Many action sports, recreational activities, and outdoor pursuits could be perceived as completely useless, when examined by outsiders, and the end result of these types of things often accomplish absolutely nothing. This type of behavior might even be considered psychotic or delusional by some in the field of human psychology. Knowing myself, my pursuit of trout is almost certainly born of psychotic behavior. And that’s OK. That’s exactly how I like it.
Take rock-climbing, skiing, kayaking, trail running, and of course, Fly-fishing, as examples. In the movie Valley Uprising, I remember Rock Climbing being described as a ” dangerous, life threatening pursuit of absolutely nothing” or something to that affect. Skiers and snowboarders don’t have an apparent purpose to their seemingly deranged hoots and hollers while bobbing and weaving through fresh snow. When we reach the top of a great mountain, we don’t receive anything tangible; we just walked to the top, and then walked back down. I think that is why most of us like these types of things; its because we know we are insane, and while the rest of the sane people shake their heads at us, we are grinning from ear to ear, stoked on life, without anything else to worry about. No goals that need to be achieved. No result to be attained; other that pure and simple happiness.
You see, I believe Fly-fisherman top this list. This list of the most delusional, yet fullfilled, people in the kingdom of humans. There is nothing like the peace the soul feels after a day in untouched wilderness, with the memory of a beautiful trout lingering in the back of your head, while gently dozing off to sleep with the sound of rustling trees. Yes, this is a 100% biased position. I am sorry to all those action sport enthusiasts who believe their people are more entitled to the claim of ‘most insane type of human’. If you feel that strongly about it, you are probably correct.
Catch and release fishing is something most people can’t quite wrap their head around, for the very reasons discussed above. My fathers Cousin, a born and bred Kootenay boy now into his sixties, literally shakes his head at me, with the confused look of outright incomprehension when I tell him I almost never keep my fish.
In his time, back in the 60’s and 70’s, fishing still had a purpose. It was to go and catch the fish. And once you caught it, they were yours. What is the point of catching something if your going to let it escape right after? Fly-fishing still had not entered the mainstream; fishing was not considered art, it was a time tested practice of do’s and dont’s and a foolproof method of killing time and drinking beers. But what it still had was the comaraderie; and the peacefulness, whichever side one chose to be on. It still had the exhilaration of playing a large fish, and the thrilling experience of capturing something of such beauty. And whether it was that, or the cold six pack that always came along for company, people still kept coming back for more, and more. As d0es my cousin, who is still catching his big Columbia river rainbows in the same back-eddies as he was in the 70’s, and his freezer is still just as full with more trout than he could ever possibly eat; and yet he calls me delusional.
Yes, fishing for trout is a time tested method for those that want to avoid their problems, avoid there wives, forget about their jobs, neglect their responsibilities, waste all their money, and spend endless summers doing that same thing, over and over. Yes, fishing for trout is the very reason why I have many times found myself in the furthest recesses of civilization, deprived of sleep, dehydrated, without food, as the sun begins to dip behind the horizon, yet still rationalizing taking a few more casts to get that one last fish, despite being more than a couple of hours away from the nearest town and that A & W that your grumbling stomach has been wanting for the last couple of hours. And yet, those that fish for trout on the fly don’t really care about those kind of petty issues. Because Fly-fishing is just damn fun, plain and simple. And when you spend all your time chasing fun, you get pretty good having some of it.
I started this blog simply because I could talk fishing all day. And I want to talk fishing all day. And when I think back to some of the best times of my life, the days on the river always jump to the front of my mind. I have an engrained tapestry of beautiful experiences on the river in my mind, and I want to share them, so that you can have those experiences too. And we want to hear about your experiences, and your favourite spots, and the things that make you insane. The fly-fishing community has a wide range of personalities and preferences for how to best enjoy the river.
Not all of us are heroes, with $1000 dollar reels and immaculate fly rods with an endless arsenal of fly-box ammunition. Some of us, like myself, are dirt-broke, with a fly-box being depleted rapidly, using the same crappy 4 wt that I have used since I was 16, with leaky waders and tattered wading boots.
However, I still catch myself trout, and I always enjoy my time on the river; but I like to think I have to persevere a little bit more, work a little harder. But it always feels even better when I get that fish, and I take out my old I-phone 4 and snap a quick pic to show my friends, and my brother and dad. It never looks as beautiful, or as big as it seemed when I held it in my hands. And I think that makes sense, because regardless of how great of a camera I use, it will never match the beauty of the present moment. And what I have found is that those who have also gone through the trials and tribulations of our sport understand what the beauty of that moment was to that person who experienced it. They can relate it back to all the times they have felt that way, and they can be inspired by the uniqueness behind each one of those photos. And they are reminded of how much they love this sport. That’s why I wanted to start Bushwhackers; so we can all remind each other how much we love this sport, and share our stories; stories form everyday fly-fishermen, who know how difficult this sport can really be, but also how rewarding it is when things do go right.
I am no fishing expert; if you want to read stuff written by those guys, go buy a fishing magazine or a Jim Mclennan book or something. But the problem with reading stuff written by world renowned, legendary fishermen like that is that those guys always know the answer to their problem. They always have the bug that’s hatching. They always have the proper set up and fish their favourite waters at the perfect time of year. And, they always catch fish, because they have been catching fish their whole lives, and they’ve earned the skill-set they possess.
But, where does that leave you when you don’t have the perfect setup, you don’t seem to have the right fly, and despite reading all about the amazing fishing on that river you are on, you can’t seem to catch a fish?
Well, I don’t know about you, but it usually leaves me with a ballcap over my eyes, sleeping beside the river with a newfound respect for trout and their tiny brains that still trick me. And thats ok, because I know there are countless other anglers all over the world in the exact same position as me; maybe the luck will turn for some of them, others will go home empty handed. But at the end of the day, maybe we did learn something after all. Lessons in humility, perseverance, and patience. Maybe its what taught me to slow down and appreciate the textures of the leaves, the contrast of the colors, the sound of the river. Maybe what it really does, is make us realize that humans and all the ‘important, real world things’ arent nearly as important as we think. Maybe, just maybe, this sport isn’t as fruitless as our rational human minds would have us believe. We might be part of something bigger, more profound then we even realize, and thats why we are all so obsessed. Whatever it is, I know I’ll be doing it for a long, long time. And maybe then I’ll be able to give you some real information, and not just existential musings from a brain that has been stuck in a cafe too long.
Until then, I guess we will figure it out together. At the very least, I know that we have some world class trout water in the Canadian Rockies, and that if I work hard enough, I could fish my entire life and still be challenged by the pursuit of these fish. I might not be able to identify all the different types of bugs, tell you all the varietals of trout, tie all the expert knots, or catch all the biggest fish. But, I have fished pretty almost every piece of moving water between Calgary and Nelson out of sheer curiosity, and intrigue, and over the years, I suppose I know a thing or 2 about catching fish in these waters that I grew up fishing. I learned to fish here. And I plan on continuing to learn. And if you want to join me in my fruitless attempt to master the beautiful art-form of pointlessless, the Bushwhackers Society will welcome you with open arms.