If you were to ask me, “Why do I fly fish?” my answer would change by the day. There’s not one particular reason I find myself out on the water. Intentional isolation, laughter with companions, puzzle solving, nature, and sometimes just the desire to have a rod in my hand with feet in the water are just a few of the reasons I may provide if you did ask me. Of course, there is one thing that is paramount in fly fishing, catching fish. After all, catching fish is usually the expectation and reason for fishing.
There is a problem though, fly fishermen take themselves too seriously. We enter into the water believing our enjoyment only comes when we hold a fish. We systematically place a logical cast into an expectant location attempting to deceive a fish. Everything is so… objective. Weighed down with a burden of unmet expectations, friend’s glory stories, and our own fuel for catching the Jurassic pig of the water world we turn into a robot. We analyze, inspect, compare notes, then in businesslike fashion we act upon our observations, always expecting results.
Big words for such a simple process. Put a hook in a fish’s mouth.
Of course, I practice these methods too, and if you want to catch fish it is an efficient means of doing so consistently on the fly. Now let me hold on to that for one moment.
Enjoyable? Well, fun is holding a fish. Right?
I have always had a dash of “ponderer” within me, but logical process in fly fishing has oftentimes overwhelmed my natural bend. Filled with a little knowledge in entomology, water levels, weather patterns, shade lines, fish behavior, stream structure, rock composition, c.f.s., and shadows I stand in the river wondering, what am I even trying to do here? The enjoyment in fly fishing was sucked away because I just KNEW there were fish in a riffle, and nothing was taking my artificial offering. My conclusion was always, I just don’t know enough. I must know more, then I will catch more. But wait! If that were true, if the pinnacle purpose of fly fishing is to know everything and to catch a fish every time you make a cast, the mystery would be removed. And many have said before, "There is a reason it's called "fishing" not "catching." Not to mention, knowing everything about everything is an impossible goal.
So here is my strategy.
In those moments I am overwhelmed I make my logical side sit back and allow the ponderer to come center stage. I emerge from my analytical shuck and stand as a fresh excited dun on the water. Slowly soaking in this new world around me, I let it all my previous analysis fall to the stream bed, and stand still.
I feel the water rushing around my waders. I listen to the cicadas consistent chirp. Inhale the summer air, and let the low toned flap of the grasshopper’s wings resonate in my ears. I observe the pulsing thorax of the little yellow and black flower fly that just landed my thumb. I watch the leaves dance with the sun and occasional friend, water. I appreciate the graceful movements of the awkward stork, and chuckle at his guttural squawk. A river in summertime is a sensational place to be, and it’s a pity to waste the experience because of a thoughtless ambition for fish that I am only going to release.
Life is all around me, and I burden myself with the absence of a fish in hand. How many times have I fished a hatch without actually enjoying the moment around me? Little mayflies and caddisflies catapulting themselves from the surface while the fish go nuts, and I am concerned with matching the hatch, making sure that other angler doesn’t come too close, and ensuring my flies drift is perfectly tuned.
I suppose this post is a form of confession mingled with my thrust into action. Actively living and appreciating the sights, sounds, and experiences that go on around me whether I take a gander or not. These moments occur everywhere not just on a river. It is a question of, will we sit down and appreciate the beauty, or will we overlook the wonderful world around us? The musing on beauty can be done alongside analyzing, observing, watching, waiting, and acting upon your fish findings - just don’t be too serious about it all, at the end of your life it’s still a fish.
I want to enjoy every moment around me regardless of situation, and smile despite circumstances. I hope, fishless and fish-filled days lay ahead of me. Not just fish fills my mind though, countless tales and experiences await me if I only pay attention to the world moving around me. My babies first steps, the August sunset between the mountain tops, a delicious scrambled egg breakfast, and far more just wait to be watched, encountered, and enjoyed.
One of those “mores” just happens to be fly fishing for me. There may be many different reasons I go down to the river, however, I could honestly do all of those things I mentioned elsewhere or by far cheaper methods. What it all comes down to for me is quite simple…
I fly fish because, I enjoy fly fishing.