Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 18th, 1998

Lorelei's Song of the Salt

Maybe there really is a siren song of Lorelei - or it could be some ancient heritage that evolutionists credit for our human development. Whatever the base cause, the effect is I love big water. Read that any big water, salt water especially!

There is a sense of largesse, and being totally out of control in the seemingly endless expanse of water that humbles me. The overwhelming beauty and power of the sea, teaming with fascinating varieties of life, congers up visions of all the places in the world that touch on the same salt water. Constantly changing colors and shadows everywhere I look. Humbling and tremendously uplifting at the same time. What a wonderful experience. I don't have to fish to enjoy the experience. But . . .

There is a special connection between the fly fisher standing thigh-deep in the ocean, casting for the fish of the month. The sea is a living breathing thing. The pulse is the waves pushing rhythmically against my waders is almost sexual. The ebb and flow of the current and the tidal changes . . . standing in it I become part of it. My casting, rhythmic, only adds to the connection.

It's not about numbers, or the weight of the fish. It is the connection. It is being there. Being part of it. Catching and landing a fish is icing on the cake. A really big fish? Whipped cream on the cake.

If you would like to join the numbers of fly anglers who are making this connection, (some even enduring wind, squalls and crashing waves,) and have not fly fished the salt, here are some suggestions - and a warning . . . it is addictive!

Still water fishing, (lakes,) can be a lovely experience. Quiet, calm, with the challenge of personal knowledge of the right fly at the right time, and if you are lucky, some idea of the whereabouts of the trout in a given season.

Fly fishing the salt is not quiet. Although it can be as peaceful in your own head as you decide to make it. Wading into the salt does take some getting used to. I had a student who became disoriented with the waves and current and wasn't quite sure where he was. He is much more comfortable on streams and ponds.

Tides become important. When do the high and low times occur? Some fishers swear by one or another. Exclusively! They simply would not fish the other. My advice is try it all. High tide, low tide, slacks, incoming, outgoing - the whole range. We have taken fish on all of them.

Fishing incoming tides can be a wet experience if you don't keep an eye on how fast the tide is coming in. And the speed on the incoming tide changes from moon to moon! A safe bet is to take a step backwards from time to time. Or check how close the water is to the top of your waders. Some of use take a step forward on the final cast. It's easy to get so caught up in the fishing that you end up shipping a lot of water. But as my dad used to say, "It's only water, you'll dry." Gratefully, neoprene waders keep you warm until you finish fishing. The trip home might be a little wet 'tho. More on the salt next time. ~ LadyFisher

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