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 trout 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 focus more on 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 parts of a fisherman that has kept me motivated to get up and drive to the river, to explore, and to learn more about trout and the places they live.
Trout fishing takes me where I would not be otherwise. I know myself well enough to be sure of this. Without good reason, I would not end up thirteen miles down a dirt road, another three miles following a dusty footpath, a few hundred yards further through the brush and fallen timber of the alluvial plane, and finally into the water. Our streams are hiking trails for the wade-fisher, and it’s the pursuit of trout that takes me into these paths.
The participation in the outdoors is what makes fishing different (and perhaps more rewarding) than some other outdoor pursuits. I used to hike a lot, 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 and 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 a gawking tourist standing beside a well-titled placard at a a roadside rest. Instead, fishing involves us in a place where others might only look.
And yet, the environment alone is not be enough to keep me so enthusiastic, year after year. I want more. Being out there is only good enough for so long. I need 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 a mystery into fishing. “Catch more fish” becomes a riddle to solve. But fishing is something that will never be solved, although 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 to realize that luck is the prevailing factor some days. It’s those two sides of the game again.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N