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Confessions of a Fly Fisherman

By Al Campbell


OK, I'll admit it, I'm a fly fisherman. While I'm confessing, I eat Frosted Flakes too. It's not that I had a lonely childhood or anything, I just grew up in a part of the country where fly fishing was accepted as a normal way of life. Some people even made it some kind of a religious experience to be a fly fisherman. I grew up in Montana you know the state that is known for the movie "A River Runs Through It."

Autumn on the river Because of my background, I tend to look at things a little different than some other people. I view fishing as a relaxing sport. I don't get excited about contest fishing or racing from one fishing spot to another. I just like taking time to observe my surroundings in a casual way. Maybe I see some things that others don't see because I take life a little slower, like most fly fishermen do. Fly fishing isn't just about catching fish, it's about experiencing nature. Let me give you some examples.

Fly fishing is watching a pair of bald eagles taking turns catching fish on a warm winter day. It's taking time to observe a pair of otters that have turned a snow bank into a down hill ski course, ending each slalom run with a dive into the river. It's sharing a stream with a herd of thirsty elk, waiting for them to drink their fill before you continue to fish the riffle in front of you.

Morning on the River

Fly fishing is marveling at the way a trout can sip a mayfly from the surface of a river, leaving only a tiny ripple to disclose it's presence in the water. It's watching a whitetail doe lead her fawn to water after a hot July day. It's watching an osprey dive bomb a fish and carry it away to feed it's young.

Fly fishing is listening to a rooster pheasant greet the morning sun on the Bighorn River. It's wading into a river on a cool morning and letting yourself get lost in the mist rising to meet the sky. It's marveling at the brush strokes of crimson, pink, green and white God painted on the brook trout.

Fly fishing is sharing a fly with a total stranger, then stepping aside to let him fish the water in front of you. It's watching a rainbow trout leap clear out of the water to pounce on a grasshopper that landed in the wrong spot. It's watching a mink search the stream bank for an easy meal.

Releasing a fish Fly fishing is letting a fish go but remembering his features so you can identify him when you renew your acquaintance at a later date. It's watching a ballet of mayflies as they dance their mating dance in the morning sky. It's the smile on a young boy's face when a bluegill snatches his fly from the surface of a pond.

I guess you could say it's some kind of a religious experience without being totally wrong. You would be right if you said it's more than catching fish, but catching fish is still part of the plan. It's not some mystical black art learned from Merlin, but rather a smooth dance performed with a long rod and line.

Al Campbell

I grew up with fly fishing, it's part of my life. It is a very natural thing to me, but it can be learned. If your free time is as hectic as your work days, maybe its time to slow down and enjoy life a little, with a fly rod in your hand. ~ Al Campbell

About Al Campbell

Al Campbell has been on all of the sides of fly fishing. He was a guide for ten years, and fly fishes for a variety of fish. He has been a commercial tier and rod builder. He is an excellent photographer, and contributed the Beginning and Intermediate Fly Tying and Graphite Rod Building sections, plus the Fly of the Week series. You will also find him as a Host in the Chat Room. Since 1994 he has worked in the retail side of fly fishing, for Scheels All Sports. In addition to his duties as part of the sales staff in Rapid City, he teaches the rest of the sales staff in the 18 other stores the finer points of fly fishing. He also does most of the product research of new fly fishing items and gets to decide which of the new products on the market to stock. For more of Al's excellent writing, as well as information on fishing the Black Hills, Click Here! ~ DB

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