This is my first post. Below are several pages from a book I haven't finished yet. I think the pages are a good place to start. I should say I've taken a break from guiding since I wrote it.
It’s a typical day guiding on the river. I’m “wearing” the fly patterns that we’ll fish today. They are neatly stowed in nine or ten fly boxes wrapped around me in the bulging pockets of my fly vest. I’ve even stuffed a few boxes in the back pocket of the vest. There are thousands if not tens of thousands of them. Some of them may be twenty-five years old and have never been tied to a tippet and fished. But they all remain, the fly boxes bulging like the Kevlar pads in a soldier’s armored vest. You might think that the analogy ends here with just the awkward bulgy similarity, but that’s not the half of it. Like the soldier’s Kevlar I’ve somehow come to believe that all those flies offer me a kind of protection. But the soldier’s protection is real. Kevlar stops bullets. My thousands of flies are more a talisman against the vagaries of what can happen when you put yourself on the river with persons you don’t know who are bent on catching trout. The funny thing is that after more than 20 years on the river I know for a fact that just three or four of the fly patterns in my boxes will surely cover our day’s fishing and maybe a dozen patterns will catch a trout any day of the year. But I still carry all of them. That is until tomorrow.
I should explain tomorrow. It’s actually the culmination of a lifetime of fly fishing inquiry and a few years of more concentrated thought where I’ve worked toward simplifying my approach to both guiding and my own fly fishing. I started off thinking that “simplify” was the right word to use to explain what I was doing, but it’s really just the most expedient. The immediate implication is that to simplify you must lessen. And that of course seems to take aim at the most sacred of all fly fishing cows----the tackle. Okay, some of that may be involved, but it’s more about culling excess. It’s about putting as little between you and the trout as possible in all circumstances. Think lightness.
You’ll know what I mean if you’ve had that moment on a favorite small stream where you intentionally left your truck carrying a single box of flies, a little tippet, fly rod, lunch and a raincoat. You’ve already decided that you’ll wet wade and since the hike in isn’t very far you just suit up in a pair of quick dry long pants, neoprene socks and your wading shoes. The moment comes somewhere on the water when you realize it’s just you and your attached a fly rod. You’re casting, dapping….finagling ways to float a single dry fly on the slicks, riffles drops and runs that you know hold trout. You think for just an instant that maybe a different fly would work better, but then you think what difference does it really make? You know that a well presented dry fly will catch trout. If it’s just a matter of numbers who cares? You are catching trout the way you want to catch them. And then you realize that beyond all of the flies, the tackle and the presentations it’s really just you and the trout. Your separation is the distance between your dry fly and the trout moving toward it.
So, you figure that sure this is the kind of thing that happens on a small stream because the trout aren’t that large and they are kind of dumb. That’s what makes fishing small streams so much fun. It’s mindless or should I really say mindful. Its fly fishing stripped to the bone. Finally, it occurs to you that there’s nothing stopping you from fishing “simply” wherever you go if it means putting as little between you and the trout as possible. The key is that you will be catching trout the way you want and that of course will be the most radical departure from your fisherman’s mind yet because it means you won’t necessarily be fishing for numbers. You’ll be turning off that counter in your head. No more “I hooked 12 and landed 9” pronouncements. Maybe you’ll say “I caught my share the way I wanted to catch them.” Or maybe you’ll just say nothing at all.
What I’m going to present you with in the following pages is a kind of journal of the events that over the years have led me to lighten my approach to fly fishing. Many of those events were actually mishaps, mistakes, and chance encounters. A few were revelatory, but most were just steps along the way. For a long time I only thought about making changes, but eventually I was ready to put some of the thinking into practice. It wasn’t an overnight transition and it continues. This is the record of those changes and the thinking that propelled them.
You may have already noticed my reticence to use the word “simplify” when talking about how you put as little between the trout and you as possible. It’s a loaded word that’s too easy to understand as meaning less or fewer parts or even a kind of dumbing down. What I’m after is making my fly fishing more essential by finding ways to connect to the trout in the purest, simplest, least complicated and encumbered ways. It’s not necessarily the fact that you have 45 fly rods stowed away in the closet, but rather that you find yourself buying one more fly rod because you think it will make you more proficient. Time on the water makes you proficient. The trap is when you start believing the stuff makes you better. The stuff is the medium that allows you to become better. The guy with the most toys doesn’t always win, but just having the toys doesn’t necessarily exclude him from winning, either.