Moment of Stillness by Joseph Lloyd
There’s a moment of stillness that I try to maintain before I ever step foot into a river or creek. I hold it and try to slow down my heart enough to make sure I feel it. It is a moment of reverence and contemplation; intellectually, it is a quick span of time that I use to observe what might or might not be happening (bugs, current, etc…) but it’s actually more of a moment that I remind myself to slow down and take solace in the fact that I have a chance to block out the noise of the constructs that the modern world maintain on me.
I didn’t grow up with a fly rod in hand nor was I born to do it but the lessons of fly fishing that loom larger than life still educate me when I slow down enough to think about it. A successful cast with a fly rod takes understanding of the physics involved-loading the rod, feeling the flex, understanding the loop, awareness of the back cast, etc but once you’ve done it enough muscle memory takes over and the next phase takes precedence—where to put it? Where are the fish? What fly are you using and what’s the strategy behind it?
The act of slowing down was never my forte’. Even as a young man, I worked constantly and as hard and fast as I could go. Work harder and faster, climb as hard as my body could take it and suffer through the injuries as indifferent inconveniences rather than understand that I did it to myself. Those lessons are harder to learn when vision is clouded by brashness and youthful exuberance, but in order to succeed as a fly fisherman and become proficient at it, one has to learn to simply slow down. The cast was always rushed and, as a result, it was inefficient and inaccurate. And this also became a parable for my life—too hectic, too crazy, inefficient, and inaccurate.
The Art of the Cast is zen in nature, inherently beautiful when completed well but laughable in it’s failure. And that’s before the fly ever hits the water. There are traps that one can fall into if you simply fall in love the action of the cast; too much and the fly is never in the water enough to catch a fish (which might be argued for/against that it is the goal of the exercise called fly fishing) so the cast becomes a comedic performance in the tragic comedy of life.
Consider the Art of the Cast to reflect the learning processes of a young age, or the rites of passage that we all must attend to. But once we are older, or have gained enough life experience, we must put those experiences to use—and then the fly hits the water. How do you use it? How best to fish that nymph, streamer, or dry fly? Dead drift, twitch, or use a high stick technique? The possibilities are endless and reflect the myriad of paths or choices that we make in life.
Fly fishing is truly a series of riddles that have to be learned to be solved and it was only when I slowed down enough to pay attention that the clouds parted and the path became a little less rocky. JP once told me, and I can appreciate the sentiment, “ These are all things that can not be riddled or solved with an algorithm. They are an emotion and solution that only the angler can ponder. And often chooses not to solve, but rather just be a part of.” His motto of “simply fish” contains the same wisdom but delivered in a concise and succinct declaration, this is the embodiment of a simple truth that is often lost in the noise of modern living.
In those moments of stillness grow seeds of contemplation and the small grassy meadows of calm that are found interspersed between our highways of fast and daily living, are further enriched and, in turn, grow into fields and forests of serenity and fulfillment. But one has to slow down enough to watch for them, and know when to pull over and walk for a while.