The bane of the fly fisherman – simple streamside vegetation – takes away far more than – on the rarest of occasions – it gives back.
Like any outdoor activity, fly fishing has a way of bringing ultimate joy, but also ultimate anguish. The water, the cast, the connection to nature, the drift, the take – all part of the endless enjoyment.
Then there is the aspect that haunts me on every outing I’ve ever had: the number of dang flies I lose in the dang bushes.
To be fair to the brush, I’ve lost all manner of flies in all manner of ways. I’ve snapped off wooly buggers with a brisk back cast because I was too lazy to switch to a heavier tippet, I’ve dropped flies into the water because I just plain forgot what I was doing, I’ve even deposited whole boxes of flies into the wild blue yonder because I didn’t zip my bag up. Yes, if losing flies were an art form, I’d be Picasso.
Trout-stream fishing in the Virginia mountains means tight water with even tighter brush cover; it’s a constant struggle between good (fisherman) and evil (demon, fly-eating bushes). Sometimes the bush appears in its natural form, but sometimes it is much more sinister, sneaking up behind you in the form of a moss covered rock, or even a blade of tall grass undetectable to the naked eye. You think you are in the clear when you hear that distinctive snap and spin around to confront your nemesis, only to find cold, blank, unwavering flora. Not a twitch of a leaf as evidence, not a chance of recovering your fly. The wind could be howling at 40 mph and still nothing moves. You can virtually hear the woods laughing at your pathetic bewilderment.
I recall a time on the Jackson River, I attempted to yank a fly out of a bush and promptly broke my rod in half. It was a soul-crushing end to what had been a merely soul tenderizing day.
But here’s the thing about fly fishing: there is always a flip side, even a silver lining to the seemingly liner-less cloud of losing flies. You see, finding the fly you snapped off is one of those little victories that completely overshadow those little defeats. Sometimes you have to climb a tree, or have to dive to a submerged rock or even dig it out of your buddy’s leg, but no length is too far to go to retrieve that hot fly – or that $5 streamer. Each time you beat the odds, each time you defeat that streamside arch-enemy, it’s a huge boost to morale.
If there is one thing that can help a man catch more fish, it’s moral...and bait.