Three Days of Salvation

At last a real break from the monotony of winter!

The sun is blinding me once again, bearing down through my little window and glaring on my fingers as I write. I welcome that sunshine heartily, though I’d love to have a little curtain to shade my eyes. Yes, another day of sunshine and warm weather: salvation from the ceaseless grip of winter!

I have spent the past three days on the rivers, and my spirit has been lifted by the experience. Indeed I carried a rod and reel, and plied the waters with sunken soft hackles, what passes for fishing during the off season. It isn’t fly fishing to me, not in the honest meaning of the term that is, though it is as close as I can get right now. Fly fishing necessitates the use of the dry fly, is predicated upon there being rising trout, and should best be practiced with a lithe split bamboo fly rod.

Not that I mean to insult anyone who thinks that fishing with nymphs and streamers and what not is the be all and end all of sport. To each his own; though I see too many who have a bad day if they are not catching some predetermined number of trout on their chosen gear. I count every day I am blessed to spend along trout rivers as a good day, and I hate to see others missing out on those good feelings.

There was a time when I was more of an all around fly angler I guess, at least when dictated by circumstances. I was always happy to cut off a weighted whatever and rebuild my leader for fishing a dry fly with the slightest provocation. I fished streamers quite a bit down in the limestone country, for I fished all through the year, and likewise nymphs, or more likely shrimp and cressbugs, would spend a lot of time at the end of my line. I studied those primary trout foods, thought about them and imitated them, often fishing new patterns to prove their effectiveness; but I lived for May and the sulfur hatch!

If I had wanted to go out this week and pound the bottom of the rivers I probably would have taken a few trout. I simply don’t care to practice that kind of hard core nymph fishing anymore. I was a student of Joe Humphreys and I know what it takes to get the job done. Effective nymph fishing means carrying a box full of split shot and constantly changing the weight on your leader to be certain your fly is bouncing along naturally, right along the bottom. It means turning over rocks and checking to see what nymphs are there, which ones are most abundant, and then matching them closely with an artificial fly. Serious concentration is required every second you have a fly in the water too. I mean, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.

I enjoy fly casting, the way it becomes an art to place your fly in a terribly difficult lie, gently and naturally, and get it to drift right down to Mr. Trout like the mayflies he’s been sipping. There’s a poetry in that, a beauty and delicacy that I have always appreciated. I started out self taught, and got some excellent help along the way from some of the best in the business, but achieving that art requires a whole lot of practice and determination. You have to go out and welcome the challenges you encounter, to keep trying to make the casts you cannot, until one day you find that you can make them.

I am glad that I embraced that early on. I put down some great fish, and I put a fortune in dry flies in every kind of bush and vine and tree that grows along trout streams. I used to break snagged flies off from my casting position, never wading over and scaring the fish if there was still a chance to catch it. That meant re-building the leader and tying on a new fly every time, before I got to try that cast again, but I was OK with that. Fly fishing teaches you patience. There were many times I went through that little ritual two or three times for one trout, and I didn’t always get him, not by any means. Those things still happen once in awhile, as I continue to challenge myself on the river. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How many things have been sold to fishermen to “make it easy to catch trout”? Man I’d love to have a penny for each of them! The best of it isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. Fly fishing is supposed to be fulfilling, contemplative, pleasurable; it’s supposed to rescue us from all of the crap that life throws at us, and it can and will if we let it. Challenge yourself, immerse yourself in the experience and learn, grow and smile. Laugh at your foibles, its good for you, and its always a good day!

One thought on “Three Days of Salvation

  1. Mark, I concur with your perspective regarding the “essence” of fly fishing and your willingness to not totally dismiss others that aren’t dry fly purists. I’ve caught trout on dries, and prefer wets, but recently learned from a fellow how to use nymphs effectively. A few weeks ago, I had a productive afternoon on a local stream with 7 respectable (14-18″) browns bending my 1937 Edwards built Shakespeare. It was extremely uplifting for my spirits and the trout were treated gently after a brief admiration of their beauty. I respect the level that you hold as your standard, but have to admit having a fish come to hand made suffering numb feet and stiff fingers a worthwhile endeavor.


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