Most people don’t realize I’m an outdoor person at heart. I bike, hike, kayak and fish. I just returned from fly fishing with my cousin Kate in the Catskill Mountains in southeast New York. We had perfect weather and I was in my element with the tall green, green trees, flowers in bloom, blue, blue lakes and country roads winding through low hills and picturesque towns.
Judy asked me what life lessons I learned form fly fishing. I thought and thought but NOT while I was fly fishing. NO, never when, you are fly fishing which is the first lesson.
Life Lesson #1: Attention must be paid. Pay attention to what you are doing. Focus on the task at hand so you can do it well and improve your skills. Know where you’re casting your efforts . . . You get the drift.
Fly Fishing: To catch fish, I must pay close attention to what I’m doing: Watch where to throw my line, watch if I’m getting a nibble. Fly fishing requires lots of concentrated attention, similar to meditation . . . and life.
Lesson #2. Be prepared. Have a plan for unwanted but foreseeable events. If you fall in the water make sure it’s shallow but learn how to swim before you take the plunge.
Fly Fishing: When wading in a moving river, it’s possible I could fall in. My wading stick helps me avoid that, but I still keep a whistle to call for help,and have learned what to do (like positioning my feet downstream).
Lesson #3. Pack the essentials first. You have a limited amount of resources. First determine what is needed and then, if room, add what’s wanted. Clutter weighs you down.
Fly Fishing: I pack the essentials first, then add the frills: The most important is a net to catch the fish. Since I want to carry just a FEW pounds of equipment, I’m careful about what I put in my vest pockets. In one pocket I have what I need to change flies (in case the fish don’t find the fly I’m using tasty, or replace a fly when I invariably lose them to an aggressive bush, grabby tree, deep rock or floating log). Another pocket holds nippers to undo messy tangles of line (especially those that wrap around my body).
If there’s room, I add things that are not essential but handy – extra flies, line, goo that help a fly float, gadgets to help flies sink, and indicators that help me know when a fish has taken my fly.
Lesson #4. Have a big net—Be ready to capture the good things that come your way.
Fly Fishing: Most of the time I catch small fish but I’m ready for the biggest fish. I carry a BIG net because I can put a small fish in a big net, but can’t put a big fish in a small net. When I “land” my catch I look to make sure it’s a fish before cradling it back into the water to join his other fishy friends.
Lesson #5. Water-proof yourself. When you do fall down most of you will stay dry . . . otherwise you’ll get moldy.
Fly Fishing: I dress for success. That means waterproof clothing and boots, so I can stand in a stream trying not to fall in. But nice accessories are important, such as a cute vest with all the flys, and my wading stick (form and fashion all in one).
Lesson #6. Keep Casting. It takes a LOT of practice to know where and how to make a catch.
Fly Fshing I practiced casting first and a lot (because I couldn’t practice landing a fish until I caught one). Practice means noticing where my fly lands (in the water is definitely desirable), and learning were it is likely there’s a fish waiting. Practice means reading the currents and . . . improving my aim
Lesson #7. Tie down what’s important. When you find yourself in the wilderness you don’t want to “lose it” downstream.
Fly Fishing: I keep what I value close by and tied down. Standing in a moving stream and dropping something I need (like my fishing rod) means it’s GONE. Finding a way to attach important stuff -like my “nippers” that are on a “zinger” (a retractible string with a pin on the end) is what makes a good fly fisher person . . . which brings me back to Lesson #6.
. . . Kate and I caught a 6 fish and released them to swim free.