3.15 am. I couldn’t sleep so I slipped quietly through to the kitchen, closed the inter-leading door so as not to disturb the slumbering family, poured myself a cup of strong black coffee, fired up the laptop in the breakfast nook and pondered the talk I was to give at FOSAF’s National AGM in a few days.
I’m never entirely comfortable standing in front of a group of people perhaps expecting some perceptive or insightful revelation. Something that seldom materialises and it’s usually much of the same old thing just couched in different terms or the emphasis shifted onto other elements of it. However, what it always forces me to do in preparation is to delve a little deeper into why for many of us fly fishing has become such an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I do think that we all relate to the freedom, truth and honesty of it and the approach we choose … I have a passion for trout, cold water and a love of all green things, its full of light and probabilities.
https://www.facebook.com/VagabondFly/videos/vb.421790127967639/1829216790558292/?type=2&theater – Credit to Pieter Taljaard and Vagabond Fly.
There are days when you fish well to the point when you may actually believe you are in your prime, nearing the pinnacle of your competence. And, then there are those days when, inexplicably, you have an off day and it all comes crashing down; you stumble and slip, your timing is off, your presentations are poor and your fly finds every branch and tuft of grass in range. What I have learnt is that this has a lot to do with losing concentration and focus and with it the accuracy of your cast and the quality of the drift.
I see fly fishing as an arcane business that is about equal parts science and poetry. I have the habit of leaning towards the side of the poetry, some may say, the soppy stuff – the soulful and contemplative, the joy it brings, the excitement and adventure, friendships and memories – like the soft light at dusk, the rise of a trout and just the sounds of water over stones – I’m no longer haunted by exotic destinations, my wanderings now lead me to the mountain streams I love, to the wildness of high altitude places.
The technical side is filled with myriad of detail strung together in a specific order that over time with repetition will eventually wear neural pathways; it becomes instinct, second nature. But, all I have ever hoped for was simple competence – only now after all these years, do I feel that I’m just about there, but who knows?
Then there is the matter of scaling down of being free and uncluttered. I have come full circle from those early days when I carried a rod, reel, tobacco tin with a handful of flies, to having a chronic back ache from a fully loaded 22-pocket fly vest and being a sucker for every item of “have to have” paraphernalia, to now a small belt pack with just the essentials. Being lean and mean there is less fussing with stuff and clarity of intent is no longer clouded with needless gear.
“I have been fly fishing for over 40 years now and even if I’m not the best wader, caster, fish spotter or fly tyer, I’ve learned to work well within my limitations, like a 3 legged dog that can still go for a nice long walk. The effect is cumulative. You naturally bring everything you know to every day of fishing, and the more days you have under your belt, the more you bring. If nothing else the fly rod that once seemed so strange and awkward, will now be thoughtfully familiar and the push of the current against your legs and the slippery, uneven bottom no longer surprising.” John Geirach, A Fly Rod of My Own.
6. 00 am. Three cups of coffee, half a dozen paragraphs and I don’t know if I’m anywhere nearer the truth, but I did have the bones of my talk.
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