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On May 31st of this year I stepped up to a new fly rod, not just any fly rod, I stepped up to the 9′ mid flex 4 weight Helios 2 fly rod! There were two immediate realities that I learned when I first hit the spring creek with this new love of my life… 1. throwing small streamers with a $800+ plus fly rod does not make one catch more fish, and 2. there is nothing like the Helios when it comes to presentation of a size 6 streamer or a size 20 trico. While I was over the moon for the performance of this rod- my first trip yielded no fish, and, With these realities I decided to change my game.
I have been a fly fisherman for nearly 20 years, however, 16 or so of these years were up and down as to how much time I actually spent on the water and, with the introduction of children, driving to and from little leauge, wrestling, figuring out a career, finishing college, etc… My time on the water was mostly spin fishing with little time to invest in the sport of fly fishing. A few years ago, the fly fishing passion was re-birthed and the obsession resumed with a vengeance. Once the new rod, moved up from a clearwater, was in place and I had that feeling of, “I’ve arrived” I decided I needed to change the game plan. After all, fish feed everyday regardless of barometric pressure, temp, fronts, etc… So, on June 1st I walked to the waters edge of Mossy Creek in Bridgwater, VA. and approached the water with a new plan. First, I checked the temperature of the water at about 12″ increments from the surface to the bottom and recorded my data, I then checked the flow rate of the water and recorded this as well followed by a visual check for hatches and nymphs. Armed with this little bit of data, I tied on my first fly, a size 6 slump buster and fished for about an hour with disappointing results (one fish).
following this brief trip, I hit the books (figuratively speaking… I used the internet) and began reading about the temperamental Salmo Trutta and thevOncorhynchus mykiss species of trout and began to educate myself on feeding habits, water temps, feeding styles, and best habitat. Armed with new information on a daily basis I began to approach the water differently. Instead of a simple casting fest to hopefully find a hungry fish, I made observations, recorded more data, looked for trends, re-read notes to find conditions that repeated themselves, etc… And, to make a long story short-er….. My catch began to rise. Based on my limited research I began to catch more fish, sizable fish, and more predictable fish… despite the best research, the element of luck cannot be set aside but my averages were beginning to reflect my research. On August the 6th I read my notes, approached the water with a plan, and netted fish number 99 and 100 from a quarter mile of water that I visited almost daily over a period of 72 days.
The moral to this story; Chance favors the prepared mind.
Been a busy several days with, regrettably, to little time for accomplishing much in the way of fishing. Still, each day lends itself to at least a brief walk to the waters edge for a peak or to wet a line for just a few minutes. These busy times bring the passion to a new level as I begin to lust after the rippling sounds of the water, the poetic cast of a line, or the tug of a healthy rainbow. To little time on the water also serves as a reminder as to why I fish.
During the standard toil of the daylight hours I find myself either convincing someone to use my services or I am practicing empathy as I walk through a freshly burned out home with the poor souls who just lost every tangible item in their book of earthly wealth. During these standard daylight hours I find myself repeating the cliches that are meant to ease the pain, “at least nobody was hurt” or “all these things are replaceable, your loved ones are not” I say this knowing well that there are irreplaceable items that money cant buy; heirlooms passed down for generations, the poems your daughter wrote in kindergarden, etc… and I know my words are cheap but they seem to help in the moment when words are cheap anyway. The affirming nod or the prolonged handshake help me to know that the cliche is easing the pain, albeit temporary easing at best. Its during these moments that the water calls the loudest and I must go, even if only for a few minutes.
whether its a new location or an old favorite- Its the moment on the water where I am refreshed and, if you will, cleansed. On Tuesday of this past week I found myself walking shoulder to shoulder with a man twice my size who was reduced to tears and labored breathing as we toured his freshly burned home. the trophies, the clothing, the cereal he had just set out for his children’s breakfast all lay in a heap of wet and smoldering ash. An early morning fire went from a small flame to an inferno in minutes and, just like that, his life forever changed. As we discussed the process and what to do next- our conversation turned to the outdoors; hunting, fishing, and all things that an outdoorsmen understands. For a brief moment I saw the smile on his face as he simply said, “I think I will go fishing for a bit, you know, to clear my head”. He did exactly that, headed for the water, the healing water, to a place that remains the same while changing every second. The water to clear his head. Burn my home, erase my possessions, and my memories will endure. Theres a reason the bible refers to Jesus and the water in almost synonymous ways.
