I don’t think it will ever change – that bewildered look on the face of a person of a non-fishing persuasion, when you talk to them about your successful day on the water.
You’re still pretty psyched up and itching to share some of the detail, yet no matter how hard you try it always winds up with something along the lines of what my beloved wife would say: “That’s enough babe, it’s all starting to sound like clicks and whistles to me” – but shit, you just want to get it out; clicks and whistles or not, it was an amazing day.
And again, how many times have you sat quietly at night, reading one of your favourite authors – their stories of amazing hatches of green drakes, western stoneflies, red spinners or pale morning duns – and you can almost feel the air moving and humming, tiny wings catching the light, selective fish gently breaking the surface film… And all the while your feet are warmly perched on the ottoman. Try to explain that to the punter and you may have some trouble.
I don’t know how to adequately express the feelings we all have about fishing, yet at some point we all try to do it – and, honestly, I have yet to meet anyone who was very successful. Trying to involve the uninitiated in the merits of a size 16 black spinner over the 14 just isn’t going to carry a lot of water, and no matter how many times you show them your favourite local pattern, their eyes will still glaze and you may even see a little slackening of the jaw as you use up all of the oxygen they need to stay alert…
Fishing is something I will never get preachy about, yet there are times when I just want to yell it from the highest mountain I can find: “Fly fishing is fucking awesome!” How do you not tell someone of the things you have seen? Those fish that you watch on warm summer evenings, clipping away at tiny black mayflies, ebbing rings catching the last rays of the sun, making you feel that this world is as beautiful as anything you have ever seen… a long horn caddis hatch that’s so thick you stop fishing and just stand there staring in wonder, thinking about the pattern John Goddard tied on the other side of the world and how perfectly matched it is to the caddis in this little lake in Tasmania… Almost all of these memories will be buried with you, most never shared and nearly all never discussed. Does this lessen the moment or downgrade the memory? I doubt it.
Perhaps this is why we all grow such a tight circle of likeminded fishing friends. In this welcoming environment, all the things you are saying make sense to more than just yourself. Hell, your mates are actually eager to hear how you landed that beautiful brown at Penstock or the pounder from the St Pat’s. Yep, it all falls into perspective with the right audience.
We can criticise the lack of understanding from the non-fishers of the world – or we can look at it for what it truly means to us (do we just let it go and never talk about it again? I don’t think so!). Every sport has fanatics; it’s simply that fly fishing seems to have more than its share. It may give us an edge of self-righteousness, yet it may also help us to achieve more in the way of conservation, protection and helping to build a better fishery – and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Of course, sometimes we ask ourselves: is this what we truly love? Does this fill our needs? Why do we fish? I think we probably ask ourselves these questions more often when we’re not fishing. Put those same questions to someone lifting on a dun-feeding brown and you’ll get your true answer!
There is no secret to any of this; every fly fisherman knows what I’m talking about. And, most likely, most of them don’t give a crap. When talking to the uninitiated it’ll all be lost in the translation anyway. Yet there we will all be, talking it up, laughing and reliving those enviable moments… and if someone gets dragged in from the sideline, we just smile and make them feel comfortable. You know they won’t be there long anyway.