September 24th, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Full Circle
By Dutch Holland, Wolburn, Mass.

As I read the article by James Castwell I couldn't help thinking how common our experiences as fly fisherman really are. Where we hail from makes little difference. It seems we all pass through the same stages and progress to the level that suits us individually. What is most amazing is not the individual trip each of us has made but rather what has happened in our sport. Did you learn to cast on a Fenwick? Not that long ago there were few options for guys on a budget and certainly nothing close to the array of rods in today's market place.

Remember the days when Graphite was an exotic material? Perhaps I'm showing my age but from where I stand it wasn't that long ago. In years past those of us on a budget found a used cane rod in a second hand shop and figured out how to make it work. There really weren't too many decisions to make. Action and line weight were vague concepts we figured out later. The only real decision was, can I afford it or not. Occasionally there were those rare opportunities when a rather good rod in need of a guide or two could be yours pretty reasonably and a visit to the local library would usually give you enough information to understand the repair process. A pilgrimage to Stoddard's in Boston for supplies and some advice, a little trial and error, some new varnish and you were ready to go.

What struck me was the simplicity of it all. Back then I didn't need to know about thousands of variables and I wasn't bombarded with competing advertising that provided just enough information to be really confusing. The knowledge came because some old timer asked "What line do you have on that rod?" and after considering my answer responded "You might find it will cast better with..." or "try slowing down a bit." The sport was far less technical and far more cordial. Casting lessons consisted of whoever I could ask to show me how to do something and then countless hours trying to replicate what I had been shown. But over time it all came together.

In the intervening years I ran the gambit, acquiring more rods that anyone really needs, sporting a vest that required a pack mule because you just never know when you might need that item. My closet bulges with stuff I just couldn't do without. With each acquisition the decisions increased in difficulty proportionally to the number of items in inventory. I had a lot more stuff and most of it considerably better than I had ever had in the past but somehow I wasn't finding fishing as satisfying as when I had little or nothing. I'm now back to every thing in one small pack. I've come full circle from the days when I didn't have it, to the point where I can have it but don't want it. Gone are the dozen fly boxes full of the latest and best patterns, replaced with a single box containing the "old reliable" assortment. Gone are the gadgets for every conceivable need, replaced with the clippers that sat in the drawer waiting for my return. Gone is the vest with far too many pockets, replaced with a modest fanny pack.

What did I find out along the way? For the fly fisherman the pleasure of the sport lies not in the tools but in the art. It is the ability to place those carefully crafted feathers on or in the water so convincingly that a fish mistakes it for food; that more than anything provides the sense of satisfaction. Patiently developed skill and understanding are far more important than the tools but not nearly as alluring. Find the rod that suits your casting style and develop the techniques that let you place the fly where and how you want it delivered. It's not gear but skill that will warm your heart. ~ Dutch Holland

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