If you’re a regular reader, you already know I’m a fan of fly fishing. Clearly, it’s not about the fashion. Chest-high waders and bulky waterproof boots are nobody’s idea of haute couture.
But when you’re standing in the river, hypnotized by the glint and the white noise of the water and the dance of your line, it’s more like meditation than a sport. Fly fishing requires both focus and letting go, determination and patience – so, so much patience – and a willingness to surrender to powers outside of your control.
For those of us with control issues, fly fishing is a challenge. No matter what you do, you’re at the mercy of the trout. They go where they want, when they want, and they have exactly zero concern for what you want them to do.
So you submit. You stand, and you cast, and you wait. And then, because you want to shake things up, you move a bit upstream. And then you stand, cast, and wait. Again and again and again.
“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau.
Every once in a while, you get a bite. And it’s so exhilarating that it gives you the motivation to keep standing, casting, and waiting. It’s like playing the slots, but so, so much better.
One of the neatest things about fly fishing is the casting. It’s a little bit like rhythmic gymnastics – the kind with the ribbons that’s so hypnotic – but you have to get it just right or you risk tangling up your line. But that’s just part of the experience, untangling your line so you can get back to your real job, which is not catching fish.
By far the best part of fly fishing, though, is what you’re NOT doing, which is anything else. You might stop to take a picture or two, but you don’t want to risk doing that very often because you don’t want to dunk your phone or your camera into the river. You can’t check your emails, respond to texts, scroll social media, or do anything else, if only because you don’t have enough hands to manipulate your phone at the same time you’re holding your rod and untangling your line.
"The solution to any problem – work, love, money, whatever – is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be." – John Gierach
It’s just you and the multi-sensory symphony created by the flowing river, the gentle wind, the fluttering trees, the blue sky, the chattering birds, and, every once in a great while, a hungry fish.
Like most sports, women are definitely in the minority in fly fishing, but we still make up more than a third, which is pretty respectable. And it’s a sport that’s ideally suited to women: being the biggest and the strongest isn’t what makes you a good at it. It’s all about patience and intuition and strategy, things women all excel at.
I confess that fly fishing also appeals to the “survivalist” that surely lurks in all of us. It’s nice to know that, if push came to shove, I could feed myself. And it gives me a bit of perspective for what goes into our food supply. Granted, I know the fish I see at the grocery store probably wasn’t caught by a guy standing in a river (it was most likely farmed or caught in a giant net), but there’s still an awful lot of work that goes into putting a piece of fish on my table, and I’m grateful to all the people and, even, the fish that played a role in it.
If you’ve never fly fished, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Whether you’re doing it for stress relief, fun, or you just love a good piece of rainbow trout, fly fishing is an outstanding way to spend the day.
"I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself " – Joseph Monniger