When you boil it down to its simplest form, fly fishing is hunting – a predator pursuing prey. Instead of a gun, or an arrow, we present artificial food forms (flies) that are tied to the end of a specialized nylon string, to trout, in an effort to get them to eat our offering. More precisely, a fly constructed of fur, feathers and hair, bound with thread onto a specially fabricated steel hook, to imitate an insect, fish or some other food form. And in some cases, the fly we use is something attractive to us, and hopefully, a trout. The Royal Coachman comes to mind. Either way, our goal is to catch a trout and bring it to net, or hand. Sometimes the fish is harvested (bummer), or it is released back into its watery world, perhaps to be caught another day, or live out its life a little smarter for the experience.
Volumes have been written, films and videos made, lectures spoken, classes taught and madness purveyed, all in an effort to pass along the latest secretive and not-so-secretive information on how to get a trout to take a fly, as opposed to just fishing. Seriously, I have first-hand knowledge of all the above and, your honor, I am guilty not only of fly fishing, but of writing and speaking about this madness. And truth be told, I, along with thousands of others, enjoy it without apology. Of course, like most unconventional endeavors in life, there are a few (perhaps more) among us that wave the rod, wade the water, and in some cases, dress the look (it’s odd, but some think to look good, is to fish good), all in an effort to catch a trout that does not even know it is a trout. And all of this may seem really silly, because the reality is that there is no norm when it comes to fly fishing; and that’s the point.
Through the ages, more so recently than in the past, sages, masters, and so-called experts have come up with adjectives and expressions to describe a particular trait they have designed into their own flies, or the presentation of, that they believe attracts a trout to eat it; triggers, footprint, life imparting bubbles or sparkle, life-like movement, jointed or articulated nymphs and streamers, upside-down, cripple, still-borne, knocked-down, and so forth and so on. Understand, I am not knocking it; I do the same whenever a particular situation on the stream (not catching fish) compels me to find something new in a fly, or with my presentation, that might make a difference in my success next time a similar situation arises. That is part of the attraction; thinking out of the box, when thinking within in the box, has failed. In fact, for most of us, that is the impetus for developing new or altered fly patterns, and/or methods of presenting them.
And so it goes. We always learn more from failure than success. It keeps us from becoming complacent and forces us to look at what we are doing, and how we are doing it, in order to prevent failing again. When you step back and look at it from afar, fly fishing is not so eccentric, as my mother has insisted since I first showed her my earliest fur and feathered creations. Instead, fly fishing is like any other passion one might have; the pursuit of doing what we love and everything that may encompass. It expands our mind, provides a sense of well-being, and feeds our soul like nectar fuels a hummingbird’s wings. It gives us a buzz……….