Yesterday I wrote about history, more specifically, my history – or at least a simple glimpse into a small portion of said history. Writing about failure, success, and the symbiotic relationship of the two brings me to today. Our vocational identities tend to become the defining factors of who we are and what we are about and these vocational identities are often the root origin of our modern monickers…. If I were to be renamed in this day and age, my surname would be very confusing- butcherbuildercopcounselorsawyer, my kids would be forever angry when having to spell this name they bear…. But that’s enough of running into the proverbial writing weeds for now. Back to the point; I have fallen victim to the pursuit of notoriety through vocational trades in the hopes that one day my name would become synonymous with something I’ve built, some criminal I tracked down, some poor soul that I walked through fire with, etc… All the while I’ve accidentally built somewhat of a name related to, “that guy that is always fishing”. I was talked out of believing that fishing, or more specifically fly fishing, could be a vocation. Sure, I dreamed of getting paid to fish, to tie flies, to teach people to fish, etc… But I always considered this to be a childish dream along the same lines of actually making it as a pitcher in the big leagues. This perception of my dream is where I went wrong so many years ago, about 22 to be exact.
Wisdom is not necessarily related to age, I’ve met a lot of older folks that were less than wise. When soaking up the wisdom from folks that have been around the block for longer than me I considered their words to be that timeless sage advice I was looking for; “work hard, save money, buy a house, become a master of a trade, and on and on”. Obviously, these are wise words, words to live buy… But heres the kicker. These words of “wisdom” were born of the failures others have endured, fears unwittingly passed on to the younger self through this thing we mistake for wisdom. What some of these advice givers were saying was actually born of selfish means. At the wild age of 22 I looked into the possibility (honestly just thinking out loud about a dream) of starting an outdoor store- specializing in fly fishing and archery. For the sake of candor, I did lack the mastery skills of both sports at the time but I did have the passion. When I approached an older man, one I knew had some trial and error in this field, my dreams were dashed, unapologetically torn down, and I was hurried into the fields that were sure to make money. Why I asked? The process of having such a store as a small business brick and mortar was a one way ticket to failure… how did he know? He tried and failed.
I quit to easily and ran after the money believing what I had heard- translated to, “Its just to hard to make it”. That journey brings me to this day. A 41 year old man that still holds that boyish fantasy of being a professional fly fisherman . At 22 life is still on your door step, your oyster, you can be/become anything you want but life has a way of introducing us to the safe, the norm, the humdrum if you will, that has left scores of people in the same lot I sit in now- nearing middle age with that hole, that void, that empty space that was once my passion. To be fair, I fish and I fish a lot but I’ve wasted years chasing another mans safety net only to end up pretty much like him- middle aged and burned out.
That river still runs through me, the water cleanses me, and the rapids are like a fine orchestra to my ears, the rising fish gives me solace and, that water, that water is always new. Like the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, “you cannot step in the same river twice”. The river is always new- one day I succeed in its currents and the next I fail but I never fail or succeed in the same river – Despite being in the same spot so many times, I’ve never stepped in the same river twice.
To be continued…..
I am by no means a writer, author, or a word smith to say the least. With that understanding in place; I plan on writing/blogging about multiple experiences of the water. These experiences range from what I consider a spiritual connectedness with water to the adrenaline fueled rush of hooking into a beautiful spring creek trout.
A little history. As far a employment and self identify though vocational trades and professional attributes I have run the race and tried my hand at many things. The past 21 years have included a few years in law enforcement, a few years as a builder, landscaper, land lord, and a decade running a branch of a mental health clinic. The last year has seemed to bring 21 years together with a new position in Emergency Recovery as I work with businesses and families who have fallen victim to fires, floods, and/or natural disasters.
While the years have provided me with vocational opportunity there was always one passion that remained steadfast and unwavering. The love of water, fish, and the poetic grace that is fly fishing. While I have enjoyed all of my many vocational adventures, each left me with a longing for something more; more to learn, more to experience, and more to obtain through creating a life and balancing that life with making a living. While most who know me well would suggest that fear of failure is something I have never struggled with- This understanding is precisely why I started writing, and now blogging. Fear was at the center of all my vocational exploits. Failure drives me, engages me, and pushes me to learn and become more than I thought I could ever be. I would even venture to say that in some cases I “jumped in” knowing I would fail for the soul purpose related to some type of masochistic challenge? But heres the kicker- success, however big or small, left me empty and looking for the “new”. That rush, that moment when a new challenge arises but the trade off has proven to be 21 years of learning so much and mastering nothing. All of that being said, I come back to that poetic grace that is fly fishing.
To be continued…..