This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 20th, 2001

A Myth?

Many years ago I watched a series on PBS (Public Broadcasting System) hosted by Bill Moyer called the The Power of Myth. Joseph Campbell, author of a book by the same name, was the subject of the six-hour interview-style program. The series was re-run last weekend here in the Seattle area. At a point in the last of the series, Bill Moyer asks what happens when a society doesn't subscribe or live by the important moral and personal lessons their parents did. Campbell spread his hands and said, "look around."

The book, River Runs Through It has a line to the effect 'fly fishing wasn't a religion in their house, it was more important than that.'

Watching The Power of Myth this time, and having just returned from the FAOL Fish-In 2001, I couldn't help seeing fly fishing as part of the 'myth.'

Ask a dozen people why they fly fish and you are apt to get a dozen different answers. But if you really look underneath all the answers you may be surprised.

Could it be those who gravitate toward fly fishing are looking for challenges in their lives? And are those challenges to ourselves or the fish? Are they looking for something which will engage their minds for more than the last episode of 'The Man Show?' How about wanting to transcend our "day to day" existence? Or being an actual participant - not just an observer as we are so often in our everyday lives? To experience the pure joy of being alive? Where else do we have that particular feeling? Perhaps the ability to wrest a small amount of solitude? To live life; not just watch it go by.

Thinking about all this, I watched as my husband readied our gear for a salmon fishing trip tomorrow. Rods, reels, lines, leaders, flies - everything checked and prepared. Do we spend that much time preparing for whatever tomorrow may bring if we aren't going fishing?

How important is the ritual of fly fishing? Is that a structure that is also missing in our 'real' life? Does it matter that all the responsibility for our success is indeed ours? We can't blame 'them' or the fish gods for not catching fish. How, where and with what we choose to fish in the end is our choice. No excuses. True, we may screw up - for lack of many things - but no one forced those choices on us.

That would seem to be a good lesson to learn - especially in a society where it has become 'politically correct' not to afix blame on anyone for anything. In fly fishing that doesn't work! You are the one responsible for all the marbles (or fish if you prefer.) Todays expression of "I confess, he did it," doesn't play well in fly fishing.

The hero figures in fly fishing seem to be those who have made names for themselves by fishing successfully and living well. A few write and share their journey with the rest of us still on the road to fly fishing success. They have become heros because they have solved for themselves the same puzzles we are working on.

At what point do we join the ranks of the heros? All of us, you and me? Aren't we all heros the moment we step into our favorite stream?

Trick question. If you ask the great and near great they will tell you they are still on the journey. It is the journey that keeps people fly fishing. Fly fishing is a journey; it is not a destination. It is the journey that calls to us, and brings us into the fellowship of other fly anglers. It is our group conscience which makes changes in protecting the waters, improving the fisheries and setting the example for those who follow. A 'Code of Ethics' lives, unwritten within all who take up the long rod.

You can set fly fishing side-by-side with any of the world's great religions and see the similarities. I'm not saying fly fishing is a religion. What I am saying is fly fishing fills a need for many who never had the 'old time' values instilled in their young lives, and enhances the lives of those who were. The lessons taught are the same.

For many, the best thing about fly fishing is something which cannot be told. There simply are no words. The 'secret' is; there is no secret.

The more the winds of change and time buffet our society, a vacuum cries more loudly to be filled. 'Nature abhors a vacuum,' fly fishing satisfies the soul. ~ LadyFisher

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