fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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fly fishing can make you feel older than you are

Having been indoctrinated into fly fishing at an advanced age, there’s not enough time left for me to become that ‘old timer’ who can dispense advice between cigars and streamside naps. This is fine with me; I don’t like cigars and naps only make me grumpy.

What I don’t like is this getting older business. That I even know about and have a personal acquaintance with patellar enthesopathy is unsettling. It’s bad enough that there is no quick remedy for this ‘syndrome.’ It comes and goes, sometimes interfering with my regimen of walking eight to ten thousand steps every day. The idea that it could prevent wading into my favorite streams is unacceptable, though I may not have a say in the matter.

It’s annoying more than anything, but there’s hope that I’ll soon stand in those streams in which the cool, therapeutic water was snow just days before. The fish may not miss me, but it’ll be good for my body and soul to remind them I’m still around.

Fly fishing amplifies one’s observations of the aging process. Any difficulty tying knots can be dismissed to poor lighting. But when it begins to seem that the eyes on hooks are smaller than they were last year, it’s time for bifocals. Then the noises start. While silence is golden when wading to avoid signaling your presence to the fish, each step now elicits some sort of involuntary creak. Slowly, grunts become a necessary component in bending over to tie boot laces. The short hikes to secret spots seem longer. Banks become steeper.
Fly Fishing TherapyEven with age, all is not lost when it comes to fly fishing. Wading in cool trout waters is excellent therapy for sore knees. Aches and pains fade away with one’s focus on the flies, even if that means watching an indicator (aka bobber). If it ever comes down to needing a more sedentary mode of fly fishing, I’m lucky enough to enjoy stillwater nymphing and have suitable waters not too far away.

I know a few guys who have quite a few years on me and still thoroughly enjoy fly fishing. I’ve been on three- and four-day trips with some of them. They fish every day: perhaps an hour in the morning and another hour or two in the evening. In between they tell stories, slap together a sandwich, drink beer, chew on a cigar and maybe take a nap.

These guys make becoming an older fly fisher seem not so bad.

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my style, or lack of…

It hit me shortly after convincing my wife that the latest issue of Fly Fisherman magazine did not include a centerfold of cover fly gal April Vokey. While I sheepishly adamantly pointed out that I subscribe for the articles…my proof being an article by Greg Vinci about Hot Creek, where I wet line nearly every summer…I couldn’t help but wonder if I should try to look half as good one tenth as good on the water as Ms. Vokey.

April Vokey, FF Mag. April-May 2011

Fly Fishing Magazine, April-May 2011 Issue

Dismissing my inevitable hat hair and rather ordinary face, it occurred to me that maybe, to paraphrase Mark Twain: “Clothes make the man. Naked people look silly fly fishing, and don’t catch much.” Goaded by ads from Simms, patagonia and Orvis peppering the pages of Fly Fisherman, out of that initial notion surfaced the thought that beyond basic fishing equipment such as rod, reel, line, flies, etc., and waders and boots that afford some comfort and safety, stylish apparel not only looks better, it’s necessary.

Back when I used to chuck spinners it used to be okay to throw on an old t-shirt (maybe spring for a spiffier look with a collared polo), slip on old shorts that couldn’t look any worse with another hole, and jump into sneakers so worn that water easily drains away. It certainly was fishing apparel on a budget. Not long ago I spent a few hundred dollars on my first big-name rod and reel, but couldn’t crack the wallet to pull out eighty more dollars for a super-light, all-recycled polyester/organic cotton blend long-sleeve shirt with UPF 30 sun protection. Granted, this shirt also offers rod holder loops, vents for air circulation and pockets for fly boxes, but long-held priorities are hard to shake. After all, I built my wading staff with a dowel, a bicycle grip and cane foot for a grand total of six dollars. (Tom Chandler over at The Trout Underground recommends other just as cheap military-style accessories.)

For me, apparel has always been about comfort because I started fishing during camping trips in the Sierra Nevada high country, and much of the fishing back then took place during long hikes. Cool mornings would give way to searing sunshine until afternoon thunderstorms clouded the skies. Layering was a necessity.

If I weren’t such a cheap son of a gun believed everything fly fishing apparel retailers have to say, a simple cool weather “layering system” — composed of a long-sleeve crewneck undershirt, the aforementioned long-sleeve shirt, base layer bottoms, fleece-lined underwader pants and quarter-zip fleece jacket — would set me back over four hundred dollars.

But, for the most part, my fly fishing apparel has been all about alternatives and the belief that trout really don’t care that much. Once I learned that I was supposed to wear something underneath my waders, I found that inexpensive fleece lounge pants from my local Costco fit the bill. Being made of synthetic fibers they wick away perspiration and remain breathable and comfortable all day. Hiking socks work just as well. A shabby Old Navy fleece pullover offers warmth on cooler days and, again because it’s synthetic, the sleeves dry quickly after a dip into the water to release fish.

I have grudgingly made some concessions. I did pick up a wading jacket for rain protection, but it also serves well to block those late afternoon downslope winds in the Eastern Sierra, or during those early morning boat runs when fishing lakes. I will admit that the few fly fishing-specific shirts in my collection were worth the investment (though all were on sale or gifts), offering a bit more room for my often inelegant casting.

In the end, I made a few decisions related my fly fishing garb.

“Grip and grin” photos will only be taken when the fish is large enough or colorful enough to draw attention away from me and my attire. Otherwise, it’ll be only close ups of hand-held fish or their unapproving eye.

Or, perhaps, I’ll just have to hire better-looking guides to hold my fish.

Don’t tell the wife.


Update: Get another, more realistic take on on-stream style over at the Unaccomplished Angler…