Some laugh to see the solitary angler, sitting quietly with eyes ever watchful, wasting the day they think. For they are among the many too hurried to see what lies before them, rushing to “the spot”, eager to get lines in the water, believing all they have to do is cast their fly to catch all of the trout in the river.
There were times that I fished with more energy than knowledge, though I am thankful I always took a moment at least to appreciate what was before me, to acknowledge the color of light in the sky, the soft tones reflecting off rippled water. Yes, as an eager fly fisher I sometimes felt I had started too late, missed too much. A prisoner of geography, I fished since I was seven or eight years old, wherever I could. My Uncle Jim, and later my father brought me to the ponds and tidal rivers of southern Maryland. I longed for trout, the impossible quest I read fervently about in every sporting magazine I could get my hands on, and fly fishing!
The appreciation of the outdoors, the rivers, lakes and streams came from that beginning. Uncle Jim and I would find a spot along the bank of the slow Patuxent, bait our hooks and set our rods on forked sticks. We would watch the river go by, take in the sun and sky, marvel at the ducks and birds, wonder at the splash in the water: a fish!
My first real trout fishing came many years later, in a tiny Berkshire mountain brook, down the hill from Uncle Jim and Aunt Carole’s cabin. The wild brook trout came to spinners flicked from my ultralight spin rod when I visited in summer. I’d keep two for the celebratory annual breakfast, release all the rest; and I wished hard for a fly rod. I bought my first one back then, the only one I found at the little store in town: heavy fiberglass with a Martin reel and a level seven line. It wasn’t a trout outfit, but there were no trout at home. It saw duty when the bass fishing slowed, and I cast tiny flies and mini jigs for crappie or sunfish. It was another decade before a move put me in reach of trout water and I finally secured a proper rod, reel and some trout flies, and began to spend time in the most beautiful places around; places I had dreamed about all through boyhood.
I had so much to catch up on, so many years of dreaming and wanting this experience made me rabid for it, and I delved into it with abandon. Covered water, fished with that energy, fished too fast yes, too fast. That appreciation for what was special about the outdoors brought me back though, taught me to take my time, to watch and learn before wading in and casting. Thanks Uncle Jim.
Now I am that solitary angler, sitting on the bank or standing in midstream with an old cane rod in the crook of my arm; watching. The others pass by on the trails – how’s the fishing with a raucous laugh, and I hear them snicker: that guy don’t know you can’t catch ’em just standing there, on their way to rip some lips.
The brash voices have faded when I see the tiny dimple behind that rock on the far bank. Observation has long since given me the fly. The old rod comes up, pauses as the slow loop uncurls behind, and then curls forward tight and slow and gentle. The fly drifts, slowing in the current an inch from the rock, until the dimple appears again. The boisterous intruders are forgotten now, as the golden toned shaft bends deeply and the ancient reel purrs.