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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
If nothing I have said convinces you to stick to dry flies, (or you
are in the midst of nympholepsy,) get in on the Nymph Fly
Swap on the Bulletin Board. Participation is limited to 12, so
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!