April 28, 2008

The Ignorante Angelr
By James Castwell

I suppose I must apologize for the spelling but it kind of makes my point. Ask yourself, were you happier when you did or did not know how 'the lady was sawed in half?' Did the knowledge of that trick improve you in some way or did it spoil the fun of watching. As usual, I have no answers, only questions. I suppose it is a dumb question, as to whether knowledge is a good thing or not, but is it always? Are there no times when perhaps it is not?

Incredible as it may seem, I do not have a college degree. I spent some time there but only took the classes I wanted for the information they held and went out into the job world. I could see little wisdom in learning things I had no interest or use for. Was I wrong? Most likely was. Life is hard, even harder when you do not have a degree.

In my better fly fishing days on the Au Sable, the famous blue ribbon trout stream in Michigan, and the times spent photographing and learning about the insects I had the assistance of a degreed naturalist at my side, my companion Neil. Without his knowledge and training on how and where to find out even more I would never have moved ahead as we did. I was the eternal optimist, he was the educated one.

But, how about the times before we met, like one day when I was casting a white fly on the tannin hued water of the famous South Branch of that river one full afternoon. And had no idea of what I was doing other than some guy had given me the fly and said it was a real good one. What did it represent? Would knowledge have helped me or held me back. Did it matter that it most certainly looked like a white miller, of which there were darn few available, and as I learned years later that any trout that took it was probably just snatching at a life form of some sort?

No, it would not have improved my afternoon in any way, it could not have. I can't think of a more glorious day a-stream. How many trout did I catch? None I think. I waded my way upstream from Canoe Harbor, pushing against the knee-high flow for five wonderful hours. With each new bend, foam trail, log end and all of the other magical trout holding spots, I would fish even more intently. Cast after cast. Pounding my way upstream. Pinpoint, tight looped, driving casts well presented just above the gently flowing surface. My fly drifting easily to the waters. Fully intent on the next rise to my fly and the heart pounding thrill of the hook-set.

Actually, a bit of information that day may have been of some help after all, as I recall, that was the day I noticed after a few hours and several missed rises that the tip of my hook was gone entirely. Broken off right at the barb. Probably got it snagged on a twig or such and popped it off. That might have helped in the fish catching department some. Had I known the name of the fly or the Latin name of the bug it represented, could that have helped my experience any? Fact is, it would not have improved it in any way. It would have changed it a bit by actually catching some fish, but improved it; I don't think so. Maybe, just maybe it was the ignorance of the broken hook that made my day, at least it made it what it was. A wonderful day of reading the water, making cast after cast to the likely places of hungry fish and never having to waste time playing the things.

I often wonder if the knowledge I have acquired over the years is to be considered gained or not. Was I just as happy when I knew little but the magic of the whole of the event. Or did it fulfill me to know of the sub-imago? I still don't know. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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