fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

it’s not a sure thing and I like it that way

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I’ve decided that the decision to fly fish has heaped an almost unhealthy dose of uncertainty upon me. I write “almost” because it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unless it’s 2:32 a.m. and sleep is stalled by seemingly ceaseless questions anticipating this weekend’s attempt to put a family friend’s 10-year-old son on to some trout.

Some will say that it’s confidence that keeps a fly fisherman on a piece of water long enough to call the day a success in terms of catching. Not so here. It’s this same uncertainty that propels my return to familiar waters and expeditions to new waters.

For the five or so years I’ve been fly fishing, I’ve occasionally wondered how it might feel to be one of those “confident” fly fishermen. You might know him. The guy who walks up to a river, points out what he believes is the fishiest spot, then with a perfect loop sets up a perfect, drag-free drift. It might take a second cast, or even third, but in short order he’s hooked up to a trout worth of a magazine cover.

The reverse works for me. Uncertain that I’ll hit every fishy spot, any spot that hints at the remotest chance of holding a fish will get two or three casts. When it comes to flies, I may start with the local recommendation, but have no qualms switching to my “confidence” flies, even if the only similarity between these and the local favorites is a hook. The beauty of this method (I wouldn’t call it a strategy) is that it inevitability sets me up for a child-like surprise when a decent fish takes my fly.

The trout I’ve met have fooled me enough to foster this uncertainty. I’ve “matched the hatch” with the most realistic patterns, with decent drifts to boot, only to be ignored. A switch to something that looks “buggy” but not like any insect in the western hemisphere will then lead to strike after strike.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself to be a great caster. Guides no longer feel the need to grab my rod and cast for me, but there’s vast room for improvement. This room for improvement feeds the internal questioning of whether my last cast and drift were good enough is my personal justification of that “just one more cast” attitude when it’s time to move on or nearing the end of the day. I’ll finally know I got it right, and finally drop that uncertainty, when that last trout rises, turns and bends the rod.

Anyway, I’ve certainly got some thinking to do for this weekend. It’s a foregone conclusion that the boy is likely to use a “fly ‘n bubble” setup on a spinning rod. The question is the venue. One small stream may require too long and bumpy of a drive down a forest service road. A nearby stretch of water will offer willing hatchery trout, but easy access may mean a crowd. The better creek isn’t too far away, but may mandate wet wading during cooler morning hours. Guess we’ll see how much this young man wants to fish.

Whatever the choice, at least one morning we’ll rise early enough to say hi to Mr. Sun while near or standing in clear, cold trout water.

Here’s to hoping this weekend will be one of many child-like surprises. For me and the kid.


One thought on “it’s not a sure thing and I like it that way

  1. Pat, I think the uncertainty is what keeps us fishing. Just like kids on Christmas morning, we like the surprise of finding what’s inside the wrapped package (a metaphor for a river or lake). But I’ll be honest, it would be nice once in a while to eliminate that uncertainty and just catch a fish on every cast. It’s OK to dream, isn’t it?

    Have fun with the boy- make it enjoyable so he wants to go again. That may rule out the favorite stream on a cool morning, and it may mean heavy drink for you!

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