“On the way home, I’m going to stop and fish.” I’ve said those words more than a few times, trying to wedge an hour of fishing into hours of driving. With most trips I take, especially those that head north or west, I will look for somewhere to fish along the way. Recently, while packing up to drive back from Harrisburg, PA, I mentioned that I was going to try to fish at Tulpehocken Creek “on the way home.”
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were having none of that. “That’s not on your way home! That’s almost an hour out of the way!” They playfully gave me a hard time, pointing out how I will excitedly go well out of my way to fish. In my mind, I was headed home, and I was going to stop between where I was and where I was going. Sure it was a longer way home, but that was my “on the way home”.
My first instinct when challenged by my rational relatives on my definition of “on the way home” was to explain that I indeed was going to end up at home…just after a fishing detour and after picking my dog up on time from where he was boarded. To justify my decision to fish or the efficiency of my route would’ve been from a defensive position, potentially created an awkward moment, and kept me from owning my mindset.
I love fly fishing. It gives me back more than it takes from me. I look for ways to work time on the river into my life because it rejuvenates and recharges me. In social situations, even with people I enjoy being around, I get exhausted. My brain constantly catalogs movements, body language, word choices, and glances and then processes those data points to create a story. Sometimes it’s a true story, sometimes it’s make believe, sometimes it’s somewhere in between. I think I’m hard-wired to observe this way, but I also think I embraced it to help me connect to people. However, it makes it hard to relax. Using alcohol to turn off this part of my brain has side effects that I really don’t appreciate as I get older.
On the river, my tendency to catalog helps me learn, helps me stay in the moment, and calms my mind. It simplifies mental processing to be focused on one thing. I can reduce distractions and think through what’s going on with me. How am I feeling? What do I want to improve? What’s not feeling great in my life? What do I want to change? What are my goals? These are some of the questions I contemplate while fishing.
To have that time and mental space, I will go out of my way. Most of the fly fishers I know do the same. A one- to two-hour diversion is not unheard of as an “on the way home” fishing stop amongst the anglers I know. If there is potential for a good hatch or to explore a new stream, the diversion may even become the destination.
My time at the Tully didn’t produce any fish, and I could only fish for about two hours. But in that time I learned more about the creek, exploring edges of reaches I had fished before. I spoke to another angler who gave me additional perspective on how to fish the Tully, learning from how he approached the stream. I also worked on casting, knot tying, and getting good drifts. I had moments of undisturbed concentration. It was soothing. And I got home with plenty of time to unpack the car and get Dublin from where he was boarded.
Whether you call it “out of the way” or “on the way home”, it was worth it!