Sometime in my early thirties, I began experiencing some emotions that I’d feared may come for some time. Somehow, my obligations to my family and our future had grown to a proportion that seemed to be larger than the amount of energy I was able to devote toward fly fishing. In short, fly fishing was no longer the only important thing in my life.
I’d often wondered what life would be like if I didn’t devote the major part of every day to the study of fish and their mysterious willingness to take a fly. But somehow despite my desire to keep it at bay, I was slowly being overtaken by the unthinkable.
Many of my closest fishing companions were considerably older than I, and I had been reminded often that the older one gets, the less time one is able to spend fly fishing. Like many other truths told to me in my youth, I simply didn’t believe that this would ever be the case with me.
The realization that this situation was steadily approaching was quite troubling to me. I tossed around miserable scenarios in my head like super balls in a bathtub. I never wanted to reach the point where fly fishing wasn’t my only focus. I never wanted to consider that anything else could occupy the better part of my waking hours. What was I to do? Was this the end of life, as I had known it? Would I live out the rest of my life in a miserable heap of sentiment, thinking and telling about how I used to fish a lot when I was younger?
Then suddenly, after I had depressingly pondered the role that fly fishing would play throughout the remainder of my existence, I was hit broadside by the realization that I had not lost anything at all. Rather, I was transitioning from one phase of my life to another; my passion for fly fishing was becoming more and more evident. I began to understand that just because I wasn’t spending as much time on the water as I previously had, didn’t mean that I couldn’t devote just as much energy to the study and teaching of the sport which was embedded so deeply in my existence and up to that point, had controlled the direction of my destiny.
I began to realize that even though I wasn’t on the water 5 days a week, not a day went by that I didn’t either read from a book, tie flies, cast a line or at minimum, talk about fly fishing to someone who shared my same sickness. And as I continued to analyze my current position, I realized that though my time on the water was less than in my youth, the quality of my time spent fishing was much greater. And most importantly, I recognized that each day was spent in pursuit of more knowledge of fly fishing. I realized several great truths. I was still learning about fly fishing, I still enjoyed learning and was driven by the potential of learning more, and most importantly, I understood that I could never learn it all.
This whole series of thoughts brought to mind a poem that I once read on the wall of a tackle shop many years earlier. I liked what I had read at the time and tried to recall it later, intentionally changing it to suit my liking. I wrote it down and pasted it in one of my fly fishing ledgers that contains a variety of spreadsheets and charts. The original poem made no reference to its origin so I have no way of assigning credit to the original author. My version of it is as follows.
I am a fly fisherman.
I will always be a fly fisherman.
It is not something I do, it is who I am.
For me, fly fishing is not an escape, it is where I belong, where I am supposed to be.
It is not a place; it is a life long journey.
Fly fishing is a melting pot of knowledge and skill.
It is a state of mind that I will share with a select few.
When you understand all of this, you will know who I am.
And maybe we will fish together.