There are two sides to every fisherman: one that simply enjoys being on the water (hoping to catch a fish), and the other that desperately wants to know how to put more fish in the net.
These two parts find an internal balance inside every angler I know. The casual fisher may be more into the environment, enjoying the relaxation that a good trout stream can offer. And the die-hard, daily angler may get more into the technical things — the “catch more fish” side. After decades of life on the water, I’ve realize that it’s the balance between these two sides of a fisherman that has kept me motivated to get up and drive to the river, to explore, to learn more about trout, to go out and just spend time on the water.
Trout fishing takes me to places where I would not be otherwise. I know myself well enough to be sure of this. Without a good reason, I wouldn’t end up thirteen miles down a dirt road, another three miles down a dusty footpath, a few hundred yards further through the brush and fallen timber of the alluvial plane, and then finally into the water. Our streams are hiking trails for the wade-fisher, and it’s only the pursuit of trout that takes me into those paths.
I’ve often said that participation in the outdoors is what makes fishing a bit different than some other activities (and perhaps more rewarding). I used to hike a good bit, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But those long walks always left me wanting more, especially when the trail led to a stream. While fishing, I’m not just walking through the forest, I’m part of it all for a while. I’m catching a trout then putting it back. I’m participating in the environment, walking through the current, getting my hands wet, holding the fish, and flipping over rocks to understand what the trout might be eating.
There’s something special about being in the water. The angler isn’t just a gawking tourist standing beside a well-titled placard off of a roadside rest. Instead, fishing involves him in a place where others might only look.
And yet the environment alone would not be enough to keep me so enthusiastic for all these years. I’ve always wanted more. Just being out there is only good enough for so long. I’ve needed something to focus and improve upon, something that turns the attentions of more fish, something to grow into. Because without catching fish, the whole thing comes back to just a walk in the woods — wonderful in itself, but only for so long.
Ironically, the technical side is what brings the mystery into fishing. “Catch more fish” becomes a riddle to solve. Better yet, fishing is something that will never be solved, even though tremendous progress can be made. The results are tangible — you catch more fish. And yet they’re elusive — this worked yesterday and now it won’t work today. Anyone who has thrown more than a few hundred casts with a fishing rod understands, by instinct, that fishing is much more than luck. But after a few-hundred fishing trips, you start realizing that luck seems to be the prevailing factor some days. It’s those two sides of the game again.
I haven’t fished for five weeks. In fact, since early September, I’ve done very little other than being a father and going to work.
I’ve spent nearly every minute of my spare time rebuilding and migrating this blog over to a self-hosted WordPress site. There are things I would like to change and expand in the future, and the old platform wasn’t adequate. I guess I could have hired someone else to do it, but that’s not my style. I’m a researcher. A seeker. A problem solver. It was an enormous amount of work, and I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. I spent inordinate amounts of time learning about things I really don’t want to care about: CSS, SSL, CDN, FTP, HTML, API, etc. The tech world sure loves their acronyms.
In my fishing life I’ve often undergone a similar process: define a problem, set a goal, research solutions, test solutions, settle on a solution. And I’m not the type who has to keep looking for something better; as long as I’ve found something that achieves my original goal, I can be satisfied (e.g., I’m happy using one fly rod for ninety-five percent of my fishing for the last eight years). It was the same with this website rebuild. I did one thing after the other, day after day: identify the problem, find solutions, test them, settle on one and then move on.
And here’s what I’ve been reminded of: Everything has an answer. And I can find it myself if I look hard enough — if I’m willing to put in the time. Trout fishing is the same. There really are no shortcuts.
Tomorrow, I’m gonna get my boots wet again. I think I’ll just look around and enjoy it for a good long while.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N