Fly fishing teaches lots of lessons. Little things matter (like knots). You’re never as good as your best day or as bad as your worst. Nature heals all. Pay attention to your surroundings. Sometimes luck finds us all. Treat others as you wish to be treated. The list goes on.
As I get older, I seem to be able to avoid learning by telling myself I’m set in my ways (old dogs…) or I’ve simply developed patterns of behavior that are too comforting in their familiarity. Seeking growth and changing limiting habits can feel beyond inconvenient. Aches, pains and a tired mind have grown from excuses to hazardous to my health. My ruminating mind steals time from my days which add up to years from my life.
Fly fishing has given me a reset button for stress and creates the desire to overcome my inertia and set goals, learn new skills, build additional confidence, and experience adventures. On January 1, 2023, I published a list of ten goals for fly fishing in 2023. Trying to achieve my goals took me to new streams and rivers in places I had never been before. Those goals encouraged me to make new friends and express myself more openly, releasing things that stay buried and create friction in moving ahead. I reconnected to learning and refused to get locked into a cage of comfort.
My first four goals I achieved without any rationalized half-truths. I fished in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and Colorado. Five states, check. I explored 15 streams I had never fished before, and I’ll pat myself on the back and say I caught at least one trout in each of them. Fished over ten new streams, check. 61 times I rigged up a line and cast a fly this year, barely exceeding my goal of 60 times on the water. Check. Spinner falls, the magical twilight experience, generated my highlights of fishing the Catskills this year with beautiful brown trout caught on the Willowemoc and Beaverkill Rivers as night fell. Check.
The remaining six goals are where things get sketchy. I wanted to improve my wet fly and streamer fishing. Over the course of a few weeks in May and June I was committed to swinging wet flies and ended up catching several fish and losing more than I could count. I realized that mending line (yes, I see the humor in it) is a weakness in my skill sets. My streamer fishing declined in 2023, with only a few hours of jigging streamers undertaken. Although my most vicious take this year was from a beautiful Savage River brown on a black jig streamer. Half check.
Tying a dozen flies a week was on my list. Losing a fly box in Colorado helped motivate that goal even more, but I had several weeks in November and December where I did not tie a fly. Blank there. I did not make time to fish the Shad run, to my dismay. Another blank. Exercise? Intermittent at best? Swing and a miss.
Fishing with friends and family was my ninth goal. I had several outings with friends and met a large group of anglers at the Writer’s Workshop. Improving on this should be another goal in 2024, but I’ll give myself a check.
My final goal was to start another novel. Topics and questions have been running through my mind, but nothing has put itself on paper. I did create a fly angler’s log, which is now available, but no words have come for the novel. 2024 will be the year of writing.
Looking ahead for what’s in store for 2024 (fun rhyme as a salute to Fezzik) here are my Fly Fish Mend goals for the year:
- Fish in two states I haven’t fished before
- Fish 10 new streams
- Fish 60 times in the year
- Write an article and submit it to a Fly Fishing Magazine
- Start a new novel
- Fish the Shad Run
- Fly Fish for a Warm Water Species
- Fish more with friends and family
- Write more poetry
What are your goals for 2024?