I love to fly fish… I always have. In my youth, I used to get angry if I didn’t catch fish, or if I tangled up the line. It is a wonder that I ever continued fly-fishing because although I couldn’t wait to go, I was inevitably frustrated while I was there.
I believe that we all go through many stages as fly fisherman and I have certainly gone through my fair share. Eventually, I arrived at a place that I would love to share with every angler that I meet. I have tried to help friends realize the one thing that I learned that changed my fly-fishing forever. The problem is, that it is impossible to give another person perspective. We can share information with each other, but there is simply no way to transfer one person’s paradigm to someone else. Any parent understands this perfectly. No matter how hard we want our children to understand certain things about life, they always need to experience things for themselves in order to eventually come to the inevitable conclusion that “my parents were right!”
We all want to catch fish, but the mistake for many of us is that often times we believe that catching fish is the reason we go fly fishing, (although for some it is). But barring those who enter the world of fly-fishing as a short passing fad, most fly fisherman really do love everything about fly-fishing. We love the environment that fish live in, the solitude, serenity, the friends we meet along the way, the challenge, the art of casting and the list goes on and on. I believe that deep down in my soul, I always loved everything about fly fishing but It took years for me to understand that the reasons I went fishing were many… and that catching fish was just one small part of the total experience that I loved.
Fortunately for me, somewhere along the way I gained new perspective. No one gave it to me; I just began seeing the world differently. I finely learned how to ‘look up’, admire the birds and the scenery. I learned how to stop fishing, enjoy the sound of the water and marvel at the water droplets flying off the line as the loop traveled toward the target. I began enjoying squatting down close to the water just to watch the insects moving around in the living ecosystem that we call a river. I was so enamored by all of the beauty that had been all around me for years yet had gone noticed but unappreciated by me for so many years. I was no longer filled with the anxiety of catching a fish and instead understood that fishing, the verb, is always as good as I choose to make it.
Of course I enjoy catching fish. But where previously I was concerned about whether or not ‘the fishing was good’, I eventually became content to know that fishing will always be good and the catching is up to me. In order for the ‘catching’ to be good, I simply need to understand a couple of things. I need to know that there are fish in the water that I am fishing. If so, I operate on the assumption that fish will eat nearly every day, (taking into account of course, that there are simply times due to weird weather and or other situations when fish are quite inactive). I love the hunt, and I love the challenge. If fish are in the water, and I believe that they will eat something, it is then my job to identify where the fish is, what the conditions of the water are and what food is available to the fish. If I have accurately determined the location of the fish and what it is likely to be eating, I need only choose a reasonable representation of the fish’s food source and present it to the fish acting and looking like the natural food. If I do that, the chances of catching fish are quite high. If however, I am unable to catch the fish that I am pursuing, I no longer blame everything else around me, as I did for so many years. I don’t blame the wind, I don’t blame the weather, and I no longer try to satisfy my ego by saying that “No body else caught fish… Not even the guides.” Unlike the times when I was younger, I now blame me. I may have chosen the fly that looked right to me, but I concede that it obviously did not look right to the fish. I examine each part of my process and do my best to determine where I went wrong. Consequently, I solve the puzzle much more often than before and undoubtedly I have more fun doing it.
And so it is that when someone asks me about how good the fishing is at a particular time or location, I answer the question as accurately as I can, assuming that the individual is looking for fish in the net. But deep down, I smile to myself and happily reflect upon the journey of my ever-shifting paradigm.