This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 4th, 2005

The Case of the Old Yellow Cat

My husband of many years, JC or Castwell, loves western movies. He has never 'met' a western he didn't like. Old ones are better, any with John Wayne are the best. I'm sure this says something significant about Castwell. I know the morality play being translated to westerns triggers a desire for what we have lost in society so perhaps it serves to soothe the sense of loss in those who love to watch them.

A recent 'oldie' was "My Darling Clementine," with Henry Fonda. I was only catching a little of the dialog since I was doing other things, but a line caught my ear. Fonda, playing Sheriff Wyatt Earp, commented on how much he loved playing poker. I can't quote the line exactly, but to the effect 'there was a new problem to solve with every hand.'

I'm not a poker player, but there seems to be a lot of folks who really enjoy the game. And that simple line probably explains the fascination as well as anything. The gambling for money part really doesn't interest me. I am a gambler, just not with cards. Life is enough of a gamble for me.

Back to the movie, 'a new problem to solve with every hand.' Sound faintly familiar? Problem solving? Fly fishing anyone?

This is even more involved than any old poker game. First where to fish. High water? Low water? What can you expect at your 'favorite' place? How about fishing new water? That is a whole new ball game - no prior experience to draw from at all. (Nothing like mixing metaphors.)

So you get to the stream, lake, pond - wherever you picked for this outing. Now what? Which rod? Line? Fly? Anything happening? You did find a place to sit for a few minutes to observe right? Where does the first cast go? If you hook a fish, can you land it? Where is it most likely to run? Can you get there?

This of course is all part of the plan in your head before you make the first cast. It's not? It should be.

You can see fish, but they aren't interested in your fly. Now what? Reel everything in and go home? I don't think so.

Solve the problem. Or at least try to. Time to observe again. What is the rise form of the fish?

Tipping up and sipping the insects in? Probably an adult mayfly. What kind? A really splashing flashy take by the fish? Look for caddis. No visible rise? Look for a bulge in the water, just an uneven place where the water doesn't seem to be as flat as it should. (Turning your head and looking at the water from a lower body position helps to see this one.) The insects are just about to emerge into adults and the fish are taking them before they get to the surface.

Just an occasional silver flash? Time to try a nymph almost on the bottom.

Yes, it is a problem - but one you can solve with observation and paying attention to what insects are expected at any given time of the year. If you haven't found it, there is an excellent introduction to entomology in our Fly Fishing Basics section. Click on the Archives, since the insects are arranged in the order they appear over the season, Not Quite Entomology. This may seem daunting, but it really isn't - it all makes perfect sense. Mother Nature is very logical.

Okay, you've got the rod, reel, fly and you are ready to go. Right? Not quite. How do you fish the fly? Quartering upstream? Straight upstream? Across the stream and down? Downstream? Why? Not having a plan is sort of like having someone deal you a hand of poker and making a bet without looking at the cards. You wouldn't do that, would you?

Is the water you want to fish 'holding water?' What is there for cover for the fish? Where are the fish likely to be? When you were observing the spot earlier, did you see any fish? Or maybe the place just looks fishy?

I think you get the idea.

The problem solving involved in fly fishing is one of the reasons it has just an appeal to so many people. The more you know, the less problems you may encounter - but no one ever knows everything or all there is to know about fly fishing. So for a life-time you can be assured of disconnecting from whatever is going on in your everyday life.

It is an opportunity to totally unplug. No wonder it is so addictive to those who find it.

Old yellow cat? What old yellow cat? ~ DLB

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