Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jan 12, 2020

Standing in the cold fall waters my attention was drawn to a fallen red maple leaf adrift on the current. The stream carried it in my direction in a lazy spin, and my eyes followed it down to my waders where it bent slightly as if it would cling to my leg, then slowly peeled away only to be drawn into the lie formed just below me. The respite was short-lived however, as two rotations later it was caught again by the main current and whisked away downstream and out of sight. Would it make it to the Chesapeake or end its journey in a lazy eddy, where it would become part of a caddis larva’s case? Did the temporary lie formed by the obstruction of my waders have an impact on the ultimate course of its travels? Or was I simply one of many obstacles it would be required to navigate along the way?

I considered the trout in the water before me. Without the capacity to consider existence any further downstream than “in the moment”, it simply selects the lie closest to prime in the manner it finds the stream today. No contemplation is there of settling in and building a haven for months ahead. No thoughts of preparing for the high waters of spring. The thoughts remain focused on food and what comes its way in the water column. If things begin to look thin, it may move up to a better lie and nudge a smaller trout out of the way. But that thought would be dealt with as the situation arose.

Our travels through day-to-day life provides moments and opportunities that act very much like a trout lie. Often, they are circumstances in life or work that are prime lies economically or leading to security. Those are the most obvious. Others are situations that lead to a position of comfort which may or may not impact others in our lives and affect us individually. Not a prime lie, but a place in life we like or want for any number of reasons. And at times those lies thought initially to be otherwise, prove to be a prime lie in the end. Such was the case for me in April of 2011.

After stumbling upon a website for fly fishing called FAOL, I soon found folk of like interests in fly swaps. Later I would read a post from Deanna that would spike my interests on submitting a few of my essays for the site. The responses to my submissions led to creating the “Whip Finish” column, and a friendship between Deanna, Neil and many others on the FAOL forum which in turn would become a source of comfort for me through the next 8 years. It was a lie among the waters of my life that held fast through the many changing currents. FAOL has been a treasure trove of knowledge and quality people, most of whom I have never met personally, yet without those friendships “online” the experience would have been diminished greatly. From the database of articles to the daily conversations on the forums, it has been a shining example of the type of folks in which we share this sport we love so much.

I have been fortunate to be able to share my thoughts and time on the water with so many over the years through the Whip Finish column, and for that I am eternally grateful. Thanks all for the kind responses and words of encouragement many have shared. And most of all my heartfelt thank you to Neil and Deanna for allowing me to be a part of their virtual time on the water. Please stop by www.ralphsflybox.com for future articles.

My Best,
Ralph Long
AKA NJTroutbum

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