Serious Business? by Mark Usyk

There’s only so many flies you can tie, so many books you can read, all the while telling yourself there’s only so many days in the winter. I’ve actually got a couple winter fishing trips planned in the next coming weeks, but they’re not to warmer climates, no. They’re within driving distance because it’s all I can afford and a couple days is all the time I have. That means layers of clothes, frozen fingers and toes, and in my case, most likely a lot of casting and very little catching. I don’t mind the very little catching, but I mind it a whole lot less when it’s not fourteen degrees out and the temperature is going to reach a high of nineteen. But I shouldn’t complain. It could be worse. Not much, worse, but at least the rivers aren’t frozen over like the lakes.

It also doesn’t help that the Fly Fishing show season is passing by at the speed of a train skirting the edge of town just slow enough that you can read all the graffiti on the cars, but you realize that you could never run alongside and jump on no matter what warmer climate it might be headed towards and no matter how bad you wanted to get there. That’s an analogy, by the way, for me watching all these other people go to the shows and posting pictures on Facebook and me kind of wishing I’d gone to at least one, but realizing that I should stay right the hell away from them. I ruined a perfectly good thing when I was into hotrods and metal shaping by trying to make a living at it, and I’m not about to do that with fly fishing and writing. I’m fishing because I love to fish, and writing because I completely enjoy writing about the fishing. And other than a book that might earn me enough money for a new pair of waders and a couple flies tied in Kenya, I’m not about to screw this up by chasing some stupid idea that it could ever be anything more than that. I’m not saying I don’t think about it from time to time. But I’m saying I’m keeping it along the lines of Sheriff Bufford T. Justice when he said to that kid in Smokey and the Bandit… You can think about it, but doooon’t do it. Looking at shots from the shows, coupled with what we already know, it seems that fly fishing can be a serious business. Someone punch me in the head if I ever decide I have a million dollar idea that I want to run with to the shows.

Last year about this time I was tying big streamers and small squid looking things for a family trip to Florida where I was going to get a day to hit the salt on my own. The buildup was about what you’d imagine if you can imagine temperatures below twenty, frost on the windows, and the thought of warm sunny beaches far away from the previous conditions. Kind of like now, except this year I’m not going to Florida. I did tie a squid looking thing the other day though just to see if it would make me feel any warmer. All it really did was make me thirsty for rum and angry at my life’s choices leading up to this. Choices that haven’t allowed me to buy a private plane which could carry me off to warmer exotic locales where the fish are big and hungry and you can wear shorts in February.

When I finally got to Florida, made it through a couple days at LEGO Land where there was a large pond full of jumping fish next to the hotel, but a twelve foot chain link fence and the presence of an alligator kept me from fishing the pond, and after a couple days at my in-laws just thinking about the last day and hitting the salt…Cutting to the end, I stood in salt all day long, cast until my shoulder was about to fall apart, and caught nothing. I did feel two tiny little tugs, and I’d like to think they were a couple fish that were just too small to hook, but with my luck it was probably a couple crabs.

I had a couple people afterwards ask me since I’d gone all the way to Florida why hadn’t I hired a guide. Let’s forget that I didn’t have the money for a guide and move on to the fact that I’ve never hired a guide. The same as me not wanting anything more out of publishing my first book than to say I finished one, that I did it. I can’t see myself paying someone to take me fishing. That’s like, serious business to me.

The trip was needed. And my day in the salt, it was great. The change of weather, the change in scenery, it was all great. I just didn’t know the area or the fish, which I suppose is why some people hire guides. But I’ve never hired a guide. Just like I never fish with flies I didn’t tie, I’ve got to do it on my own. Succeed or fail, it’s got to be up to me. And whether I succeed or fail, I don’t take any of it seriously. Which in a roundabout way is why I can’t bring myself to hire a guide I guess. Paying someone to take you fishing sounds pretty serious to me. And none of this in my mind is supposed to be serious. It’s actually supposed to be quite the opposite.