoes, and form lines in front of the metal detector, all of you praying the same traveler’s prayer – “Please don’t let it beep. Please don’t let it beep.” Because if it beeps, you’ll be herded to the pat-down area where cows receive a less-than-friendly frisking. Nobody wants to be that cow.

Even if you don’t feel like a cow, there’s a decent chance you’ll end up looking like one if you spend much time in airports. I was amazed at the number of hot dog counters, Cinnabons and Ben & Jerry outlets lining the concourse of three different airports. But after a long flight, a fast trek through the airport carrying a heavy bag followed by a boarding delay for the connecting flight, I wanted a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fix more than oxygen itself.

Still, despite all the hassles, I’m amazed by flying. Sitting on the runway looking out at the enormous jets poised for take-off, I’m always stunned by the sheer possibility of it. How did humankind – the same species who came up with spray-on hair and Jersey Shore – figure out how to get a 400-ton metal giant with wings into the air and make it soar over oceans and across continents? It’s a technological miracle.

But still, I’d rather be fishing.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.