May 10th, 2004

The Magic Wand
By James Castwell

Where else can a person wave a wand and step from today's reality back in time and join with the ranks of individuals who collectively formed over eons what could quite conceivably be considered a religion. At the least a fraternity of fellows captivated by the nuances of a sport.

You see, by the simple omission of a worm on a hook and the attaching thereon a fly, the leap can be accomplished. And as the ringing of a bell, once done, can not be reversed. Take for instance fishing, regular, normal, everyday go fishing to catch fish. Simply thing. The object is to get fish, period. Oh yes, likely have a enjoyable time doing too. Even today, in some countries, China for instance, fly-fishing is silly. You fish to get fish, period; catch and release is even sillier. But for some of us life is not that simple. We want more.

As is for many, something evolves, something needs to be added to the experience. More fish? Bigger fish? More and bigger fish, faster? No, something else is desired. If you can catch fish, big and fast, what more could there be? Reward? Fulfilment? Fun?

Certainly not more work. Not limiting the ability to catch any. No sense in making it harder to succeed. Does the fly rod make things harder, or in fact make some things possible? What then? Is fly-fishing the 'secret of life?'

Why is it that a sport that started using a 18 foot stick with a length of horse hair tied to the tip and a fly on the end of the final two hair end became so enthralling? The rod was held aloft and a gentle breeze would swing the fly (a dry) out over the water. From those humble beginnings has been forged the recreation as we know it today. It is into this progression one steps when he only removes a thing as simple as a worm. What is one to find in all of this?

The evolution is remarkable and fascinating. The history of the rods, lines, flies, methods of fishing and attitudes can be addictive as the sport itself . Flies that sunk, those which floated a bit, lines which were stiff, those that were not, materials used for the rods, for the lines, and for the flies and even the hooks. Eyed or not. All had their time in history and each led to the development of the next step. This is the club which we join at such a time.

Much was from England, some central, some a bit north. A fly cast to a rising fish and the fish taken, should likely not take a surface fly again, therefore should be killed. It was boorish to fish for or take a trout from beneath the surface. The nymph had not yet been invented.

When it eventually was, it was only used when a rising fish had refused a well placed dry. This all changed when fly-fishing emigrated to America. There were few if any rules. Equipment had started to become available, limited only in choice of selection. Tying sprang forth full-blown, influenced by the English sparse concept. This was reflected by the so called 'Catskill' fly.

The elitist attitude came over on the same boat, if not on the one before. It prevails to this day. There are those who prefer to only fish one way. Dry, nymph or wetfly. Few will champion two or all. However a well rounded angler would do best to incorporate the three. One joins the ranks of several generations of not only fishers, but inventors, environmentalists and entrepreneurs and gentlemen of the stream. A 'who's-who' of nobles. You become a fly fisher by the simple act of tying on a fly. Time takes care of the rest.

With it comes a degree of responsibility and also an eye toward decorum. The change is nearly magical, in a flash of a moment, everything changes. We become a part of tradition with all of it's benefits and baggage. It is ours to promote and protect and perpetrate or let die one stream at a time. A bit of Aldo Leopold springs to life in all of us. We seek our own Sand County Almanac. We matriculate, for we have arrived. Or so we think.

And now we have plastic fly lines, synthetic flies, aluminum reels, graphite fly rods and as many attitudes as we have members. We have come along way and we are not through. Just as we were not done with the invention of the ferrule, nor the silk line or the monofilament leader. There is yet more to be discovered, tested and modified. You are the adventurer, the frontiersman; you are not "on the cutting edge," you are the cutting edge. There is more to fly-fishing than just catching fish, much more. And as pioneers of the past we soon discover we are on a one-way trail, no map and no idea of where the road leads. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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