Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

November 27th, 2000


Many seasons back, I was sitting in the lobby of a hospital waiting to see a friend when an attorney we knew stopped to visit for a moment. He asked how we were doing, and I responded to the effect that we were 'struggling.' He gave a bit of a smile and said something I have remembered many years later. "Deanna, we are all struggling - just the number of zero's is different."

He went on to explain his dad had died, he had to do a little remodeling at home to make a place for his mother, he had three kids in college at one time . . . . he had more '0's' than we did.

Of course he was right.

But he was holding his head up high, and continued in his daily life, just as we all do.

Those of us in the U.S. celebrated or observed Thanksgiving this past week. Regardless of the national election, personal finances, bills due (or overdue) we have a lot to be thankful for. Each of us can count the blessing of being alive. Our circumstances may differ as to how healthy we are - but we're all still here.

I suspect fly fishers spend a little more time ruminating about Thanksgiving, only because we ruminate more about everything. Someone might accuse us of being anal retentive, and since I'm an unrepentant pack rat, I certainly qualify.

Which is what fly fishers really have in common. We seem to make things harder for ourselves - all by choice of course. We could fish with bait, and in some cases catch more fish. But, it isn't as much fun, that's just catching fish; and doesn't present the challenge of figuring out the parts to make fly fishing successful in a variety of circumstances. I've known folks who can spend hours picking out which flies for the weekend - tying time not included. We have intentionally handicapped ourselves. We like a challenge. We enjoy a mystery, learning new things, getting new things, and fiddling with the stuff we do get.

The thought and preparation and anticipation; all are more involved than picking up a package of frozen herring (or insert your local bait) and dragging it around in hopes of finding the fish. Sure we still have to find the fish, but how we do that is an entirely different process.

Perhaps the whole process is the key. Being a fly angler is also being part of the process. Because of that we feel a closer relationship with the fish themselves and the wonderful places where they live. We come to believe we are tenants in our ecosystem, not the landlord.

There is optimism in all this. A certain sense of 'knowing.' An understanding that we can think our way through. Not just in fishing, but in life. We understand that while we may not like whatever set of circumstances we encounter, we can cope with it - and prevail.

It also makes us part of a fishing community - the group known as fly fishers. For JC and I, we are especially grateful for this community - the fraternity of fly fishers known as Fly Anglers OnLine. ~ LadyFisher

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