This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 13th, 2004

Tilting at Windmills?

We fly fishers may have more in common than you realize. It isn't about where you fish, what you fish for, or even what rod you use (assuming you ARE fly fishing of course.) Take another guess. Not about how many different species of fish you have caught, the size of the fish, or how much to cost to get there. Nor how you dress, whether you engage a guide, float a river, climb a mountain to a high country lake, slosh through the marsh to get to the salt - or spent the entire weekend (or vacation) and didn't have one fish to hand.

Gordon Wickstrom, in his book Late in an Angler's Life has a neat story about trying to find the original statement in Don Quixote (remember fighting windmills?) "There is no taking trout in dry breeches." Gordon likens fly fishers to Don Quixote in their madness to catch fish, except we all know fly fishers are perfectly sane of course.

Surely I can't mean the commonality in fly fishers is we are all mad - although I'm sure there have been situations where we've been so frustrated we bordered on some sort of 'trout madness' even if the subject of our quest isn't trout.

I think we all have a certain commonality in the learning experience, the frame of reference when someone talks about a particular problem we have already solved, (or not). Those experiences help bind the fly fishing community together because we tend to want to help our fellow anglers solve their problems as well. Long conversations can ensue over the most minor of fishing subjects; the shared information is always welcome and is filed on our mental computer bank under fly fishing for later use.

There are more 'things' which fly fishers share - but the big one in my view is the wonderful attitude of eternal optimism. There are always some exceptions, but for the great majority, fly fishers are very positive people. They are not the gloom and doomers of our society.

We go fishing fully expecting to catch fish. We don't approach it NOT expecting to catch fish. The fish may not co-operate, and that may happen more often than we would like to admit. But the whole experience in total is the reward, not just possible or probably numbers.

The same attitude prevails in fly tying! We tie flies in a certain way, with perhaps a bit of a variation because we expect them to work. No one ties flies expecting them to fail. We gladly share those flies on the water with others less fortunate (those who aren't catching fish) or pass the recipes on to our friends.

Some great writer said "Attitude is everything" and for the non-angler our continued journey to catch fish may be a complete mystery. But even the non-angler benefits from the our attitude. It is so much more interesting and pleasant to be around 'positive' people than 'negative' ones. Perhaps Human Resource people should have being a fly fisher high on their 'want' list. I would.

It is just one of the many reasons my husband and I so look forward to attending one of the FAOL Fish-Ins. Whatever the fishing turns out to be, or the weather, or the accommodations, or food or the myriad of other things involved, the quality of the company will be terrific. The best in fact. ~ DLB

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