WHY DO WE FLY FISH?
I can't speak for everybody, or maybe even anybody but myself, when I answer that question. I can tell you why I do it, and that is about all. I wish there was one good, cookie cutter answer to this question. Most of my co-workers don't fish much, if at all, and I often have difficulty enjoying their company because of their obvious character flaws. They sometimes ask me why I am so passionate about fishing; actually they say something closer to, "Shut up about the damn fish already, we get it, you like to fish!" or something along those lines. I wish there was some way to explain what fishing can do to improve one's total self. I don't know the correct string of words that could convince them that if they take a nine foot stick with awkward line into rushing water while chasing finicky, small fish (generally speaking for trout), they would thoroughly enjoy it.
I recently had one of my co-workers come to me and ask for advice on what to purchase to take his son fishing. I couldn't believe my ears! He informed me that he had never been fishing, but would like to give his son the opportunity to try. He started asking me about what he should buy, where he should go, etc. I told him to not buy anything. Since I have a small fortune in fishing equipment (I try to own two of every type of rod and reel in my collection on the off chance somebody might want to join me on the river or lake) in my garage, I donated a set up for his son. I told him to take it home and mess with for the night, and call me in the morning. He offered me money and thanked me half a dozen times after I refused, he doesn't understand how happy I am to see another youngster getting the opportunity to get into angling. Once the bluegills are open season I will take him, his son, and my daughter to one of the local fishing piers and get some fish on his son's line. Of course I didn't tell him that the Zebco ultra-light rod and real combo I gave him was gateway tackle and with any luck his son will be into the hard stuff (fast action graphite fly rods) by his early teens.
I don't find myself the typical angler, but I enjoy the company of other anglers and I think they generally enjoy mine. I have had a couple of fishing buddies throughout the years; but I have to find new ones every so often because my job relocates me from time to time. I started out fishing like most of you, on bait with my dad. I caught bluegill off the dock or from the neighbor's boat, then I moved on to northern pike and bass with my spinning rods. Sometime in mid-teens grandfather gave me a Shakespeare 8 weight, fiberglass fly rod. I was in awe of this thing. It was something that I thought was for only the elite fishermen. Nobody in my family knew how to cast the thing; my mother thought she would do me a favor and added a wooden weight to the end of my line before my first time practice casting. The rod was not damaged (thanks to the extremely slow action of the cheap fiberglass) but the reel was broken. I was not discouraged; I put a nut and bolt through the arbor of the plastic reel, removed the weight and went back to work. I read all the books on fly casting I could, I looked on the internet (FAOL did not exist yet) with the state of the art 56k modem we had at home, and kept teaching myself how to make this thing work. I learned how to use the glass stick, I started to catch fish with it, I even learned to pause on my back cast and stop snapping my flies off. Until this last year, I had not found a fishing buddy that also used a fly rod. Once I went fishing with him, an experienced fly angler, and I started catching way more fish. I am not any more passionate about fishing then I was before I met him, but it is fun to catch fish.
I almost gave up fishing a while ago. I am originally from northern Minnesota where you can't throw a rock without hitting a local fishing hole. I my work moved me to central Louisiana for three and a half years. I will not say that there is no place to fish in Louisiana because that would be a downright lie, but I was not familiar with catfish and I hated the heat that Louisiana is known for. If I didn't have to be outside, I didn't go out. I didn't cast one line for almost four years, period. I moved to Alaska after that and that distant memory of fishing and being on the water started to creep back into my mind. At some point I realized, "Hey idiot, you live in a place that people pay thousands of dollars to visit and fish! Why the hell are you not out there?" I blew the dust off my fishing gear, replaced some gear, bought some new gear, and can't remember what life was like without fishing.
My fishing buddy in Alaska was another Pollock; he was quiet like me and loved being outdoors. We became friends instantly. Every chance we got to be on the water, that's where we were. Thank goodness our wives became friends, without that many of our small excursions into the Alaskan wild would have been cut short or stopped all together. The wives would do whatever they did and my buddy and I would head to a new river and see if our luck was any better there than the last time. We caught few fish, but enjoyed each other's company almost as much as we enjoyed the sounds of the river, the wind, the trees, and the outdoors.
I was relocated to Minnesota a year and a half ago, to a suburb just south of the twin cities. I have found several lakes that I like to fish, either with my canoe or from shore. I catch crappies, northern, bass, blue gill (with my daughter). I am going to try to catch trout again this year. At this point in my life, fishing sometimes feels like more like an obsession than a hobby. I drive my wife nuts by watching fishing shows, talking about fishing, reading articles on fishing, playing with my new fishing gear, and practicing knots in the living room. I feel like fishing is the only thing that keeps me from becoming a "city boy" while I live so close to the metro area. I have never lived in a place with such a large population. I feel claustrophobic; I am amazed by how little respect people have for each other. Living near the city really stresses me out, but when I am fishing, that all goes away. When I find my way back to the water, all the weight of the world is removed from my shoulders and all I have to focus on is keeping the line tight, watching those tailing loops, and giving due respect to the water.
I am giving my daughter her first fly rod this month for her fifth birthday. She has mastered using bait, and even catches fish with small weighted flies from her little Zebco. She is much smarter than I was as her age. I have watched her cast a couple different fly rods, between fishing expos and begging me to try mine and I think she may be a natural. Her young mind understands that she needs to stop the rod to make the line go (I never even thought to try explaining this to her as I thought it would go in one ear and out the other). I think she will make a fine fly fisher, and I couldn't be more proud.
I don't think I ever answered the question I posed to myself at the beginning of this, or maybe I did. Some place in the last thousand words or so my true passion might have slipped from my finger tips onto the page, or maybe it didn't. But that's what happens when I get asked about fishing, I start to ramble and have a hard time slowing down. If you already fish and you are reading this, you might understand. If you are new to the sport or have never the smell of fish on your hands before, you might think that I am a rambling idiot or maybe you'll get it. I hope you get it. I wish that more people fly fished. The more people that do equals more people care about the fish and their habitat. I plan on living a long life, but only if I can fish until the end of it. We need our friends, children, and friend's children to become fishermen, that way we can pass the torch to keep the sport and the fish alive and well.