Thursday, July 26, 2007

In the darkest hour of the brightest night

A midnight in June. I recall it in vivid fragments.

The cold moistness of wet hands, the roar of powerful rapids above, and the silvery water, full of tiny air bubbles, flowing rapidly in a strong run.

They are background for the real show.

Heart stops beating when a trout—a big one, it is no place for small trout—rockets out of the strongest current straight up, turns in the air and descents back into the water. Heart beats again. Fast. A moment later it happens again, then another fish, and another, and then the biggest and stoutest of all. They are perfect.

It lasted about 30 minutes.


It lasted a lifetime.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Towards the Essence

Being, once again, a half way through another trout fishing season I’ve, again, started to think about my gear. When I started fly fishing, I simply wanted to get all the stuff needed to catch the fish. Back then it meant that I needed to get everything; different rods and reels and lines for different conditions, all flies imaginable for the most unimaginable conditions, a fully loaded fly fishing vest, and so on. I was a teenager and my parents didn’t share my enthusiasm, so, perhaps luckily, I didn’t get everything I wanted.

In last few years I’ve been slipping more and more towards minimalism when it comes to the gear. The minimalism was not my idea, but when I read about it, when I thought about it, I found that it suits me perfectly. I had a lot of stuff, but I had already fished enough to know that I needed only a fraction of it.

A wife of a fly fisherman may think that this minimalism is a good thing, an idea that saves family resources, both time and money, and for the most part this is correct. But there are exceptions, like when I decided to simplify my fly selection, and to drop the number of my fly boxes down to two, I had to buy two fly boxes. And I also had to tie all my flies again. So it cost a bit money (if you're going to use only two boxes, they better be quality boxes) and a lot of time (about every Tuesday evening from September to May).

Half way through this season I look the contents of these two boxes and I know that the flies I actually use 99 % of the time would require the space of a half of a fly box. I’m currently searching such a fly box. Once I had a vest, then a chest pack, then a wading jacket, and now I'm thinking about a pocket that can hold one small to medium sized fly box. Then, when I have again minimized my gear, I start to slip again to the other direction. I’ll take some extra flies or a new gadget for next fishing trip. Little by little I’ll start to accumulate more and more gear. And it’s fine.

What is the essence then? I’m slowly beginning to learn what there actually is to learn. For all I know the gear has very little to do with it. They are means to an end. But even the end is not the point. Perhaps more time than thinking the answer should be spent thinking the question. If you say “I'm fishing to catch fish” then you either have the wrong answer or the right answer for the wrong question.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Combat Fly-Fishing

I’m not the biggest fan of competition fly fishing. I feel that it is needed for the sport but it also represents some aspects that, to my view, are not in the essence of fly fishing. One obvious aspect is competition; others include targeting the small fish and overall haste of the whole activity.

However, I like to be able to catch more fish, and I like to catch fish when nobody is catching them. This is where some knowledge of competition fly fishing tactics become valuable. One article worth of reading is Combat Fly-Fishing by Charles Jardine. He was spying the Young Master Jedi Fly Fishers at the World Youth Fly Fishing championships. The tactics are far beyond standard short line Czech Nymphing.

Gradually, I slipped from an envious glance to a more analytical view and began to see what the fly fisher was doing.

This is Fly - Issue 2

Sir Jackson recommended to open This is Fly online magazine, to go to the page 21 for some reggae music, and to start reading.

I did that. You do it. It's really refreshing. My favourite part is Lodge Record by Jen Hodges (page 25):

What I have learned from my fishing experience with my husband and speaking with female anglers around the world is this- when you see the uber, agro, super duper, square chinned guy with the trophy shot.... Understand one thing the person holding the camera (spouse, guide, girlfriend) most likely caught the fish.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good morning

My cousin and I were fishing this morning. Just at a local river, just for about four hours. There were reasonably good number of fish feeding on surface, grayling and brown trout.

I had fair luck with grayling, but demonstrated some poor judgment on the leader department. When I rigged up, I noticed that the leader was full of small nicks, but lazy me just replaced the tippet section and started fishing. Two trout broke it easily before I replaced the leader with a new one.

Then I hooked a decent trout, around 50 cm or 20 inches, and it fought hard. I was just about to show him the net when it turned and threw the hook. Just like that. No mistakes were made but it got away. It happens, I know, it has happened before and will happen again. I took a moment; there was a rock to sit on and a cigar to smoke.

Life is good, or as Mike puts it: “Sometimes in fishing you realise that life doesn't really get any better.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The view from a bridge

While others look forward a fisherman looks down.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Are you fishing enough?

How can you tell you're not fishing enough?

There are a few good signs like: nobody is complaining or your fishing gear can't be packed to go in 5 minutes.

Or you can simply check your wading boots:

A wasp nest is a definite sign.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The 12th Hour

You close your eyes. It’s about 6 am in the morning and you’ve been fishing since 7 pm previous day. At some point you were too tired to fish so you sat eyes blanked at campfire, ate a few sausages with mustard, and drank two beers. Then, while the others went sleeping or left, you continued fishing. And you landed trout. A good one, too.

The river is located between lakes, as most rivers of the region, and has only two sections that are fishable without boat. Runs are short, wide, and extremely strong. But so are its trout: short, stout, and extremely strong. In here, where you live, they are legendary. A lot of fishermen come after these trout but only a few catch them.

You’ve been awake for almost 24 hours. You have been fishing for about 11 hours with only a few small breaks. You have a tent but no sleeping bag. Somehow the idea of driving home to sleep lured its way to your mind and you actually took off your leaking waders, sat behind the wheel and started driving. Driving at this mental stage is not a wise decision; it’s an act of insanity. Your mind paid no attention to such introspection. But, instead of driving home, you drove to the other river section.

You’ve somehow managed to dodge the crowd. First, in the evening, you selected different river section than most of other fishermen, and now in the morning, you were just about to drive home but decided to check the crowded section before you leave and found out that there was only one car left. So, instead of leaving, you sit behind the wheel with your eyes closed. You try to recall all the moments of last hours but memories are fussy. After a minute or two you hear engine starting and the car drives away. You are alone in a great trout stream.

A moment later you are gazing the river from bridge. A pocket water section looks tempting. You tie on John Goddard’s famous caddis dry fly and Lennart Berqvist’s pupa pattern. You figure that the English pattern will be a very attractive indicator and the Swedish pattern would be the choice of a picky trout.

When you get into the water and start casting you notice that you can’t see your indicator fly from roughness of the surface. Sleep deprivation isn’t helping either. But this is what you love so you keep on fishing.

Mind and body become separated. Body is fishing; mind is dreaming and enjoying the ride.

Suddenly you see a flash of light below the surface.

“Hey! That looked like a fish!” your concussions mind says with astonishment.

No kidding.” subconscious mind would reply if it could talk. While conscious mind is speaking, subconscious mind is acting: right hand raises the rod and left hand pulls the line.

“I’m getting good at this!” says the conscious mind.

You are getting good at this?” would be the answer.

You get back into the car and start driving home. An hour later you stop the car, close your eyes and fall to sleep.