Many years ago I watched a series on PBS (Public Broadcasting System)
hosted by Bill Moyer called the The Power of Myth.
Joseph Campbell, author of a book by the same name, was the subject
of the six-hour interview-style program. The series was re-run last weekend
here in the Seattle area. At a point in the last of the series, Bill Moyer asks
what happens when a society doesn't subscribe or live by the important moral and
personal lessons their parents did. Campbell spread his hands and said,
The book, River Runs Through It has a line to the effect 'fly fishing
wasn't a religion in their house, it was more important than that.'
Watching The Power of Myth this time, and having just
returned from the FAOL Fish-In 2001, I couldn't help seeing fly fishing
as part of the 'myth.'
Ask a dozen people why they fly fish and you are apt to get a dozen different
answers. But if you really look underneath all the answers you may be surprised.
Could it be those who gravitate toward fly fishing are looking for challenges in
their lives? And are those challenges to ourselves or the fish? Are they looking
for something which will engage their minds for more than the last episode of
'The Man Show?' How about wanting to transcend our "day to day" existence?
Or being an actual participant - not just an observer as we are so often in our
everyday lives? To experience the pure joy of being alive? Where else do we
have that particular feeling? Perhaps the ability to wrest a small amount of solitude?
To live life; not just watch it go by.
Thinking about all this, I watched as my husband readied our gear for a salmon
fishing trip tomorrow. Rods, reels, lines, leaders, flies - everything checked
and prepared. Do we spend that much time preparing for whatever tomorrow
may bring if we aren't going fishing?
How important is the ritual of fly fishing? Is that a structure that is also missing
in our 'real' life? Does it matter that all the responsibility for our success is indeed
ours? We can't blame 'them' or the fish gods for not catching fish. How, where
and with what we choose to fish in the end is our choice. No excuses.
True, we may screw up - for lack of many things - but no one forced those
choices on us.
That would seem to be a good lesson to learn - especially in a society where
it has become 'politically correct' not to afix blame on anyone for anything.
In fly fishing that doesn't work! You are the one responsible for all the marbles
(or fish if you prefer.) Todays expression of "I confess, he did it," doesn't
play well in fly fishing.
The hero figures in fly fishing seem to be those who have made names for
themselves by fishing successfully and living well. A few write and share
their journey with the rest of us still on the road to fly fishing success.
They have become heros because they have solved for themselves the
same puzzles we are working on.
At what point do we join the ranks of the heros? All of us, you and me?
Aren't we all heros the moment we step into our favorite stream?
Trick question. If you ask the great and near great they will tell you they are
still on the journey. It is the journey that keeps people fly fishing. Fly fishing
is a journey; it is not a destination. It is the journey that calls to us, and brings
us into the fellowship of other fly anglers. It is our group conscience which
makes changes in protecting the waters, improving the fisheries and setting
the example for those who follow. A 'Code of Ethics' lives, unwritten within
all who take up the long rod.
You can set fly fishing side-by-side with any of the world's great religions
and see the similarities. I'm not saying fly fishing is a religion. What I am
saying is fly fishing fills a need for many who never had the 'old time' values instilled in
their young lives, and enhances the lives of those who were. The lessons
taught are the same.
For many, the best thing about fly fishing is something which cannot be
told. There simply are no words. The 'secret' is; there is no secret.
The more the winds of change and time buffet our society, a vacuum cries more
loudly to be filled. 'Nature abhors a vacuum,' fly fishing satisfies the soul.
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!