Neil Travis - January 31, 2011

It seems that the world is filled with things that are necessary but that are anything but fun. Some people find a career that they really enjoy, but for many people what they do for a living is just a job and it’s anything but fun. We take up hobbies; pleasant diversions that take our minds off the difficulties of life. Unfortunately, our hobbies often become more stressful than our everyday life, or so it seems by some of things that I read or some of the things I have witnessed.

Golf, one of the more popular diversions, is notable for the frustrations that it causes. Now I have never played the sport since it appears boring as -----well, it just looks boring. However, I do have a number of friends that follow that little white ball around from hole to hole and when I listen to them talking about their game it seems that it’s anything but fun. I have seen pictures of them throwing their club when they miss a putt, tossing their golf bag – clubs and all – into the lake after a particularly bad round. It seems more like an addiction that they would quit if they could.

Have you ever stood next to a tennis court and watched the participants hitting the ball back and forth over the net? Have you ever listened to the words that come out of their mouth when a ball lands out of bounds or hits the net rather than going over? I would have thought that those rackets are too expensive to smack on the court like that! I don’t think they were designed to do that.

If you want a real education spend an afternoon at a Little League baseball game. I remember when I was a kid a bunch of us would get together and go out in the hay field and play a game of baseball. It was just a bunch of kids having a good time. Oh, we all wanted to win but it was hardly a matter of life or death. Fast forward 50 years and how times have changed. If anyone is having fun it doesn’t appear to be the parents that are screaming their lungs out at the umpire, or yelling at their son or daughter because they just muffed a play. From the looks on their faces I don’t think many of the kids are having much fun either.

It seems that every golfer wants to play like Tiger Woods, every tennis player wants to hit the ball like Eric Federer, and every fly fisher wants to cast like Steve Rajeff and catch big fish like Stu Apte. Fly fishers want to match the hatch like Ernest Schwiebert, and present their flies like Gary Borger, and they get damn mad when they can’t.

Over the many years and the countless hours that I have spent pursuing fish with a fly rod I have witnessed more than my share of bruised egos, bad manners, and foul language being demonstrated by individuals engaged in a sport that Walton described as “the contemplative man’s recreation.” This last fall I was fishing the fall Baetis hatch near my home in Montana when I witnessed all of the behavior that belies the idea that angling has hardly evolved into the type of recreation that old Sir Izaak Walton had envisioned.

It was a beautiful fall day, slightly cloudy with the promise of rain but still warm enough to comfortable. In short, it was a perfect fall Baetis day. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon the stage was set and the bugs began to come. I had picked out a long flat with a deep central channel with ample weed beds that I knew held several good trout. I was prepared to spend the next couple hours attempting to fool several of the trout that were beginning to rise to the hatching flies. Two vehicles came down the road and drove a short distance below where I had parked. Several people got out of the vehicles and promptly began to put on waders and assembly fly rods. There was ample room for all of them below me so I turned my attention back to the rising fish.

There was a fish rising just upstream along the near bank and I spent the next couple minutes figuring out how to make my approach. After making my calculations I rose and hooked a fine brown. After landing and releasing the fish, a fine hooked jawed brown; my attention was directed downstream where several other anglers were advancing on the water. It was obvious that this was a guided trip as the wader clad lad in the front of the line of advance was only carrying the obligatory oversized long-handled net. Directing the advancing line of anglers like a general directing his troops he planted one angler here and another one there. Soon, like automatons, they were all casting to the trout that were eagerly rising. I turned back to my own rising fish.

“@#!***, I missed the ##!** fish!”

“It was a **%!! good fish.”

For the next couple hours the stillness was punctuated by a series of four letter words. They used them when they lost a fish and they used them when they caught a fish. It seemed that it didn’t matter whether they caught one or lost one it was a @%%^^8!. I was relieved when they finally loaded up and moved on downstream.

Perhaps this is the way that the modern generation indicates that they are having fun. I hear it on angling videos posted on various angling websites, and I see it in print. Unfortunately the coarseness that seems to have saturated our society has crept into “the contemplative man’s recreation.” This should be fun, not only for you but for your fellow anglers.

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