People have quirks. And so do most fly rods. People with quirks can cast quirky rods and the amplitude of the quirkiness becomes exponential. And that’s why it took me so long to learn how to cast.
Is it the rod? or is the person who holds the rod? Things can get muddied pretty quick when you start breaking it down this far. How many fish did you miss because of your quirks? How many fish did you miss because of your rod?
Perhaps we should consider that people who Fly Fish have inherent quirks that drive them to participate in the sport initially? And what would the level of quirk be for those that have continued the habit/hobby for 20 years plus?
But somewhere along in the multitudinal craziness is the spine tingling nerviness of the crisis of the rise. It’s when the trout shows their shoulders, simply sips the surface, or rips into a surface bug with all of its sudden strength and elegant muscle. All three described manners of the rise are apparent and usually some sort of physical response happens—an increased heart beat, an awareness of the stream insect activity and the resulting focus of observation, or the simple realization that the feed has begun and a limited window of opportunity has opened for the angler. Some handle the crisis better but at the core the realization must be made that the reaction must be more mental than physical.
I’ve fished my whole life but it wasn’t until my advanced years that I really began to learn how to fish and the wonders of waving a willowy piece of elegance called a fly rod that spoke to the natural rhythm of my heart seemingly calmed some of the quirkiness that I carried around. In order to become proficient, I felt I had to catch fish—a lot of fish or the outing wasn’t successful. But the importance of quantity has moved to the side nowadays and the sliding scale of success now lies within the quality of the fish—and the manner in which it was accomplished. And, as a result, the rise has become a fascination for me. Howell Raines calls it a need to hear the “sigh of the eternal” and, while I’ve always searched these esoteric things out while in the woods and the simple movements and patterns of the natural world around us hold the key to hearing that sigh.
An angler always holds the confidence of a fish unseen but it is the rise itself that acts as confirmation –and should you be able to see the glance of the fish’s gleam, it is visceral and visible confirmation that they are feeding that the tremendous instant of expectation quivers down the rod. There are many things to consider in this moment: the directional hookset and the inherent timeliness of it. If you are to react too quick then you will simply pull the fly away, or if you are to react too late, then the moment and opportunity is wasted and the trout might perhaps reject the angler’s offer. You see, it is the moment of mental apprehension tied to the timeliness of the physical activity that weaves it all together…
And then the quirks start to manifest. But in that moment, even the quirkiest rod and even out of the ordinary angler have to come together to avoid the disaster and heartbreak of a missed hookset.