Explaining the “act” of fly fishing
If you ask a seasoned angler, not necessarily the gray-haired weathered old dude you might imagine sitting at the local small-town bar, drinking his third, second cheapest beer, with an air of deep-seeded river knowhow. His conversation with whomever is next to him riddled with “dead drift this and Trico that”, you know he speaks fluent trout. This is not what I mean by seasoned. Seasoned to me is understanding. Understanding what the “Act” of fly fishing means.
It may be a counterintuitive statement to claim, that catching a fish, or shall I say, netting a fish is not the endgame, it’s an added benefit. Most Fly Fishing diehards that I know and respect are throwing a fly line for a very different reason; that reason is to recognize, address, and solve the riddle.
The “riddle” is exactly that, unpredictable ever-changing problems, the riddle is about difficulty, the riddle may be “What the hell are they eating?” or “How will I possibly land this fish if I hook one?” or “How do I even cast to that lunker under the brush?” They stopped feeding, Why? Was it because of that temperature change? The bright sunlight? Did the hatch end? Are they on emergers? The riddle changes every day, hour by hour, minute by minute, be it on the river or not.
Let me take a moment and attempt to approach this for a different angle. Why do you fish? Why did you choose the way you chose to catch fish; be it spin casting, fly rod, Tenkara, dynamite, bait, lure or fly?
Why are you out there? Is it to catch as many fish as possible, hook the BIG one? Get away from the family for a day or week? Is it to spend quality time with the kids or alone? Is it a reason to see the world? or just a great reason to drink beer with your buddies? Truthfully, It’s almost a trick question, i’ve been out there for all the reasons I just listed. Some good and some not so much. But we all have our reasons. But with that said, most seasoned fly fisherman will say the reason they are out there is “just because.” I understand that answer completely.
Wherever I go to try to catch a fish, I choose to fly fish 95% of the time. The other 5% I have fished with lures, even garlic scented rubber worms and that nasty neon orange eggs that just plain feels like cheating, but I have done it. But I prefer to tie a fly on any day of the week. I prefer the “act” or ceremony of fishing with a fly.
Do I believe I’m a fishing snob or elitist? Maybe. In contrast if you excel at bass fishing with crank bait because you like that action, it’s your first choice, you too can be considered a snob and that’s ok. I just enjoy all the process of fly fishing over other techniques.
This brings me to the original point of my musings, What do I mean by the term of “act”? There is a book on Zen that is called “Chop Wood, Carry Water” that can easily be translated to the actions, processes and methods of fly fishing from start to finish. It basically states that do whatever you’re doing, no matter how simplistic or complicated the task may be, treat it with perfection efforts. If you mop a floor, mop it perfectly, If you build a wooden box, build it with full attention. This is what the act of fly fishing is. I want to give you some things to think about:
- When you first get to the river, don’t rush to the water, take time to notice the trees, the sky, the birds, the smells, take it all in.
- Never or minimally have your rod rigged up ahead of time. Try not to have a predestined idea of what you might think is hatching. Trust me, you wont know until you step foot near the water.
- Always treat your equipment with respect and awareness. Take stock of everything you need, like tippet, floatant, leaders, clippers and so on either before or after your day out on the water. Nothing is more frustrating than 4” of fluorocarbon when you need a foot.
- Do treat your time on the river as, your time on the river. Think about your friends that have to work, or the people that will never have the opportunity to fish that stretch of water. never that the experience for granted.
- ALWAYS take time to admire and that the fish for eating your fly. Remember, it had a lot of choices, it chose yours. (and also remember that you also messed up their day, what they thought was food was a trap. just say’n)
- When you talk about your success of your day at the local watering hole, be humble about it. Nothing is worse that a braggart that thinks he a big dog when truthfully, someone else in that bar caught a much bigger or more then you did and is sitting cool like just waiting to call you out.
- Listen. Listen to the guys is the fly shop. Listen to the guys picking out flys or talking about the day before.Listen to the water, listen to the silence of the forrest.
- Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s. You don’t need to have the latest and greatest. use what you got the very best you can. Having new stuff is nice and treat yourself if you want to, but don’t think you need it to have a great day out on the water.
- Arrogance and Ego should never be part of an anglers game. The fish don’t care who you are. If you are that good, actions scream much louder that words. Remember that Fly fishing is inherently a “quiet” sport. Its the only group activity you do by yourself
- When you cast, treat it like poetry or music, great fly casting has a beautiful cadence, practice and make it fluid.
Above are just a few examples is how I define and think the word “Act”.
I also think of getting lost in something. I feel as if I’m fully engulfed. This is what I believe that people that are deeply involve in yoga, meditation, art, or even fully focused accountant is when working on an Excel spread sheet. Fly fishing is what you are not what you do.