I often wonder why I am so captivated by the sport of fly fishing. Why after 30+ years I'm still called to the river as though I just began my journey. Is it a bug that we catch (pun intended)--some kind of virus? Is it about the various techniques, sciences and the offering of continuous learning that calls us to the water? The answer--I believe--is YES to all of it. In the following short article, I intend to suggest--as opposed to diagnose--the bug that has captivated all of us fly casters alike.
Number one: There's the art of fly casting. There are literally an infinite number of different casts. They each were created to tackle a different obstacle. As far as I know, there is no end in sight for the creative fly caster to invent a new iteration of a cast. Then you add the unique element of the individual fly caster and all of a sudden there's a signature variant of each cast. Honestly, at the end of the day, it's not about the type of cast. It's about learning how to properly load your rod in the appropriate manner for the particular environment that you're fishing within. If you can manipulate your rod for the various scenarios that you encounter across your fishing day so that you can appropriately present the fly to the fish in such a manner that you can get him (or her) to eat--you've got a strong handle (pun intended) on things.
Number two: There are a litany of sciences involved. Whether it be streamology, entomology, meteorology, geology, and/or biology. We, as fly fisherman have our work cut out for us. There's no shortage of learning. There are an infinite number of scenarios required to be addressed. Luckily, on each given day--you only have to deal with the questions that are appropriate for the relative surroundings at the time of fishing. How do you properly address a blanket hatch on an overcast day? How do you effectively fish the midday doledrums in the scorching sun? How do you efficiently cast a fly line to a slow-moving eddy on the other side of fast moving water? Why is the midge so effective in the winter?
Number three: There's the whole fishing sport component where hand-eye coordination comes into play. Where knowing a thing or two about how to fight a fish, remove a hook from its mouth, and properly release it.
Just when you think you have it figured out--the fish don't cooperate. It doesn't matter how many years you've been fly fishing. There is no fly caster who's immune to 'the skunk.' It's the element that keeps us coming back for more. Not because we want to continue to get 'skunked,' on the contrary, we do it to prove to ourselves that the previous 'skunking' was an isolated incident as opposed to a regular occurance.
This sport is not easy and that's why we love it so much. It truly provides for a life-long journey of learning.
Brad Haymaker is one of the co-founders of ANT FLY FISHING.