The Ponderings of a Wandering Fly Fisher

by Rebecca on January 9, 2010

in Fly Fishing

The Mini Refresher:I know in my heart fly fishing is something I can learn in a lifetime. There’s a secret out there, a code I know nothing about–yet. Someday I’ll get to the point when I can slice a line through the air as quietly and involuntary as the act of breathing. Someday I will perform art on the riverbanks…….Someday, I will call myself a fly fisherman.” (first time I ever went fly fishing)

The Question:  “How different do you think you are now from the person you described then? Are you performing art yet?” asked in the comments by Clif  who writes the blog LunkerHunt

The Answer: Code…..the secret, that elusive feeling I wanted so badly all those years ago has indeed settled comfortably into my way of life. What I didn’t realize back then was that fly fishing and all it’s possible meanings is about individual definition rather than a general consensus.

I may be a member of the ‘club’ now, but my reasons, my observations, my levels of accompliment are seperate from the whole. It took time, but I eventually understood that I was writing my own code, creating my own secrets.

I spent the first few years of my learning phase safely tucked in my Fly Fishing Mentors creel. Through him, I learned the basic lessons, the little details that have become my second nature on the water. The days of casting with a precursery prayer of hope or the exclamation of thankfulness at the end of a successful cast was replaced with that involuntary action I coveted the first time.

At this point in my life, I will say~ I catch fish, I don’t struggle with casting or presentation. I can match the hatches adequetely, read water and all the subtitles it offers. I may even know a thing or two about fish. I have no doubt there is much more to learn….

As for how ‘good’ of a fly fisherman I am, honestly, I have no idea. Now that I think about it, I guess the judgement of how good a fisherman is lands squarely in the net of other people to decide. I haven’t physically fished with anyone who knows more about fly fishing than me in years so I haven’t exactly gotten any feedback….The truth is, when the river that my Fly Fishing Mentor and I waded together split into seperate channels, I entered my years of solitary wandering and learning.

When I wrote that final paragraph about my first time, I was eager to be an accepted member of an illusionary club I had created in my mind. Today I look back and admit that in reality, I choose a fly fishing path that was centered around being alone without ever feeling lonely. All these years, the river has been my companion, my comfort and the fly fishing is the thread that bound me there.

Which brings me to current days and this website I’ve created. Essentially it’s the biggest change of fishing direction I’ve taken in the last several years. By starting this writing venture and reaching out to other fisherman, I’ve finally made the first steps in joining a sense of community, aka, the Club.  My goal this year, beyond being nicer to whitefish, is to enhance my fly fishing experiences by sharing them with others, both on the rivers and off. 

And finally, if there is one claim I’m willing to make, it’s this…. I do consider myself a fly fisherman now. 


Amendment: as pointed out by Austin of the blog, 365 flyfish, I will also be entering the beginning stages (again) of fly tying this year. I have vise, feathers and I’m totally afraid to use them…….

(the tone of this entry is the viable risk one takes when self reflecting the personal evolution of their fly fishing. It can quickly vear down the drain of sentimental navel gazing)


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

AustinNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 10:38 am

Great thought, how good of a fly fisherman am I? I may have to steal that idea and expand upon it in my own writing style. Great post, and I thought you were going to write that your biggest goal this year is to become a card carrying member of the fly tying institute. :)


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 10:50 am

Austin ~ I have amended my post to reflect the scary tying endeavor I’m about to wade into! I also look forward to reading your take on a good fisherman.


AustinNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 10:57 am

you made me laugh. thank you


KirkNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

Rebecca, now that you’re a card carrying fly tier I’d like to place an order for a woolly bugger. Olive, please. Size 12. No flash, rubber legs or beaded head- just an old school, drab bugger.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 11:29 am

I’m only on step one…the San Juan worm. Once my skills reach stage two and I achieve wolly bugger perfection I will gladly send you one non-fancy Olive. Of course, it shall be sent as-is with no guarantees, warranties or implied chances of catching fish or even holding up in water.
It shall be, one of a kind, the type of thing you probably shouldn’t use, but encase in a plastic box to simply admire :-)


ShannonNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Tying is like darkroom printing – keep the trash can close by and use it often. And keep everything out of the reach of dogs. I just found a lump of hair on the back porch that used to be a top-of-the-line bucktail. So I put the dogs out of course – even if it 20 degrees. All this free advice … you’ll be a star tier in no time! Shannon


WolfyNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Very, very well stated, Rebecca. Fly fishing accomplishment (actually, ANY individual accomplishment) is measured internally by the person themselves, not by the numbero of awards they get or the number of tournaments they win.

