The heart of fly fishing

Music rots when it gets too far from the dance.

Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.

Ezra Pound, The ABC's of Reading

For me fly fishing suffers when it gets too far from the "fly."

The nature of fly fishing lies at its heart—in the fly. The fly (read mayfly) is small, light, delicate, and intricate. For fishermen to use a fly or its imitation as bait they had to design a different delivery system—a limber rod and a weighted line—the rod to throw the line and the line to carry the fly. The result was a more fluid and graceful cast.

I came to fly fishing because of the lure of its intrinsic grace—more so, even than the catching of fish. I'd had enough of the hardware chunking of spin casting—efficient but by no means graceful.

We've all read the many articles espousing what "is" and "isn't" fly fishing. Some purists, for instance, argue that nymph fishing with a strike indicator is nothing more than bait fishing with a bobber. These, however, are not the salient issues to me.

What does become problematic to me is when fly fishing inches too close to "chunking hardware"—when it drifts ever so slyly away from that easy gracefulness that lies at its heart. As when, in nymph fishing, one is forced to use so many split shot to get the nymph down in heavy water that casting becomes "flipping" and eventually becomes "lobbing." Or when the rod gets so big in order to cast those air resistant "flies" that it might as well be a surf rod. Or when a full sinking line has to be stripped all the way back in order to drag it out of the water for the next cast.

Don't get me wrong, I still fish with nymphs and weight the tippet with lead (or nickel) and at certain times I even resort to a heavier rod. But when (eventually) I absentmindedly lob that line of split shot into the back of my neck or when my arm begins to ache from flailing that heavy rod around, I have to remind myself that I've lost the grace! And then, I might just switch to a dry fly despite the fact that the fish are hitting on the bottom or to a lighter rod and a smaller fly even if I'm after a bruiser bass. I just have to get back to the real pleasure and the heart of the sport.

At times like this I have to laugh at myself a bit, though, and am often reminded of the story of the drunk who was wandering around under a street light late one night and asked by a policeman what he was up to. "Looking for my keys," replied the drunk.

"Well, where did you lose them?" asked the policeman.

"Over there," pointed the drunk.

"Then, why aren't you looking for them over there?"asked the cop, irritated.

"'Cause there's more light over here!"

Kent Rush