Most fisherman who have devoted any time to the sport have undoubtedly tried to figure out what it is that keeps them going. It seems that now that the vast majority of fly fisherman agree that it is not about catching fish, and in that regard I agree to some extent. For me, it is very much about fish. Where they live, what they eat, how they behave... I don't need to catch them to be happy, but if I weren't trying so hard to I do not think I would appreciate the experience as much as I do. So yes. Catching fish, though it is not in any sense the be all end all, does drive me. In trying to catch fish I observe. Sometimes on the broad picture, sometimes with focus and precision. I live in the moment to experience it all and to take that experience and learn from it, and in that I have found what I love doing, and for better or worse, that is trying to fool fish into eating something I make and present to them.
For few fishing days I have observed and what I observed lead me to dead ends. There was beauty in those days but it was buried under a grey haze. A lifeless haze. There is something about slowly melting snow on cloudy, windless, soundless days that depresses me. It is not spring, that snow is not giving way to life. It is giving way to more grey, and in these past few days I've seen grey lifeless snow melting into grey lifeless streams. I have watched these streams for a long time and I have seen them go through changes, but this late fall they told me something. No caddis, no midges... I rolled rocks and found few living organisms. These streams were sick, and it is because I have fallen in love with them that I felt sick, and in desperation I fished them again and again looking for signs of fish only to find more signs that they were unhealthy. I became frustrated and out of that frustration I pulled a lingering sense of boredom. In my denial that these places could be so lifeless I pulled a childish reaction. I needed change, but boredom was not the reason. I needed to see water full of life again, because three days of fishing has never made me feel as frustrated as the last three.
I chose my water carefully today. I knew I would get to see some fish. It was bright and sunny and warm. The first fish I spooked made me laugh and smile. I'm not kidding. I did not catch a fish during this trip. I felt the pull of a large brook trout in one plunge, and that made me laugh and smile. I watched yearling brook trout rising in the tails of long, slow pools, and that made me laugh and smile.
I needed fish. I needed insects. I needed all the subtly colored algae and plants that grow on the rocks. The water needs to be there for them, but the water can be there without them. The water itself is not enough for me. There needs to be life for the life blood to course through.
As I watched the last fish of the trip slowly working its way down stream from pocket to pocket, I smiled and said, "It is good to see you my friend. May we one day meet again". And I laughed and headed home knowing that some way, some how, nature always will win. For as much as we may try to beat her into submission, we are still at the mercy of the cosmos. And as long as there are fish somewhere, I will be there, rod in hand, hoping that I will get to meet one. I truly do live for the fish.