Thoughts to ponder from a cranky old man

Popular Mechanics is a magazine (or was) that provides information on how to do all kinds of mechanical projects at home.  Build a go cart, an automatic dog feeder, a tree house, rebuild a lawnmower. Instructions in detail for all manner of projects. Each article breaks the work down into the tools and materials, the steps and techniques. Mechanical. It doesn’t dwell on the joy of the work nor of using the newly engineered creation much past the opening paragraph.

Today’s fly fishing instruction seems similar. Step by step instruction on the rig, the flies to use, what matters and what not so much.  How to divide up a piece of water and make sure to scour the bottom with those nymphs to “snag” each and every possible fish before moving on.

A seine hauler or bottom dragger would do no better than a dedicated bottom fisher following the segmented grid they envision on the water. All to be able to go home with the satisfaction of knowing they caught fish, all the fish or as many as possible, as soon as possible, with all but a sonar screen to help.

Tactical gear in hand, lines and leaders, indicators and sight-ers, droppers and tungsten jigs, mop flies (what?). Modern fly fishers look more like Marines in the bush outfitted for combat – and they look as intense too. It’s not my idea of fishing.

Truth is I have spent my fly fishing life trying to fish competently for sure, using techniques and tackle that fit the occasion, but also enjoying the heritage, the place, the time, the rhythm and the comradery; the natural flow of the life all around me. I tie a few flies that make sense and learn how to use them. I support conservation minded organizations and try to exemplify the ethics that will allow my grandchildren to enjoy these waters. 

That is what fishing is about for me.

Not combat. 

Not competition or fish counts.

Fish are our excuse to be here, to spend time in beautiful places. To relax while challenging ourselves with a more difficult way than the worm to catch a fish. It seems we have come full circle and are heading back to the “worm” – as long as it works.


1970’s campaign to switch fishers to the fly

Then there is the movement toward year-round fishing. (See my post on the need for seasons)

When in high school soccer and football were fall season sports.  In winter there was basketball or wrestling, spring brought lacrosse and baseball.  Track seemed to be less confined to a season but the idea was to diversify and to give your body and mind a break. 

When my kids started soccer there were leagues for fall and spring followed by indoor games in winter and summer camps.  It became a constant, never ending pursuit – of what? Not many Pele’s resulted, just kids burned out on sports before Jr. High School.  The next generation continued the plan only this time everyone got a trophy. No matter what.  A trophy for showing up – some got them even if they didn’t always show up.  What is the point?  

My fear is that our new fly fishers are influenced by these mechanical means, trained to expect a trophy, and missing the true beauty of the sport. Ask yourself: Is the point of your fishing to catch fish no matter where, or how, or with what? 

How many fish does one need to catch to enjoy the sport?  Do yourself a favor and stop this mad rush to achieve as it takes away the most valuable of all things that fly fishing offers as…

 a respite from this mad, mad world.

So my advice is to relax and enjoy the “being there” part of this sport and see if you can fool a trout into coming up for your Adams or maybe dance a weightless Dace in his face. It works for me. 

Picking up a good book can help as well. Take a look in the Reading Room.