Some random thoughts from a fellow who, on November 10, was married to his petite fishing partner for 65 years. Whew!
It seems that every year we are bombarded with ads for the newest, lightest, fastest graphite rods ever made. I expect that at some point a maker of graphite rods will produce a product so light you won’t be able to feel its weight in your hand. It will have a tip so fast that a gentle haul on the forward cast will cause the fly line to roll out at a speed sufficient to break the sound barrier. My reaction to this hype, as I remove my three-and-one-half ounce, relatively slow glass rod from its tube, is that of Kurt Vonnegut: “You can’t fight progress; the best you can do is ignore it.”
I know and like several river guides. Yet I can’t keep myself from forever stepping on their toes. I recently found this 1936 saying by R. Sinclair Carr: “When you visit strange waters, go alone. Play out the game with the stream. Go to it completely handicapped by your ignorance. Then all that you will learn will be your very own.” Furthermore, listen to the words of Tom Rosenbauer: “Row versus wade? Wade every time, absolutely. I want to be able to control my own drifts. I don’t really like someone else controlling my drifts with their oars. I really enjoy poking around, moving up or down river, to just be able to be under my own power.”
What little Barb and I have learned over the years about fishing with a fly, we have learned by spending time on the water. Little by little, our skills increased to the point where we occasionally are able to deceive a fish into eating a fly. Though our education is certainly incomplete, we keep coming back to learn what other secrets the streams will teach us. Was it not Theodore Gordon who declared, “No angler ever learns all there is to know regarding fly fishing.”
The problem with learning the nuances of any stream is that rivers are in a constant state of change. Trees that have fallen across a river are there one year, then gone the next. Gravel bars that make for easy wading can disappear, only to reappear a pool or two downstream. Whatever happened to the huge tree trunk that lay on the bank of the Willowemoc at a place we call the Black Willow Hole? It made for a very comfortable seat while changing a fly or renewing a tippet. Then one day it was not to be found. These changes come as little surprise to the wading angler.
After all, in the 1950s, Roderick Haig-Brown told us, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” For some of you, the 1950s is back in the mist of time, To me, they were only yesterday. I suppose it all depends on whether or not you can remember back when waders were made of rubberized canvas and Jim Payne bamboo fly rods sold for $150. Ah yes, little children, those were the days.