Anyone who takes up fishing never looks at water the same way again. You’re always “reading” it, looking for the places that might hold fish. It’s a strange obsession, characterized by the last line of “A River Runs Through It,” a tragicomic novella that, at its heart, is a paean to fly-fishing. It is: “I am haunted by waters.”

All anglers are haunted by waters. The term “angler” is also a bit strange. Apparently it has been used since the 16th century and is based on the verb “to angle,” which has meant “to fish” since the late 15th century. The term is certainly descriptive in one sense, as from one angle your casting line gets tangled up in the trees; from another angle, your fly gets hung up on the bottom; and from yet another angle, you’ve hooked your earlobe.

I’m a novice fly fisherman, trying to learn all the angles. What I lack in experience, skill and knowledge I make up in mulish perseverance. I don’t like getting skunked (not catching fish) and I don’t give up easily. That said, I’ve had many a fishless day on the water.

All anglers know that fishing is a metaphor for life. In fact, fishing may hold the very meaning of life. All this failure teaches you persistence and patience. Just untangling those godawful fishing line knots can translate to dealing more calmly with life’s more important, knottier problems.

Fishing definitely teaches you humility. My most humbling fishing experience came on the Pleasant River. I had been fishing all morning with no luck. As I returned to my car, the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife truck pulled up.

To my astonishment and delight, they were there to stock the river with 100 nice-sized brown trout. My eyes opened wide and my heart rate quickened. I was sure this was going to result in a record catch. The phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” leaped to mind.

I could actually see the trout, swimming madly in a large pool right in front of me, rising frequently to gulp mayflies that landed weightless on the water. So excited that my hand trembled, I cast and cast and cast. But no fly, nymph or streamer could get the attention of these mean-spirited fish. I was in fishing hell. Can fish laugh? I wondered. If so, they were laughing their little anal cavities off at me. Fortunately, no one else was there to witness my futility and embarrassment.

Because I am retired and can fish on weekdays, I often have the luxury of being the only angler on my stretch of water. It grants me a wonderful solitude that I cherish. Even on the days I catch no fish, I have the sound of rushing water all around me, the picture-postcard scenery of winding river or brook, the company of rising great blue herons, soaring hawks and swimming beavers and otters.

And every once in a while I catch a fish. Or two. And life is perfect.