A Beginners Look at Fishing .... by Jeff Dueck, September Contest Winner
Fishing... the very mention of it brings shudders of revulsion to some at the thoughts of slippery fish, cold water, slimy worms and bugs. But to others it represents the pinnacle of rest and relaxation, the lifestyle of choice, and the utopia of the sporting world. It is my intention in this short article to try to express the joys and experiences of flyfishing to you. The approach I wish to take is to explain the various components and methods of fly-fishing, breaking each part down so as to give you an detailed understanding of the entire sport. I also want to apologize up front for my use of terms such as "fishermen". I realize that "fisherperson" would be more politically correct, but to me it sounds a little odd and so I will stick with "fishermen" with the hopeful intent of it being able to refer to both sexes.
Many sporting types go by the old adage, "You have to Look Marvelous, in order to Fish Marvelous". The sporting shops agree and go out of their way to sell you the best looking equipment around. You must keep in mind that looking marvelous is directly proportional to the amount of money spent. While I have tried my best to keep up with the latest styles in equipment and fishing fashions, I must confess I am a bit skeptical about the whole philosophy. As far as I can figure it, the only thing that the fish can really get a good look at is your boots. So if it were up to me, I would by the best looking boots around and not worry about the rest. But alas, the other fishermen would scoff and possibly banish me from the waters, so I dutifully go along and buy the graphite rod and reel, the wide brimmed fishing hat, the fishing vest, and other assorted (and expensive) fishing paraphernalia.
Picking out a location to fish, is sort of like deciding what kind of clothes you are going to wear. You go through all of them until you find one you like, then you stick with that one till you are tired of it. Where I live, there are a multitude of streams, rivers and lakes which are excellent for fishing. I have been partial to a river which flows nearby, and as a result I spend a lot of my time there because of it's abundance of fish as well as its close proximity. Without trying to sound too philosophical or serious, it really does not make much difference where you go, because to just get out and do some casting upon the water is one of the greatest thrills. (Although I confess filling up your child's wading pool in the back yard and fishing in it, does have serious limitations).
As seen clearly in the movie "A River Runs Through It", the casting of the fly is one of the most graceful and delicate parts of fishing. In no other sport can an individual be so mesmerized by the rhythm and beauty of the fly line as it is cast back and forth. I too, have to be careful when casting so that I am not spellbound by the line. For within its beauty is also a force that needs to be respected. For on many occasions I have found myself ducking as the fly goes whizzing by my head. Just recently I had an experience whereby I was casting my fly to some point on the river. It was on the backcast that I noticed the fly was heading straight towards me like a miniature scud missile. I raised my arm and with a loud "Thwack!", tried to knock the fly aside. At first I was relieved that the fly hadn't scratched my fishing hat or poked a hole in my waders. But then I looked down and saw the fly sticking out of my arm. Well my mind didn't even register the pain or the thought of some viral infection which could be slowly spreading into my arm. No, I was more concerned that someone had seen me and was going into convulsions as they laughed at me. I slowly sauntered out of the river as if I had given up on this spot and was moving to a new one. Then when no one was looking, I grabbed my pliers, cut the fly and pried it out of my arm. Ah yes, the cast is definitely graceful!
I don't want to get into the debate between dry fly fishing and wet fly fishing, but my personal preference is for dry fly fishing. This is where the fly floats on the water and you can see the fish break the surface to take the fly. I feel it is a more personal experience as you become the hunter, slowly and silently stalking your prey. Casting the fly to the spot where the fish is in hiding, until after countless attempts, the fish finally rises and takes your fly. It is a glorious event when a fish is caught, for the mighty hunter has once again managed to outsmart his prey. Of course I have to wonder who actually has won the battle; the man, for spending hours and finally catching the fish, or the fish, for keeping the man (whose brain weighs more than the fish itself) standing in a cold stream for hours, uselessly thrashing his line back and forth until the fish feels so sorry for him that he takes his hook.
I would like to give some insight some of the lines you will hear when talking to a fisherman. This is also known as 'Fish Lore' or the telling of fish tales. The storytelling component of flyfishing (or any other kind of fishing for that matter), brings a great sense of pride to novice and experienced fishermen alike. How the hooking of that smallest of fish was like a monster, threatening both life and limb in the titanic battle that ensued. No moral or ethical guidelines need restrict any fisherman once they begin their story. The proper practice for those listening is to nod with deep respect, occasionally emitting short gasps of astonishment as the tale unfolds. Never doubt the length or weight of the fish, or of the tenacity of its fight. (To question it is just as dangerous as asking your mother-in-law her weight). You are just lucky to be honored by being able to relive, through words, the actual event.
I hope that with few words, I have managed to share with you some of the adventure and fun that I find in flyfishing. While I do not have much experience yet, I would be more than happy to share some of the stories and experiences that I have had while fishing. But I can assure you that if you ever hear me tell one of my million or so stories, I will never exaggerate!