The tackle for the day rests upon autumn leaves as the angler reclines streamside, waiting and watching for what the current’s thread may reveal.

I have spent many hours sitting upon riverbanks, learning much which I might otherwise have missed.

In my early days of flyfishing I seemed always to be wading and casting, at times wearing myself thin passing the least productive hours of the day searching all the water with my fly. It was my growing appreciation, no, my passion for the dry fly that saved me from expiring riverside due to overzealous fishing without catching.

Counting the years now behind me, I realize that much of that time has been spent watching, and it has been during these times that countless lessons have been learned. In truth, fly fishing should not come down to some relentless pursuit of everything that swims. One caught up in such a constant, fevered search hasn’t time to listen to the river, to learn what Nature has to teach.

In decades of sitting and watching rivers, I have witnessed countless subtle clues to the magic and the mystery of trout and fly. Volumes of angling lore have primed the neophyte to expect to be engulfed in a cloud of mayflies when visiting any stream his guidebook states holds certain hatches. Finding no such cloud of fluttering insects, he splashes and tramps through water that might have made hjis day sublime. It takes time to learn that writers oft get caught up in the bliss of their most breathtaking moments astream, portraying rare occurrences as commonplace. An afternoon spent sitting quietly on the bank reveals the truth behind fantasy.

Cultivating patience and stream craft is the antithesis of the instant gratification society leads many to seek, and the patience learned along riverbanks has led me to see and appreciate the wonder of rivers.

These old eyes see so much more when given the time to study currents and eddies, pockets of shade and the tiny motion of a single mayfly plastered in the film. I cannot count the times that studying the subtleties of the river’s flow has revealed the lie of some trophy trout. Waiting puts me at ease, and once the clues have been discovered, the transition from rest to a careful stalk comes naturally.

Learning the habits of rivers, and those quiet hours of study help form an understanding of the game that cannot be taken from a book or an article. The knowledge gained from years of careful angling fuels instincts that guide my fishing. Certainly, there are times when covering water is the best gameplan, but not with a hurried, haphazard attack. Wading teaches a connection with the river, care and stealth should be the result. When I “cover water” I am hunting; I concentrate on certain parts of that water, constantly assessing the best approach, the prime casting position for each reach of current I have targeted.

I have reaped great pleasure from time along the water. There are times when I have been relatively certain I would not take a trout, when my pleasure came instead from watching an eagle glide between treetops, or the soft shadows of clouds above the mountains. I have a special fondness for the myriad effects of light upon the water and the landscape, and take moments to appreciate the simple beauty before me.


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