One of the great benefits of fly fishing is
the opportunity to be alone, but it is important
to have a fishing partner. This is no dichotomy;
it is what novelist Thomas McGuane calls "the
comfort of solitude enhanced by companionship."
The best kind of fishing partner to have is a
fanatic (assuming that you are a fanatic, too).
There is more to this than the obvious reasons
like who else will meet you at 4 am on a freezing
cold morning in October to fish for striped bass,
or will drive six hours with you to catch the
evening hatch on a far-off trout stream. The most
important function your partner will serve is that
of contrast gainer.
It is difficult to explain the allure of fly-fishing
to a non-fishing spouse. It is even more difficult
to explain why you want to spend every waking moment
teasing fish with a fly. This is where the true
value of your fanatic fishing companion lies.
You convince your spouse that, yes, perhaps you do
take fishing a bit too seriously, but she should be
grateful that you're not like (in my case) Jim,
elaborating with anecdotes that make Jim look like
he's ready for a twelve step program. Looking good
by making others look bad is a skill we all learn
in childhood, and it's still a useful strategy for
disguising vices like drinking and fly-fishing.
I'm not being disloyal to Jim when I use him this
way; our relationship is reciprocal. He has his
spouse convinced that I'm the fanatic. (She once
offered me a magazine article on changing compulsive
behavior while Jim looked on with his best pitying,
and innocent, expression.)
He tells his wife how I, overly excited about the
prospect of a fishing trip, awoke at 2:30 am even
though we weren't going to meet until 5, and,
unable to wait, left without him. I tell my spouse
how he brings his fly tying vise (stressing the word
'vice') to work and ties flies during his breaks.
This arrangement works well for us both.
If our spouses ever catch on to the fact that we're
equally fanatical, we'll both have to find new and
bigger contrast gainers. I've been stockpiling
anecdotes, just in case. For instance, I read that
Jack Hemingway, Ernest's son, brought his fly rod
with him when he parachuted behind enemy lines in
World War II. He convinced the officer supervising
the loading of equipment that it was a cleverly
designed radio antenna needed to stay in contact
with London. Now there's a fanatic.
My secret weapon, though, is a story once told to
me by Mike, a legendary striper bum on Boston's
north shore. He said he has had only one fight
with his wife over fishing-seems she couldn't
understand why he would need to go fishing on his
wedding night ("The moon was new and the tide just
right," he explained to me).
I would never do that (but I think Jim would). ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.