This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
July 10th, 2006


 Nympholepsy (nim'fe lep'se)
 1. in ancient times, a state of frenzy that was believed to seize any man who
  looked at a nymph.
 2. a violent emotional state arising as from frustrated idealism. (Webster's New
 World Dictionary)

Can you believe it? I had no idea there was a word for it. Not that I didn't know it existed, of course I've seen it. Even read about it, too. But there it is, big as life, a real word ... Nympholepsy!

Can you name this? That explains everything. Adult men in waders dancing the Texas two-step alone in a spring creek. Gray bearded old fellows, down on their knees, turning over rocks - like bears grubbing for goodies; examining every tiny critter on the rocks all the while mumbling to themselves. Stream-side tyers making mysterious motions, poised with one eye on their vice and the other on the stream. Their necks bulge, their fingers shake, sweat stands like pearls on their sunburned foreheads: they are the possessed. Possessed by nymphs.

Worse yet, they are recruiting other fly fishers. Even stalwart dry fly fishermen are bombarded with literature. Every slick fly fishing magazine has something about nymphs. The latest copy of my favorite mail-order book catalogue lists book after book about nymphs. How to identify them, how the fish eat them, where to find them and how to tie them up. The nymphers are everywhere. They must be multiplying in some secret nook.

How about this? Who are these afflicted ones? What happened to the dry fly fisherman? Is nymphing fly fishing? Not in my world. Then again, if you have ever seen the fellow on PBS teaching painting, he claims you can create whatever world you want.

The tee shirt that reads, "The Way To A Fisherman's Heart Is Through His Fly" should be made with, "The Way To A Fisherman's Heart Is Through His Nymph." Hey, maybe I've got something there. It makes just as much non-sense.

My husband was given one of those shirts as a gift. Maybe it's fun, but for sure tacky. Besides, a shirt for him should have read, "Upstream And Dry." That is certainly a personal bias. Just because some chose to limit their fresh-water fishing to dry flies doesn't make them right. Or wrong. (Although our kind doesn't seem to find that secret reproduction nook in the numbers nymphers do.)

What causes the differences between those who are nymphers and those who prefer dry flies? Maybe it's age. Wisdom? Frame of reference? Has some insidious disease infected the brains of dry fly fishers? Don't they realize trout eat nine nymphs for every dry they take? How could they not understand you can catch more fish with nymphs? More is better - right?

Could be. Or not. A vision almost always appears in my mind when I think of fly fishing. Looking upstream at the ripples and channels, a man with a diminutive golden rod gracefully casts with flawless ease to a rising fish. Swallows dip and swoop against the cobalt blue sky. A whispy breeze barely ruffles grasses at the waters edge. The caster looks upward as his forward cast rolls out. He smiles as the fly gently alights on the surface of the stream.

And this one?

Contrast that image with that of the nympher. Eyes searching, always downwards, he makes his cross-wise downstream cast. A quick roll-cast, a plop, and watch. Ever observing downward. Ah, a hit .. no, snagged up again. Darn.

That's downright depressing. Not righter or wronger, just depressing. But it is easier than learning to cast a dry fly properly. But you catch more fish. So why is the nympher a pessimist?

What do you think this is all about? Consider this, the difference and changes happening in the fly fishing world may have to do with the changes in the world. Those particular parts of the id where values and principals live.

For many fly fishermen, the total experience is the priority. It is the places where trout are found. It is the comradeship of old friends and familiar places. Shaded, secluded runs and deep hidden pools. A shared or solitary pleasure, your choice. The absolute joy of a cast well placed to the riser. Knowing which insect, which fly, when and how.

If you know all these, you've got it!

The dry fly fisherman is the contemplative man. For him, it has never been about numbers. It is not the procuring of fish. How many fish caught, or released pale against the experience. For some it is just being there. The dry fly fisherman is an optimist.

So what about the possessed ones? Fly fishermen are the only people in the world haughty enough to call a San Juan Worm a fly. Or a nymph a fly. It's bait! Artificial bait at that. Just because a person can afford to buy a fly rod it doesn't make that person a fly fisherman. Don't get your dander up. I know sometimes the hatches are scarce or non-existent. Maybe a person could get desperate to catch a fish. So he fishes a Hare's Ear Nymph. Does that count against him in the great book somewhere? Only the keeper of the great book knows that.

Perhaps I should be grateful the people fishing nymphs have graduated to nymphs from whatever bait they were using. Maybe they will mature and grow to enjoy the total experience of fly fishing. They might glimpse the joy and contentment visible on the upstream and dry fisher's face. They could even wonder what they are missing.

It wouldn't be necessary to make the whole jump at once. Floating a stone fly or terrestrial in the surface film could change their whole outlook. Learning about drift, line mending, and maybe seeing the take would be an interesting challenge. It's only a small step then to dry flies. And casting. A whole new world.

Will it happen? Let's encourage it. Why? Because the numbers game must stop. Yes, there has been a huge growth in fly fishing over the past few years. Folks ask for casting lessons because they saw "the movie" and it looks so graceful. That's a wantabe. We can teach casting, maybe fishing too - but we don't teach thinking. By the time students get to a casting class they are already the products of the education system, t.v. hype and the M.B.S. theory of "get mine first." He who dies with the most toys wins.

Fly fishing is about being part of, not getting. If we discourage San Juan shuffles who benefits? Everybody. It is a win - win situation. Dislodging nymphs to improve your chances, and perhaps dislodging an insect population is dumb. The very act has been banned in many places in the British Isles. But then, you can get thrown off the Test by casting downstream. Or wet.

Maybe we have a chance after all. ~ The LadyFisher

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