Our Man In Canada
November 28th, 2005

Stream Lines
By Derek Bird, Managing Editor, Fly Fusion Magazine

Let's face it, pretty much everything about fly fishing is better. I am sure that a subsurface probe of any purist would detect small traces of elitism and other ingredients that make up an attitude of "our approach to fishing is far superior than any other."

Take our garb for example. We are proud to comply with our self-imposed dress code of breathable waders, a chest pack or vest, and a ball cap that totes the name of our favourite rod or line company. We try to hide our arrogance, but when two or more fly fishers are gathered the derogatory pet names we use to describe other types of fishing gives away our true attitude.

There are those other instances, however, when we are knocked off our pedestal and forced to scramble for a strong foothold beneath the water. The times when your most dependable, reliable fishing partner, the river, becomes one of the most unpredictable elements you face. Yes, we have all fallen.

The most common fall happens when a fly fisher is standing in the stream casting. Sometimes while working through a hole, despite felt boots, the rocks are beyond slick and the dance to remain upright begins. Under the water, the wading boots are randomly moving from one slime covered rock to another until all balance, dignity, grace, and dryness are lost. In this situation, rarely do anglers become fully immersed thus leaving ears water free so that they can hear the jeers of support from their fishing companions.

The least frequent and most memorable fall is the unexpected full submersion. This occurs when there is no warning, no flailing, and no time to mentally prepare for the big dunk. I am certain that there are many causes, but for me, it is usually a combination of over eagerness and lack of thought.

The last time the completely unexpected fall happened to me was when I was winter steelheading on the Vedder River. My buddy and I arrived at the river a little before dawn on an uncommon sub-zero coastal morning. We proceeded about a kilometer downstream from the vehicle to a hole that we were 'guaranteed' to catch steelhead. Even though I was wearing 5mm neoprene waders, I decided that I would avoid any unnecessary cold by wading out to an exposed bolder where I could remain completely above water. After about 10 minutes of nothing, I decided to reposition myself in the hole. I jumped off the rock; only to my complete surprise my feet did not move because the felt on my boots had frozen to the rock. Completely off balance, I plunged shoulder first into the frigid river. The mild hypothermia that set in that day was a little less difficult to deal with than the knowledge that my carelessness ruined a perfectly good steelheading day.

Falling while fly fishing is a not so gentle reminder that despite the picturesque nature of our chosen pastime, we, the practitioners, are human just like the other anglers. And I suspect that the higher we place ourselves on the pretentious podium, our falls will only be all the more spectacular, humourous, and enjoyable to those we are passing on the way down. ~ Derek Bird

Credits: We thank Fly Fusion magazine and Chris Bird for re-print permission!

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