September 10th, 2007

The Secret
By Neil M. Travis, Montana

Everyone loves a secret. The secret of picking winning lottery numbers, the secret of losing weight without exercise, the secret of a happy marriage; whisper any of these things in a crowd and automatically heads will turn your direction. It's human nature to believe that somewhere there is a secret method known to a select few that, if you could uncover it, would make your life a stroll on easy street. Outdoor sports are rife with people who think they have found "the secret" to their particular outdoor passion, and many of those people feel the urge to write about it. Pick up any outdoor magazine and most likely right on the front cover will be the words "Uncover the secret of shooting a record whitetail/mule deer, elk, discover the secrets of the experts on fishing, or hunting, or trapping," you fill in the blank with your favorite sport. Uncovering secrets has been the stock and trade of outdoor magazines every since I picked up my first one over 50 years ago.

Well I have a secret to tell all my readers, there are no secrets! There are no sure fired methods, no secret techniques, no killer fly; no one tip, technique, or secret spell that will make you successful.

Years ago I taught fly tying at a variety of venues, and I carried my tools, hooks, and material in a plastic sewing box that I bought at K-Mart or some other discount store. Taped to the outside of this box was a quote that I found somewhere that expressed my thoughts about becoming a successful fly tier.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

It was only in later years that I learned that this quote was from one of our least exceptional presidents, Calvin Coolidge, but he had the right idea when it came to success.

Recently I attended the FFF Conclave here in my hometown of Livingston, and there were the normal cadre of vendors hawking everything from the latest fly rod to the newest, must have gadgets for fly tying. As I walked around among the booths I was struck by how much has changed in fly-fishing over the last 50 years, and how much of that change is really nothing but hype. What is a fly rod but a tool that is used to cast a fly line? What is a fly but some material wrapped on a metal hook? Isn't a fish still the object it all? A person must still cast the fly, and the fish must still respond to the offering. We are still looking for the secret; the perfect rod that makes a perfect loops every time, and the perfect material that will allow us to tie the perfect fly that will fool every fish. Do such things exist? Sure. Where you ask? I'd like to tell you but it's a secret. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

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