Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Am Not Addicted...

I am not addicted to fly fishing. Not even close; wild trout, however, are another matter altogether.

You see, where there are wild trout, there is wilderness, and where there is wilderness, there is life.

Life, my friends, is the real addiction -- the unquenchable thirst for experience, whether social or solitary.

As for fly fishing?

It’s an engaging pastime, an enjoyable way to connect a little deeper with the waters that grace our canyons, a chance to spend time on a river blissfully distracted from the “real” world. It is not a lifestyle; rather, an escape.

Never mind that the process is painfully time-consuming: tying on leaders, browsing absurdly detailed collections of flies searching for the “magic” bullet, setting up one of the multiple rigs some seem compelled to carry, ad infinitum. I speak from experience when I say that, when fly fishing, large chunks of time in the wilderness are spent with eyeglasses on, the mind intently focused on tying knots or playing with endless paraphernalia; meanwhile, you just missed seeing two risers over by that back eddy and the red-tailed hawk who’s been eyeing them.

It’s the obsession with the minutia of fly fishing that has begun to wear thin for me. Whatever happened to tying on a store-bought Red Humpy and casting a Cabela’s Three Forks into a local trickle with a good buddy?

Unfortunately, for many, it’s not that simple. It seems some folks would rather endlessly debate the merits of this or that line, or debate river vs. stream fishing, or attend presentations where “experts” freely share information which is hungrily consumed by empty minds eager for more, more, more, or hire a “guide” to expedite the learning process (or at least fix 'em lunch), bypassing the very elements that make personal growth so satisfying.

Hey, to each their own, right? It’s not my place to judge -- there is room for everyone in this ever-crowding world.

That fish are killed in the process of fly fishing is a fact of life, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with killing fish, mind you, but for me, personally, I’d rather see ‘em swimming in the current than thrashing in my net. I told a friend recently that I’d brought enough fish to hand in two years of fly fishing to last me ten lifetimes, and it’s the gospel truth. I mean, how many trout does one need to exhaust, land, photograph, and release?

I recently spent a glorious autumn week on a California river and had one of the best times “fishing” I’ve ever had – all without a speck of gear, save for a pocketful of bread. I found that the perfect drift can be achieved by eliminating the fly line – simplicity itself.

For me, the thrill has always been about enticing fish to respond, to see rises and splashes, and – ultimately – to catch a glimpse of a fish on the prowl. While on the river, I asked myself, “Self, do you really need another fish photograph? Do you really need to exhaust another fish for your own ego’s sake? Do you really need to prove to other fishermen that you can catch fish too?

The answer to all of these questions – as found in the waters of the river -- was a resounding “no”.

So the next time you’re heading for your favorite stream, leave your gear at home, but don't forget to bring your brain (and a sandwich (unless there’s a guide around to fix one for you)).

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