Why It Doesn't Matter if You Suck At Fly Fishing

Not pictured, tailing loop

I’m an Alex C fan, and a post he wrote a while back resonated with me. Not as a call to reinvest my energies into some sort of fly fishing Samurai code but to ask the question, Does it really matter if you suck at fly fishing?

Not really.

Every time I think about this, it brings me back to Thomas McGuane’s introductory essay “Some Remarks” in The Longest Silence, which is quite possibly the greatest single dissertation written about fly fishing. This passage in particular,

At the end of the day, standing on the dock, I asked with some trepidation:

‘Uncle Ben, was my father a good fisherman?’

He smiled and said, ‘No Tommy, he was not. But no one loved it more.’

This to me is a conundrum. ‘No one loved it more.’ Isn’t that enough? Who is the better angler, the patient bait soaker under the walls of the Seine, the black woman with the cane pole on Mobile Bay, the aging Russian bureaucrat on the River Volga, or the film producer on the Kharlovka or the flats of Ascension Bay? Let’s be honest; it could be any of the above.”

Do you have to be good at something to love it and talk about it? If that were true 99 percent of all blogs and conversation would be about masturbating, and every journalist on the sports beat would be out of a job.

A recent conversation I’m recalling had to do with your all-time favorite rod, and with the listing of several high-end legendary sticks, was it wrong that I felt compelled to list an equivalent when the real answer was the pre-strung Cortland starter kit that came encased in plastic, with a clicker reel you had to palm for drag? There’s not another piece of gear that matches the excitement of receiving that as a gift, with the possibilities for using it laid out ahead. Nor does that first connection with a hard-earned “glamour species” exceed the emotions of finally figuring out how to make a foam popper fly in the air, and what it felt like to watch it get pecked by a sunfish.

I’m also thinking of my own recent self-flagellation after flubbing a cast on the bow of Seth Vernon’s flats boat, and him laughing as he said, “Why are fly casters so hard on themselves?”

Good question. The best anglers I’ve been lucky enough to meet aren’t fazed by much and don’t seem to feel the constant need to prove how hardcore they are, and their conversations have tended to revolve around topics other than the time they went 25 for 30 because they got on the road at 3:30 and chopped ephedrine while you slept in on a Tuesday.

And there’s Kirk Hammett talking about surfing in Some Kind of Monster when he says, ” When it’s your moment man, that’s your moment and it’s yours alone. And no one can help you.” You can watch the masters and learn everything there is to know and hire a badass guide to improve your chances, but one of the beautiful things about fly fishing is that in the end it really just comes down to you and the fish. And if you blow it, who really cares? You didn’t kill anyone. (Did you?)

This is not meant to be a callout of Alex, like I said I’m a fan. Just a reorganization of my own opinions. A couple years ago I said in a post the only two rules of fly fishing should be, Don’t be an asshole and make the cast. Now I’m pairing it down: Don’t be an asshole; that should pretty much be enough.

12 thoughts on “Why It Doesn't Matter if You Suck At Fly Fishing”

  1. Although I’m not a fly fisher at all yet, I’m thinking about to give it a try someday. Your post really encourages me, because I know, I will suck fly fishing. About fly fishing it is as about everything someone tries new and has no experience with. It will suck but as time goes on it will get better and better.

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