March 7th, 2005

The Gurus of Time Gone By
By James Castwell


In the first season I started out working my way upstream, pushing hard against the currents of life. Most of us start our fly-fishing journey that way. Just standing in place is hard enough and we definitely need help if we are to make any headway. Soon we learn of the 'masters,' those special people we classify as 'gurus.' Those possessors of all wisdom, the casters of perfect casts, tiers of fabulous flies, writers of all forwards and the real good stuff in magazines.

To say we idolize them is probably a stretch... probably. When getting started, getting our feet wet without going over our waders, so to speak, these are the ones we seek out for instruction. To actually meet or even see one is a very big deal. Mostly we are content to buy their latest book, preferably autographed, but we are not fussy. Information is our food, it's location our quest. The Holy Grail lies just around the next bend.

At first the waters are deep, often muddy and turbid. Things are hard to see and understand. Trying to reach the bottom is often nearly impossible. Shifts and swings in the current often sway us in different directions, sometimes back and forth. Our footing is always tenuous. All information needs to be devoured, to be rejected only if found to be totally unpalatable.

In our middle season, about half way upstream, still working our way against the current we start to think a bit differently about these guru types. Sure, they know a lot, but most of it we realize we have no use for. So what that they have been all over "Walton's Waters," most of what they know or write about doesn't apply on our home waters. Oh, sure some knots and tippet stuff and lines and rods and leaders and hooks and flies and all that, but we would have found out that stuff by ourselves anyhow. You start to realize that much of what they know they learned from someone else. In fact, you are a bit suspicious of something you just read by one of them, you think you have read it somewhere else, but maybe not.

Your casting seems to get you to the other side of the stream now and you have annoyed more than your share of fishes. The information you now accept is more finely filtered and sometimes even challenged. Your waters are slowing down a little and spreading out now. More room for a nice back-cast and sometimes a nearly perfect forward cast. Sometimes you even get it right more often than not. Life is good, you are gaining some control, the cfm seems to have dropped off a bit. You can start to see things on the bottom that might cause you to stumble if you are not careful.

You refuse to use a certain knot just because someone said you should. Sometimes you skim books instead of digesting them. Reading is becoming leisure rather than class work. Some people you know also fly fish, and don't think you strange because you do it. You can now remember your children's names, and even some of their birthdays. The wife's anniversary date is still her problem, you can deal with that in the future.

As my final season develops and I take my stand I see that all of the major waterfalls are behind me now. The currents have slowed, as have I, an equilibrium has been reached, mutually shared. I go neither forward nor back, but seem planted in place, casting about at targets of opportunity. Most within reach, yet somehow not as satisfying as they once might have been. Far ahead, though the view is somewhat foggy, I can see the origins of my waters, the artesian spring which brought forth the baptizing waters of life of my seasons. The water is much easier to wade here, and far more clear. Things which were too deep to understand back downstream I now find fathomable. I can see most everything clearly these days, I am not dependant upon others for information or opinions. Over my allotted seasons, which have passed far too quickly, a lot of water flowed by my waders, during the time I saw a lot, learned much, remembered some, forgot most. Those gurus of time gone by, what of them? Of what use to me are they now?

Some have become revered, a couple famous, a few wealthy, most well known for something or other, many out of business and of course, some have died.

But perhaps, just perhaps, if you are lucky, as was I, very, very lucky, more than a few will have become... your friends. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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