“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and other Stories
As I am sitting at Christmas Eve service, my mind reflects on the past year. Some memorable fish, excellent trips with good friends, and stellar moments on the water. Coupled by bitter-sweetness in the loss of my father and the wish I had more time spent on the water with him. Then I think about salvation. I would like to believe if the rapture were to occur next week, I would have a better than average chance of ‘getting clearance’ — not because of the good deeds I have done or the quality of life I have led, or even the benevolence I have shown towards God’s wonderful creatures; but because I have spent countless days learning patience while casting my 3-weight at dozens of upper-class trout that would have no part of my offerings. Along with the many hours dedicated to helping and sharing my passion with family and friends the art of the fly, maybe this is the repentance for the multitude of hours I formerly squandered in dirty bars of my younger days?
Funny, but not. I have been dwelling on this for days. I know I should not let it rent space in my head, but then other things people have said pop into my brain. Things like, “I had to delete you from my ‘friends’ on Facebook because all you ever post is about fishing or rivers or tying flies.”
I was OK with that and have not accepted friend requests because they didn’t have proper fishing credentials to be allowed in the circle, so they were permitted to deny my ‘friendship’ status. But the Christmas Card — that struck a chord, and it was becoming a tenant in my head. HAVE YOU MET ME?
Whenever I drive by an empty retail shop, in my head, I already have the layout for a fly shop, where I can set up the TV monitors so we can have TU movie nights and extra tables for a Tie-One-On! fly tying nights. I have gone over countless inventories for the start up materials needed for a successful shop — it needs a good balance of high-end and entry-level equipment, it needs to have monthly events to draw in people and a warm staff and fresh coffee always brewing. On the flip side I would give up this life in paradise tourist town to live in the mountains along some stream with hopes of starting a lodge or B&B to invite others into my world of addiction. There, I said it. I have admitted I am addicted to all things FLY.
This all began when I received a Christmas card a few weeks back. In it were the words, “Too bad every time we talk, all you can talk about is fishing. Like that’s all there is in life.”
Last week it became all too clear. Channel 34 — Discovery, it was after work and I enjoy a diet coke and slowing down from the hectic pace of taking care of everyone else’s needs and desires. The program was on Addictions. These people were legit crazy. They had given away everything. They would work every angle, every minute, to find a way to their next high. I am grateful I am not like that [or am I?] I do think every minute about how to tie that Hendrickson pattern a little better or a stronger material for that upright wing, but will still float it. I go over and over in my head that one cast I sent in the cedar above that 20 incher that sent him/her for cover and how I could get a do-over. For the Meth/Crack/Cocaine/LSD addict — they are “Chasing the High”. A term used to refer to the first time they used — often unattainable and the cause of their repeated search leading to death, delusion or confinement. I am on a search for that first time, however, I believe in the purity and beauty this addiction has rewarded me with a quality of life I would rather not replace. A short decade ago, I too was living on the streets looking for something — chasing a high that would not have a beneficial direction for my life. I am thankful I found my way back to the Tying Vise — and making it my only vise, others are not so fortunate.
A newly made fishing friend from FB mentioned on his status something his wife said — and my wife completely agreed. She hinted that their family Christmas photo should be a postcard of her and the two girls and the Dad in the river holding a brown from the Rogue in Rockford. He jokingly said that was cool. I do envision a family photo of my troop, all in waders in the middle of the Thompson or the Blue Rivers, with heavily padded and flocked trees in the background. Someday.
My wife is a blessing, as is my entire family — truly. She doesn’t totally understand the addiction thing. She can have a glass of wine and leave it on the coffee table 1/2 full She is kinda crazy like that. Chocolate and shopping are the only things that might be considered her vices. I only qualify shopping as her addiction because few ‘normies’ actually plan on going shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving and shopping all evening into the next morning with pre-arranged intervals of juicing up with Redbull and Monster drinks. Who would chase sales and deals for nearly 18 hours on end? INSANE! or is it? I have worked all day and gone Hexing into the wee morning hours for nights on end, and when that was over — it became Mousing Time. In the end, it is all about your passion. What is your passion? I am very happy to have found mine swimming in the swift currents of any river that is cold and cool enough to dangle that carrot before my face….