This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
December 10th, 2007


Sometimes fishing is so easy you just can't imagine ever wondering what you were doing wrong - or why the fish didn't like your best fly, or did you check to make sure you were wearing the purple argyle socks last time.

We were on the Upper Yellowstone, barely above Buffalo Ford, and I was working with our friend Mike's youngest son. The kid had casting down pretty well, could spot a fish or two and actually listened. I planted him on a narrow sandbar, parallel to shore, and pointed out a row of Yellowstone Cutthroats laying in wait for whatever edibles drifted by. Honest, they were lined up like critters at the trough - and I believe they even were smiling.

Once he saw the drift needed he proceeded to make his dad very proud. He realized early it took a little care and finesse to catch one cutt without spooking the rest off...and yes, to play the fish without every other fish in sight leaving for the remainder of the day.

Mike and I spoke on the phone the other day, and he recalls that day with as much pleasure as I. The 'youngest son' is a college boy - growing rapidly into manhood. And wonder of all, considers himself a fly fisherman. And Mike says, proud of it, too.

Fishing is hardly predictable, there are just too many variables; weather, wind, water, hatches or not, all make up a capricious game. Ah, game you say?

Well we have to call it something, and somehow 'sport' doesn't seem to make it. Just not right. If you look at fly fishing as 'winning' or 'losing' one needs to ask who we are playing against? The fish? As in trout 4, LF 0? Not that it ever happens to me.

Sometimes in our enthusiasm to share our love for fly fishing, which I believe is a perfectly natural thing to do, we over simplify fly fishing, to make it easier to understand - and to speed up the catching. I'm sure you've noticed all the books in our book review section, plus a ton which aren't listed there. Everything from the use of Wonder Wings, how to catch monster browns in one hour, to furling your own leaders. Which rather makes the whole idea of fly fishing a bit more complicated than we admit.

Reducing fly fishing to the lowest common denominator, to fish reasonably well, you only need to be able to cast a fly a short distance - say 30 feet - tie or buy a fly which resembles whatever is on the water, tie a few knots and be able to play tug of war when the fish actually bites the fly. The quality of the gear really doesn't matter - it is just getting a fish on.

The point here is getting the angler hooked.

If the catching is too easy, and without challenge, the angler becomes bored. In fact, sport industry research shows the average participant in most outdoor sports only is involved for a very short time - five years. Which is barely enough time for anyone to 'master' a specific sport.

And it would seem the challenges and complexity of fly fishing are not going to be exhausted in a lifetime. And indeed, doesn't the fun come from being personally challenged? From solving those problems and realizing there really is no end to what one can learn when you are properly challenged - when you are fascinated by what's difficult.

For most people, they fly fish not because it's easy because it's not.

We just try and convince everyone else it is. ~ The LadyFisher

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