As winter in the West is swiftly coming to an end, I find myself looking back on the seasons passed. Traditionally speaking this not an act I take lightly. I like to believe there’s an unspoken spell that binds us not to revel in the memories of old unless they are tempered in the light of joy and grace. One can briefly crack a smile before we invest our focus in the riddles left unsolved. For years without knowing I started building an concrete timeline of fish caught and lost in the back of my mind. This timeline isn’t to be confused with a value of numbers. As fly fishermen we like to pride ourselves with the idea that it was never about the fish. As I address the elephant in the room, it really is. For some it is a numb out cry for approval, others it’s a couple of fish to hand that required a handful of fly changes. Either way when we get skunked there’s always an empty void left unfilled. The timeline was a way I could relive the triumph and tragedies I faced from a one day old fishing license to the expiration date. Funny thing about being a trout intoxicated addict (especially one that ties) is that we don’t view seasons like the rest of the sheep. For instance, when I start taking fish on big hopper patterns I begin to get very excited about chukar and hockey. For me the timeline holds little in the ways of “best yet” fish. Some of the all-star highlights are fish that were caught around a very interesting structure or a fish that had eluded you for the 3 past trips. Dishing out refusal after refusal, then you finally take enough hackle and hair off he says “Ya, that shit’s real.”
I always find myself relating fly fishing to music often, especially the tying facet. I remember when I began tying, it was so overwhelming to imagine one person would need so many flies. It wasn’t until I read AK Bests’ “Production Fly Tying” that l realized personal preference was the only way to look at it. I loved Metallica’s “And Justice For All”. It was still heavy, they were still pissed and it still made your hair stand up. To me I started looking at it like a stimulator was that albums equivalent where as “The Black Album” was an olive wooly bugger. There will always be those flies out there that you will just down right turn a nose to. Whether it’s because they’ve never caught you a fish or they float like a stone, we all begin to find a style. I would be comfortable saying it comes down to what you love. Can we sleep at night or weld under a hood for 10 hours thinking about a way to achieve our dreams that doesn’t meet a standard set by the passions we have in our hearts? We were born to dissolve the excess stimulus, it becomes a constant and we adjust our priorities to stand in front of the norm. Tying becomes a chore, from the point you stage materials to the whip finish after a couple dozen of the same patterns give or take a handful of hook size changes. You settle in, get right with your head and accept that you’ll endure repetition for the rest of your night. At that point the mind always drifts into a realm of “Is it worth it”. Mostly, if you’re a decent man this fly will be tied to a leader, on a line of a rod in the hands of someone who hasn’t casted it. Someone who needs this magic to seal and heal the damages of past and present. All the work you’ve done unfolds into a sloppy cast, full of drag and slack. The ace in hand is that you’ve done your homework and your fishing the easy water; water meant for mistakes and full of forgiveness. A small brookie rises and you find yourself staring at the face…not the fish. Once the release is finished you ask a very complicated question…”How did that feel?” What happens next will be the magic that fills your heart and makes those hours at the vice make sense. It makes it a necessity.
I’ve never found myself reaching out to fish with “Fishy” people. I just took friends fishing. Showed them a little slice of how beautiful it is to plug-in and plug out, leave as you arrived. We play a simple game, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but if you decide to do this for the right reasons and with the right people you’ll always win. The memories made around a fire with some good people full of worth and passion will make the blank chess moves on the water dissolve. Take your hero shots and brand passion to the bank, find someone who’s in pain…..someone who needs to return to earth and watch the wonders at their feet shine in full color. We can not only be a decent angler but a great healer. Spread some love….
Post Script: Some featured in the photos below showed and taught me the magic. Whether it was inflow or outflow