Is there a difference between “obsession” and striving for the perfect day? Does wanting to be good, just for the sake of being good, automatically take the fun out of the game? And what is good after all? Maintaining purity of art form? Or being flexible in the face of difficult conditions, broadly switching tactics so you can catch fish. Foremost…can a fly fisher party until the wee hours and still go out the next day and not bust their own ass every two steps they take in the river?
You must be hungry
This last weekend I aimed to find the answers to these questions. Invited up impromptu, bags were packed and traffic beat. The plan was to prowl some (now) really low freestone. On trout patrol were a professional fanatic, a first-timer, a bonafide professional guide, and some loudmouth (?). Handicapping was involved. One of the crew decided that running up a respectable tab down in Vail Village the night before was really smart – I still can’t remember who that person was, but I was feeling the effects until at least noon. Healthy living be damned…you have to be sure everyone is mentally prepared, don’t ya’ think? Text messages began flying through the air at 6:30am, and less than an hour later we were sitting at the Westside scarfing down what would be the only meal of the day and talking venue and tactics. Then the caravan loaded up.
Sun barely peeking over the canyon wall, a gang staged up fifty yards apart to prove their mettle. The guide and his student fiddled with gear and technique down low while I stumbled upstream. The fanatic, patient as ever (and having the added benefit of an early morning drive up to clear his head) started off in between. Driven by the guide’s ribbing we were all throwing dry droppers, but the fanatic hooked up first.
The day was far from over, however, and with the sun moving overhead target sighting in the low water were written into the history books. As a percentage player I then took to the bottom. Shrugging off criticism of my fast pace (i.e. running ahead), tiny stuff was weighted down with bricks. The fish took to my charms with fervor, and consistency – by the time the call came in to head for the trucks everyone was emulating. “I know another spot,” the pro said as the engines were cranked up.
Standing on an abandoned rail bridge, we peered down into a deep, crystal clear pool. Large rainbows, easy to spot against a sandy bottom from high elevation, queued up below. The clouds rolled in and we debated how the hell we were going to get down there. This would wind up being the finale, much to the guide’s chagrin. I wasn’t tired in the least, but I put down my rod and took in the scenery. It was cool, and I could smell an entire valley’s impending autumn in the breeze. I sat perfectly still, focusing my eyes on one point in the pool in front of me. Low and behold a trout, which soon ate one of my brethren’s flies. The angler goes wild. “You know that feeling you get, Gracie, when a trout rises to your dry fly? It’s as good as it gets, and watching one eat your nymph runs a close second.” I think to myself…ode to flexibility, you purist.
Guides love putting people onto fish. One man had taken off, and the remaining two non-professionals were ready for showers and drink. We loafed on sofas, sipping cheap brew in preparation, while the guide pestered us to get our asses up and hit another water before it was “too late.” Obsession lost the debate.
A grand adventure in understanding – when to hold ’em, and when to clean up and catch a cat nap before carousing. Quitting time is eventual, and I think it should come when you are assured you can end the day on a good note.
We laughed with and at each other. Smiled gleefully when we hooked up. Felt both competition and camaraderie. Later someone noted that when you’re fly fishing, there is “always something going on.” You’re scanning the water for fish, and making educated guesses the rest of the time. Reading water. Tying knots, and untangling them. Moving with stealth, observing everything, and hoping…no, praying…that you don’t take a spill. I say that is having fun.
Just you wait
Coming soon…a special treat. Last week I was handed a few Mystic fly rods, with the goal of fishing them over the next month or so and reporting back my thoughts. Opinion should be pretty comprehensive (if worthless, considering the source): I can’t cast so this fine rod isn’t going to help me one bit; No you can’t borrow one of them, because they aren’t mine to begin with; Did I leave that rod tube in the bar last night?
It’s a never ending quest for answers. Particularly since none were found here.
MG signing off (to redefine the word “obsession” for Merriam-Webster)
Editor’s note: The slightly peaked member of the party did not get wet during this outing. Which was
an answer a miracle.