February 9th, 2009

Book Burning
By James Castwell

Burn the books? Hold on a sec; think back a ways. "Son, what ya need most is some time on the water." I have no idea who first said that but someone must have. It is so universally true. So what does time on the water give you? Experience. What is experience? Noticing when you did something, often wrong, and correcting for it. At least in fly fishing it seems that way.

No book can teach you how to cast. Only you can learn from doing some. Probably not the best at first, but you will change things until you can get whatever job done you are after. Not much point in learning how to cast a hundred feet if your creek is only ten feet wide. Then again, deadly pocket-picking' is not of much value when you are hammering the seams eighty feet out on a tidal flat for cruising salmon.

What is fly fishing if not a journey? If not a lifetime wasted investigating the nuances of our lore, what else is it but learning how to do more and more things. True, we often are prodded to continue on by things we may read, but most of the real knowledge happens in the field. I can study about bugs and fish but, until I have one in my hand, not much has been absorbed.

So, is it perhaps better to let those seeking to become 'fishers of the fly' and lancers of the long rod to learn by their own mistakes. To make only the corrections necessary to their own ends? Why stuff their noggins full of extra info only to have it confuse and confound them when upon the stream it fails them? Perhaps we should destroy all but a few of the books. Let all the new guys enjoy finding out what a spinner really is, a dying stage of a may fly. Look on the water. See the fish gobble them up. What are they? Why, they're tiny little bugs. I wonder if I could make an imitation one at home. Some thread and feathers perhaps.

Let the 'time' start all over again. Let each person revel in all there is, not just what he can discover between the lines of some book. Then too, there are some books that may not be dead on with the subject matter. Some times an author needs to write several to get it right. What's up with books one through seven, are they wrong? Well, sometimes, yes and you know it. So, how do we fix all of this mess?

One way might be to pitch them all out except for maybe Trout by Bergman. It makes a fine start, mostly probably correct, even for these times. That way no one would be self conscious of their casting, most would only be good at the job at hand so to speak. Might make for a more perfect world. There was a time when books on fly fishing seemed to explode, about nineteen-seventy something. Everyone who caught a fish presumed they could write and did.

Sometimes a fellow would write a whole book just to make a point in his last paragraph. Others would take one tiny idea, some fringe aspect of fly fishing and burp out thousands of words on it. Often wrong and mostly irrelevant, but they got published and oddly purchased too. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Now everyone can get in print whether or not they can write but no one cares and it doesn't cost anything to find out. I can remember back to a time, maybe not too far back indeed when I wouldn't read certain things. I didn't want to clutter my head up with stuff I didn't want. Some would suggest that I read something, "It is really good!" Thanks, but no thanks. Same goes for much of what I read these days but mostly only due to time constraints.

I guess what am trying (last paragraph here?) to get at is this. For those just starting out. Sure, go ahead and get the rod, the reel and line and some of the goodies, but, what you need is to get some time on the water. Go ahead and make mistakes. They are learning experiences' not mistakes unless you don't learn anything from them. Snap a fly off in the air behind you? Well, what happened? Figure it out. Heck, turn your head and watch, if nothing else. Remember, you are your own best teacher. No one can 'learn ya nothing.' Only you can learn things and experience is still your best teacher. Go ahead and learn yourself something new today. ~ James Castwell

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Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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