Saturday, July 31, 2010
Can you keep a secret? You have to promise not to tell anyone what I’m about to reveal. It would ruin me. Your lips are sealed, right? Okay…
I’m a terrible fisherman.
I know. It’s shocking. I have a fishing blog, for God’s sake. It would be devastating to my loyal readers – both of them – to find out I’m a fishin’ fraud. It's a sad, sad admission.
But I also have to admit that my time on the stream isn’t any less enjoyable because I'm piscatorially challenged. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s probably more fun this way.
If I were a great fisherman, I’d miss those eureka moments, those rare occasions when I do make the perfect cast or recognize the right seam and I actually fool a fish. If I were a great fisherman, I’d miss learning something new, each and every time out. I’d be ruined by a skunk instead of motivated by it. Fishing simply wouldn’t be one new adventure, one new experience, after another.
I am moved to make this confession because earlier this week, having accepted the sad truth, I decided that someone ought to take a look at my casting - hopefully, without laughing. As a self-taught fly fisherman, I've always suspected that my technique is a mess. My perception has been that I use too much wrist, consistently drop my backcast, and that I manage line like BP manages deep-sea oilrigs. So, I went to see my buddy John Martyn, an FFF certified casting instructor, for confirmation and help.
I got both in abundance.
Over the course of an entertaining hour in the grass beside his shop, John shattered my classic “10 and 2” clock visualization of fly casting - adjusting my body position, putting my stroke on a more even plane, and resetting my targets and stop points, both forward and back. By the end of the sixty minutes he had me gently draping a leader over his shoulder from fifty feet and laying out a nice tight loop all the way to the tan Toyota Camry. I walked away excited and anxious to get back on the water.
If anyone knows of trout streams with Camrys on them, please drop me a line.
Obviously, I now heartily recommend a tune-up on your casting stroke. And, as a public service, here’s some other random tidbits of advice from a poor angler, trying to get better:
Fish with good fishermen. Don’t be intimidated or self-conscious. They put their waders on one leg at a time too. Learn everything that they can teach you. And remember, they get skunked regularly as well, no matter what they say.
Simplify your fly selection. Learn to fish a small handful of flies well rather than filling our box with Orvis’ entire catalog. The wrong fly fished right catches more than the right fly fished wrong.
Fish every opportunity you can, in every way you can. Fish for trout in the mountains, bass and bluegill in the ponds, carp in the rivers, redfish in the salt flats, blues in the surf, false albacore offshore. Do it all, even if you do it badly. With any luck, you’ll find what truly suits you.
Enjoy the gaffs, the missteps, and the mistakes. They are what you will laugh about and what you will tell your friends and grandchildren about in the years that come.
Most importantly, remember that the act of catching a fish is only a pleasant by-product of your excursion, and not necessarily an essential one. There are too many other satisfactions going on around you when you’re on the stream to let the capricious nature of a finicky finned creature dictate the success of an outing.
And, as to the issue of a lousy fisherman writing a fishing blog, I’ve come to believe that no one wants to read about perfect cast after perfect cast or to look at endless “grip and grin” shots. People want to read about that damn sycamore that snuck up behind you and ate your Umpqua popper. They want to read about the cool new body piercing you got from that low-flying tuti-fruti clouser. They want to read about how you turned your lovely three-piece Winston into a four-piece ugly stick – that is, if you can bring yourself to write about it. They want to read about that catfish that tied you up and left you for the rangers to find. They want the dirt.
And, if I’m right, if that’s what you want to read about, stick around.
You see, I’m a terrible fisherman.
Special thanks go out to John Martyn for a very valuable session tinkering with my cast. That short time will pay unbelievable dividends from this point forward, enhancing my fishing experience. Thanks also to Mary for helping out with the photo. Self portraits can be tricky things. And finally, a big thanks to all the good fishermen who have let me tag along over the past couple of years. It's been great fun, boys.