Monday, February 14, 2011

No Wrong Choices

There are--seemingly--an infinite number of things to enjoy about fly fishing. Each angler has something (or some things) about fishing with a fly that turns their own engine. Want to get away from the cubicle-lined maze of a day job? Go fly fishing. Want to see God's green earth in all her splendor and glory? Go fly fishing. Want to cast all day in driving rain and return home with nothing but a sore casting shoulder? Go fly fishing for steelhead (I kid, I kid, for the most part). The point is that I think we are all motivated by forces and circumstances that are slightly different, but close enough to understand each other, at least on some basic level.

There are at least a dozen distinct things I enjoy about fly fishing. Trekking into the lands of wild trout rivers. The singular focus my mind takes on a stream, where I comfortably forget all the garbage that exists in the world. The  unique and utterly exquisite feeling of being tied to a good trout. The satisfaction and the shot of adrenalin that comes with a good take. These are just a sampling but within each there are subtle variations that enrich the experience.

For instance, I like fishing with dry flies (and nymphs and streamers--but for now lets stick with dries). As a dry fly fisherman, I might be matching a hatch with a size 20 trico pattern, or perhaps pounding trout up along a bank with a size four Chernobyl Ant. While both methods are technically dry fly fishing, they are quite different in practice. And it is the differences that make them enjoyable. Like people or novels or rock n' roll songs, the things that make them different are the things that often make them great.

One way to enjoy fishing is to challenge oneself. It is not a requirement. I begrudge no fisherman who wants to hit the local stocked pond and fish for planters that he knows will take. His motives may be different than mine but I won't judge him. For me, there is a distinct pleasure in catching that fish that I couldn't catch last year or last month or when I was using the last fly. This is a new year and a new month and I've tied new flies all for the challenge. But sometimes I do want to know that there will be a fish or two caught.

It can be difficult to know just when to take on challenges. Here in the Land of The Eddy there are dozens and dozens of trout streams and just as many lakes. Some are famous, some are nameless. Each requires an investment of time to learn, to solve the mysteries that are held within. Once that time has been invested, an angler can't help but want to reap the rewards. But the mystery itself was part of the enjoyment. We are essentially fighting an interior battle between fishing the known--the (more or less) predictable--and setting out in search of an unsolved mystery.

Sure there are no absolutes. Every trout river will surprise you. I doubt that I will ever feel that I have solved any of the many mysteries the Henry's Fork presents. Sometimes, however, I feel as if I have hit a dead end and in order to learn I need to find something completely different and see what that might teach me.

I like blue-winged olive hatches. I like that they are predictable. I like that they are the first and last of the mayfly hatches. I know a few rivers that hold good blue-wing hatches. Rivers I have fished and hatches that I have learned. I know where the fish like to hold when they are on the nymphs prior to the hatch. I know which emerger they like and which weather seems to spoil the whole enterprise.

I have learned all these things through experience. And yet I find myself this year wondering if somewhere there isn't a hatch somewhere that I am missing. A river with bigger, or at least more interesting fish for me, at this point in my fishing life. When March comes, I will be faced with a decision. And the best part is that there I can't make a bad choice. Not really.  

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