I remember distinctly when I passed onto a “new level” in fly fishing. I was very comfortable in what I did on the stream, but was not so comfortable in heavy pocket water. I took a stretch of heavy water, found locally, and attacked it with indicators and heavy nymphs only – very much NOT what I usually preferred. I got to the point where I could actually SENSE where a take would occur, and it often did. I equate it to Gierach’s classic “Zen and the Art of Flyfishing” It wasn’t something you could write or quantify – it just happened. And you KNEW it would happen, and where.

I’ve since become (by my measures) a pretty good pocket waer fisherman, and actually prefer the challenges of those waters now.

Keep up the great posts, Rebecca – I really like your writing.



Kentucky JimNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Nope. No fly tying converts here. I will not do it! Fishing alone without feeling lonely? Hmmm…where have I heard that before? Very nice post, as usual, Rebecca. Oh, and by the way, I understand that The Clearwater River in Idaho is an excellent Steelhead river.


ShoremanNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Hi Rebecca. Well, here is a novice fly fisherman (since October last year). I can count on two hands the times I’ve been able to get my fly rod on the water. As far as tying flys, I don’t think I have the time, so I just buy mine and hope for the best. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows. Good luck with the tying. The calm, peace, and communing with Nature while on the water. I like it too.



KenNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Looks and sounds very tranquil. Some day, we will make the trip your way and you will have to take us out :o )


Turnip Truck DriverNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm

When one ties a fly, wades into the water, smiles at a well laid cast and catches not a fish is when one becomes a fly fisherman.


JohnNo Gravatar January 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

What a great post, a post in which I hope everyone who reads will take a litte something from. I feel that each of us were molded from our experiences on the stream that stays with us and and becomes that common thread to the anglers we are today. Much like your experience in your post, ” I waded together split into seperate channels, I entered my years of solitary wandering and learning” I too find the solitude of such.

One day it clicked for me, the day I stopped worrying about catching fish so dang much, I actually started catching fish. Make sense? I later turned to fishing for wild trout, most only being a few inches in length but awesome to catch and breath taking to release or as I often say, “shaking hands” with them. The simple solitude I found on the river has turned into hikes into some of the most beautiful land we have which unlike you, I can’t find words to describe.

I do like keeping up with the gang, sharing a fish story (never giving up that secret stream) and some fellowship so I am not a total loner. But when it comes to being on the stream, solitude is my first destination. You can ask Austin who writes the blog. Last time we went fishing together, we didn’t see eachother for hours once we set out. I guess I need to be nicer to my fishing buddies.

Keep up the great work I can honestly say I think you figured out the handshake (grin).

Ps. I am with Kirk, make that a black bugger for me, #12 cone head would be nice.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 10, 2010 at 10:02 am

@~Shannon ~ Thank you for the advice! I’ve got 3 dogs and 3 cats who I have no doubt would love to get into all this new fly tying stuff I have.
@~ Wolfy ~ Well said! Like your pocket waters, I’ve been thinking about what I could do this year to challenge myself, beyond the fly tying, out on the waters. Thats one of the huge bonuses of fishing. There’s always a new way we can do things.
@~ Kentucky Jim ~ some minds think alike……and I’ve fished the Clearwater for steelhead and it’s wonderful. If you ever feel like coming up to Idaho…..we can fish together, but in our own alone capacity.


RebeccaNo Gravatar January 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

@Shoreman ~ For you I wish a bounty of time on the river in 2010. I’ve been buying my flies for years and can firmly say, you will do just fine without the hand tied variety.
@Ken ~ I can’t wait. I would love to show you and Beth all the beauty in my world.
@Turnip Driver ~ well said and always good to remember…
@John ~ Thank you for sharing all your thoughts! Of course, I’m jealous you and Austin have fished together, maybe someday I’ll head your way. And I’ve got you down for a black bugger. Same as-is offer is made to you, just don’t show it to my instructor Austin =)


ClifNo Gravatar January 10, 2010 at 10:57 am

My code: I’m convinced no one ever becomes an expert as they once defined it. Sure you can become good but there is always a something to work on…a new challenge that changes what an expert is. (When are you going bass fishing?)

Starting my blog was the pivotal moment in my angling life, never again would fishing be the same. Not only is it challenging to update, it has forced me to challenge myself in ways I never would have thought. Just to have something interesting to write about.

Nice post


RobNo Gravatar January 11, 2010 at 7:39 am

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