Thoughts as the Snow Falls by Mark Usyk

I’m tying streamers and sinking buggy looking things, some people call them nymphs, because it’s winter, and if I happen to go somewhere I know I’m going to need sinking buggy looking things, and on top of that I never go anywhere without streamers. Naturally if I were to go somewhere I wouldn’t really plan on catching much of anything, because I’m a horrible winter fly angler, but at least having the right patterns, that’s the sinking buggy looking things, would put me on the right track. I’d probably end up casting to the wrong feeding lane in the river, which when I think about it, I guess wouldn’t be a feeding lane at all. If I’m casting to the wrong feeding lane then that probably means there’s no fish feeding where I’m casting, making it not a feeding lane. So I suppose instead of saying I’d be casting to the wrong feeding lane it would be better to say that I probably wouldn’t know where to cast and I’d just be casting to nothing. Which I do a lot of year round, not just in the winter. So maybe it’s not just a winter thing, but since the fish are actively feeding during the spring through fall seasons maybe I’ve just got better odds of casting close enough to get a reaction now and then. The more I analyze this, the closer to the epiphany that I might just not be good at any of this fly fishing stuff I get, so I’ll stop now while I still have at least a shred of dignity left.

Someone asked me at a book signing last week if I could help their son to learn to fly fish. I told them anything was possible, but that I pretty much taught myself and didn’t really have a background that pointed in a direction of teaching much of anything except how not to do things, but I guess there’s worse ways to learn. It was a husband and wife, and while I talked to the husband the wife was doing that thing where you look through a book, holding the cover with one hand and letting the pages flip by at rapid speed with your opposite thumb, but don’t actually get anything out of it except that there are words in it, and pages, and that to get anything out of it you’ll actually have to read it. The husband was telling me how their twelve year old son was a diehard fish chaser, and that he really wanted to learn to fly fish. Naturally I told him that not only was that awesome, but that he’d have little time to get into any real trouble, and all his money would go into fishing gear. There were obviously much worse things he could put effort or a lack there of into. The wife looked up from the book and said that he’d be so excited to get this book, and that maybe he’d learn somethings from reading it. Luckily my beer was empty, or she might have worn it in a fine spray from my mouth and nose. Learning from my stories would be by complete accident, or luck, or a lucky accident.

The thing is, even though I look at them as nothing but a bunch of fishing stories, I suppose that people pick up little tips and bits of information from wherever they can when they’re interested in something enough. I still grab helpful tips from short reads in magazines and books all the time. The authors might only be trying to tell a good story, but those of us always wanting to learn more can grab information out of just about anywhere when the subject is presented in any form. How-to articles, short stories, history pieces, they all have something to teach I guess. Might be something to do with casting, might be something to do with conservation, proper fish handling I suppose, how to pick a safe run through rapids, the right flies for specific times of the year, there’s no telling what you’ll learn until you start actually paying attention.

Which brings me back to my lack of skills. No, I can fish, I’m not saying that, but I know my limits. Like when it comes to identifying hatches. I don’t know bugs. And I don’t have much motivation to learn them. Of course I understand that to a point knowing the bugs would mean knowing the hatches, which would mean knowing where to be with what flies during what time of year, and probably catching more trout. If I cared at all about being an awesome fly fisherman, which I don’t. I realize that being able to read a big river like a book would put my flies and streamers in the faces of more fish, but, even though I’m a writer, when it comes to reading waters I’m more of a comic book guy than a real book. And I’m perfectly fine with that too. I’m not going to pursue these things unless I suddenly feel the need, which I haven’t, because I’m having a good time making it all happen without it feeling like it’s work. The best words of wisdom I’ve come up with that I hand out to people who ask for help are the very things that have helped me along the way. You can’t catch a fish if your line isn’t in the water, and if it looks alive, chances are something might want to eat it. And finally, you’ll never be able to put either of the previous into action if you don’t get out on the water to begin with.