Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pep talk

Fly fishing is hard. Take it from me - the most mediocre fly angler in the world. I'm rarely even the "best" angler in my party (best being subjective and irrelevant, but humor me...). But I love it.

I've had moments (months, in fact) when I've felt inadequate about my skills, because I write about fly fishing. I better be able to do it well if I'm going to be telling people about it. Mercifully, I got over that. I feel as though I know the sport and industry well enough to (hopefully) write insightfully, and take worthy, maybe even sometimes poignant, photos. That's my role in this universe, and even though I can't get every fish to eat (or any, sometimes), that doesn't mean I can't relate to others, or have nothing to say.

Fly fishing is frustrating. I've introduced enough people to the sport in the last few months that I've started emphasizing one thing in particular: You will get frustrated. Because catching a trout on a fly rod is the result of the confluence of about 10 different things, not all of which are under your control. But if you enjoy the experience enough, you'll go back. And back. And eventually you'll catch a fish, and you'll be the happiest person in the world. And you'll go back more often and eventually - you're bona fide. But if you can't trudge your way through those initial frustrations, you'll never get to the point where it starts becoming less frustrating and more fun.

Some common frustrations:
  • Rat's nests
  • Back cast gets caught in a tree
  • Cast won't go where you want
  • Cast collapses
  • Can't catch fish
  • Line gets snagged on everything it possibly could  - boots, clasps, sticks, rocks, tippet, etc.
  • Getting hung-up on the bottom
  • Losing flies (bull-whipping the back-cast, hanging up on the bottom, etc)
  • Turning ankles on river rocks
  • Slipping/ falling
  • Flies come untied
  • No idea what flies to use
  • General lack of confidence
  • Others catch fish while you're not (sometimes with the same rod/reel, fly set-up, indicator depth, drift, line, hole, mends, etc. Either some people are magic, or subtle nuance makes a difference. I think magic.)
  • Sore back/shoulder/arm/leg/ankle/brain
  • Everything else
I still get frustrated. That may never go away. Hell just yesterday I tried to fish the East Gallatin with my dog on a public stretch in Bozeman. I lasted about 15 cuss-filled minutes - my poor dog, mean-tempered as he can be, must be traumatized. 

To all those anglers feeling like giving it up, feeling like they suck, or everyone else is better at it, or just generally worn out of it; take solace and have patience with yourself. Try to focus on the good parts of your day - the beautiful place you otherwise wouldn't have been; the exercise you got; the sunshine and fresh air you absorbed; the progress you made or insight you learned. If those things are not enough, you indeed may not have what it takes to be a fly angler. 

All of us were there at some point, and all of us still have frustrations (some of us even admit it). Fly fishing is hard, and eventually, worth the trouble.


Brady said...

Thanks for the pep talk. I read every word. Looking forwards to experimenting (first hand) all those frustrations and more. Hoping you'll teach me some new cuss words to boot. See ya soon!

Joshua Bergan said...

Ha - I don't know that I could teach YOU any cuss words you don't already know ;) Hope things are going okay - Ryan said if he had one piece of advice it'd be to practice before you hit the water... Either way, we'll catch a fish or two. Looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

well put. just got back from a 5 day trip to Bozeman with my three brother in laws. All of whom seemed to catch more fish. But yesterday, with one brother in law and on our own on the upper Madison, I managed first fish, first big fish, and last fish. My brother in law caught more big fish, playing with depth and weight is some of the deeper holes. I hope to be like him someday... Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Joshua Bergan said...

Hey - congratulations! I wish you many more fly-caught fish.