“Do you fly fish?”
At least that’s what I used to say. Now I can confidently respond, “Not anymore.”
Because not long ago three of us decided we’d give it a shot, and headed off to get our gear with visions of “A River Runs Through It” dancing in our heads. The clerk gave us one look and pointed us to the “Starter Kits”: 20 bucks, including flies, flourescent line, and tapered leader (whatever that is). We headed for the river.
We learned our craft from the instructions on the back of the kits. Apparently they left a few things out.
With my first cast, the line hit the water so hard that the leader broke and I lost the fly.
With my second cast, I eased out the line as I whipped the pole and – almost immediately – felt a mighty tug!
It was a bush. A bush behind me.
After awhile and several flies later (the supply was limited – by now I was using something resembling a wad of gum with whiskers), I started to get the hang of it. All at once I saw a fish splash in the water and put the fly right on top of it.
The fish broke the surface again in a different spot. Gently, the line rolled toward it and the fly kissed the water right where it rippled.
Nothing. The fish was taunting me. Either that or he didn’t care for hairy gum balls. This was getting frustrating.
Then, out of the mist, a genuine fly fisherman appeared. He looked like he had just strode off the cover of an outdoor magazine – bib waders, plaid shirt, fishing basket – the works. His rod and reel were state-of-the-art, and his line didn’t glow in the dark. He even had one of those fishermen hats with flies hooked onto it. There must have been several hundreds of dollars worth of gear strapped on him.
As he sauntered by, he asked, “Catch anything?” As if he didn’t know. He looked down his nose at us as he waded into the stream. He would have scoffed at us too, except there were three of us. Then he was gone.
After about an hour I saw him working his way back upstream. I felt tense – nothing alive had shown any interest in what I was offering since he left.
But as he got closer, I noticed that his aire of superiority had somehow softened. As he waded by, he avoided eye contact and didn’t say a word. And then it hit me. He hadn’t caught anything either! Suddenly his expensive gear looked silly. I fought the urge to ask him, “Catch anything?”
Eventually, we headed for home, 0-for-3, but it was worth it. The reward of fishing isn’t just the catching of fish. It’s the beauty of the scenery, and the joy that comes with being outdoors.
And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing we caught as many fish with our starter kits as Mr. Outdoors did with his.
I’ll reflect on all that next time I fish – maybe while I’m putting on the bobber and sinkers.