It was one of those great days. Each drift felt like it would end in a fish on my line. And often it did. They weren’t big but they were plenty. My casts felt sharp and accurate. I managed the line with consistent control. Instincts took over and I set the hook with rewarded anticipation. The counter in my mind lost track of how many fish I caught. I felt connected and skilled. I could not wait to write my fishing log, bragging of my prowess with each pen stroke.

A Rainbow Trout Picked My Fly

My next time on the water warranted no celebration. Without fail, and regardless of my attempts to focus on spatial awareness, I hung up in every tree I encountered. Finding the optimal weight of my nymphs to obtain any semblance of a drag free drift felt like multivariable calculus in Latin. Getting dialed in was only going to happen with my car stereo. I felt helpless and useless waving a fly rod in my hand. Smiling through grinding teeth was the best I could muster. 

Ups and downs are part of life. Like tides, sunshine, and heart beats, cycles are embedded in biology. You win some, you lose some is a common consolation phrase. It also is not soothing if the losing continues. 

The stock market and other economic factors follow a long-term increasing trajectory, but any given day can result in a great depression. Deviations along our paths are most often short term unless we allow them to tell us to leave hope behind and accept resignation. 

Similarly fly fishing ability and skill increases over time, but individual days can be maddening. There is a significant learning curve in fly fishing. Gear, reading water, understanding flies, and the physical coordination of casting and retrieving line takes commitment and time to understand. I clearly remember the embarrassment and tension I felt during one of my first visits to a fly shop. The owner was kind, but he rattled off so much information and names of “necessary” flies I could not follow. When the owner reiterated that I should use a “Stimulator” in front of my wife, I took a step back. The concepts of leader formulas, fly types, and dry-dropper rigs were foreign to me at that time. The quantity of information to take in overwhelmed me, but now I speak in the same language as the engaging shop keeper.

Where to find the fish?

Fly fishing isn’t always about flies, or tactics, or even understanding the fish. It is about understanding yourself. How I utilize my time is dependent on how I bring myself to each moment. Intention on gratefulness and openness often leads to joy, regardless of what else is accomplished. Stress, doubt, anger, and negatively lead to more of the same. 

Herbert Hoover once said, “Fishing is a constant reminder of the democracy of life, of humility, and of human frailty. The forces of nature discriminate for no man.” Often, I will take too much credit for my successes and conversely look for someone external to blame for my failures. I lose sight of the democracy of life and the indiscriminate forces of nature. I allow the ups and downs to have swings that can knock me off my feet. 

The River is Open Again Tomorrow

There is no villain. There is no conspiracy. There is no magic pill. But there is work to be done and the sun will rise tomorrow. I am responsible for each step and cast, and everything else needed to stay on the water. The results may appear as peaks and valleys, but I can stay on my upward trajectory with appreciation and humility as my guide. 

Keep mending…

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