This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 30th, 2001


Early in my working life I was employed by a man who decided I was going to learn how to play chess. Frankly, I wasn't very interested, but he was the boss and I learned. He taught me the basic moves and rules and gave me a paper-back chess book to read. Not exactly Chess for Dummies, but enough to get me off on the right foot. We played on our break every day. In the beginning he removed a few pieces from his side of the board, handicapping himself. As my ability improved, he put a piece back. I was thrilled when I finally got a stalemate!

It took me a year to beat him.

Several years later I worked for another man, who after a week or so asked if I played chess. He didn't offer any handicap 'tho. We played a few times each week. He was a better player than I, but I challenged him enough to develop a very nice relationship. When he took another job at a very prestigious facility he asked if I would go as his assistant. I believe the chess was greatly responsible.

Winning at chess requires one to plan ahead, to have several moves ready mentally - and a contingency plan just in case ones opponent makes a sly move you didn't anticipate. It also requires observation and a fair amount of recall. How does that particular player respond to your moves? What is the players favorite escape? Or attack? How do they preform under stress? For me, a lesser player to win, I had to figure out how to avoid the traps my opponent laid out, and consider unorthodox moves which would foul his plans. It was a mental challenge. I'm more than a little competitive, so while winning may not be everything, it does motivate me to do my best. Doing one's best can produce a winning game.

How similar is fly fishing?

How much pre-planning goes into your fishing trip? Which flies when? Have you learned the insects? Their behavior? Can you predict a hatch? Which nymphs will be available? How about the weather? When will the fish be most active? Is sun or overcast better? What about water levels? Where will the fish be? Water temperature? Does that affect where the fish will be? How much does air temperature affect a hatch? How about rain?

How are your powers of observation? If there are feeding fish, what is their 'take' pattern? What are they feeding on? Do they hold in a feeding position? If you quietly watch, can you time the rises? Or are they cruising looking for anything to eat? Are these fish large, small or medium? (You really can tell by the 'take'.) If there is a mix of sizes, how can you get your fly to the larger fish?

If you hook a fish, where is it most likely to go? Where do you need to be to hook and then land the fish? If fishing moving water, (river or stream) what will be the 'pecking order' of the fish in a run? The tail of the run? How about a deep pool? Which cast is necessary to get a drift there? What are the options? Just hooking a fish doesn't count, you need to know how and where you can land it as well.

Perhaps fly fishing isn't a game - or maybe it is. It certainly can be as mentally challenging as the most inventive game anyone has conceived. Or you can handicap yourself and just 'go fish.'

Only you can make that call. ~ LadyFisher

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