There is a transient, absolute stillness each morning delineating when nocturnal life has settled from the nightly sedulity and daylight creatures have not yet emerged to start their day. It is a moment of peace that is partly soothing and somewhat eerie. I find myself questioning if the quiet forest could be entirely devoid of life, with no movement or sound around me. Each step on newly fallen leaves breaks the silence with the incredulousness of a cell phone ringing during a church service. My internal conversation is nearly as loud, arguing with myself over whether strolling at a slow pace or rushing to the stream is more likely to help me catch fish. The ridiculousness of my internal squabble causes me to chuckle and brings my focus back to appreciation of the stillness. 

After getting out of my head, I realized this moment of time is a temporal blank canvas. Whatever happens with my time on the river is a function of my surroundings, my skill, my tools, and my imagination. The landscape provides the background for my pending recreation with steel-gray granite rocks, lush vegetation of greens and browns, and the shushing hum of the flowing water. Mist from the broken, rushing water creates an impressionistic haze over the setting and cools my face and sharpens my eyes. The combination of water, soil, and vegetation creates an aroma often described as earthy. To me, when combined with campfire smoke, it’s the smell of camping. All my senses are engaged, lured by the thrill of catching a fish and thankfully reinvigorated by an immersion in nature.  

I pulled the fly line off the reel and fed the leader through the eyelets of the fly rod. Opening the fly box, I perused the multitude of flies of various sizes and colors. As I scanned the water I envisioned where fish may be hidden below the surface. A mental checklist of time of the year, weather, water discharge and depth, and watercolor all run through my mind. I selected a size 16 pheasant tail and a size 18 olive nymph based on my quick thought process. 

Selecting my target, the soft edge of a seam at the chalky dark green run, my arm flexed to propel the line and flies behind my head. I take a breath and force myself to wait for the rod to load, feeling the slight pull of the tension of the bent rod as subtle vibrations in my hand and fingers. The line glides through the air, painting the air with my colorful flies, before they land with a tempered splash. Minor disappointment creeps in as the first cast results in only another cast. Immediately with each subsequent cast, hope grows on each drift for the tug of a fish, until enough fishless drifts build doubt that I’ll never catch a fish. When hope is on the verge of becoming despair, the symphonic splashing of a hooked trout washes away any glum thoughts. 

Several weeks ago, I contemplated if fly fishing was a sport or an art. The thought has stayed with me for each trip on the river since. Elements of sport certainly exist in fly fishing, but I connect with the artistic elements at a deeper level. According to Merriam-Webster, art is a skill acquired by experience, study or observation or the conscious use of skill and creative imagination in the production of aesthetic objects. The morning stillness set a stage for the creation of the next chapter in my book of a fishing life. Observations, study and experience expand my skills and captivate my imagination. 

Originally my connection to fly fishing built the desire to gain competency, and to avoid feelings of embarrassment or ignorance. Now I would love to follow the path from competency to proficiency and eventually to mastery. I may approach proficiency and may never even graze mastery, but it is a journey of art and skill worth taking. Even if I only enjoy the stillness of breaking dawn and witness the dance of a hooked trout in a rushing river, my senses will be enthralled, and I will feel refreshed. But it builds pride within me to see I am building my skills through experience, study and observation. 

 Keep Mending…      

One Reply to “Brush Strokes and Symphonies”

  1. I missed this Sunday post! Lots going on here! “sedulity?” You are stretching my vocabulary!
    You consider so many variables! A fish or not, you are a winner!

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