Here is my open letter to those who wonder why we care so much.
It isn’t real hard for me to see how crazy we fly fishers must look. After all, what would make a man or woman drive 6 hours through the middle of the night to get to a stream that could freeze up in a day or two? It seems extreme. And getting all fired up talking about feathers and flies and how to make intricate changes to induce a fish to bite a hook, well that must seem a bit nuts too. To an outsider the fly fishing world must seem a bit over the top. Let me assure you I am not crazy (doesn’t every crazy person say that???).
I don’t often tell my fly fishing stories because somehow words just can’t communicate my experiences. I tell myself that you wouldn’t understand or really appreciate the story so when you ask I’ll just show you a picture or two.
To truly understand a fishing story you first have to understand the answer to a simple yet deep question: Why Do I Fly Fish?
This is something I struggle to adequately explain. I don’t expect you to understand that to me these aren’t just fishing stories and fly fishing isn’t just a hobby. Fly Fishing is a way of experiencing life.
So, why do I fly fish? The complex answer is found in four simple words: I need fly fishing.
Maybe I should explain.
By participating in this great pursuit I feel clearer.
It is through fly fishing that I have learned to truly appreciate the greater things in my life…like my faith, my family and my friends.
Fly fishing provides space in my life and this space makes me a better person. When I am in the water, my mind disconnects from all the clutter that normally surrounds me. My thoughts become purer, more direct and purposeful. We live in a fast paced, driven culture, so when I step into a space where I can choose to think or to not think, a perspective on life sinks in and I find myself viewing my world through a clearer lens. When the only overpowering sound is the rush of the current over rocks and past my legs, my mind and heart find the space to breathe. I have felt stress I didn’t even know I had leave my body upon stepping into a stream. Fly fishing provides me with the opportunity to slow down and when I slow down I appreciate the important things in life more and the unimportant things less. I think about my wife and kids and reflect on how much they mean to me on the stream. My work frustrations dissipate. I reflect on how I have been a total failure in some areas and how I have succeeded in others. As I think about these things my perspective is clearer without manipulation or guilt. With each cast comes a realignment toward the water. The fish provide the escape, the water provides the flow and the sound as I get lost in this amazing setting. It feels like being in a state of emotional rest, only to be interrupted by the pull of a fish. Fly fishing also helps me connect with the fragile reality of life. I pull fish in wearing them down and bringing them to my hand. In those moments I see incredible beauty in this creature. The colored spots catch my eyes, the exhausted fish soft and fragile in my hand rests with its fate solely relying on what I do next. I take a moment to appreciate this amazing fish and then I gently revive it, watching the life surge back through this creature that darts from my hand a little bit smarter, its will to live and swim restored. In those moments I often feel restored as well. It is as if these fish, in small ways, remind me that life is a valuable thing and that I should cherish it and restore it wherever and whenever I can.
It is truly hard to be stressed while fly fishing. It happens, don’t get me wrong. We all become distracted by nonsense like lost flies, lost fish and tangled lines. But when it happens it is because we have consciously allowed our focus to drift off our surroundings, off the water, off the fish, off the movement and onto ourselves. It doesn’t take long to correct this failure and with one cast all is right again.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense but I do hope you will experience it some day. Maybe your experience will not be like mine but maybe that is the beauty of fly fishing. Fly Fishing will provide you with what you need for the journey you are on.