an article published in a flyfishing magazine
| ~Zen and the Art of Fly Fishing~
D. Allan Jones
The early evening Alberta air is comfortingly warm and still. The sun is busy getting ready for bed, laying a soft supple blanket of pastel colours down upon the distant horizon to rest beneath. It is a perfect evening, and as you make your slow cautious way along the banks of the Bow River the air is literally alive with insects and you smile with excited anticipation. This is what brought you here. This is what you came for. Particularly the clouds of small moth-like insects that swirl up from the grass, trees, and bushes as you pass. Caddis flies. “Hullo my little friends!” You say aloud as they swarm and dance around you, alighting and crawling on you and at times covering you literally from head to toe.
You may think about the first time you’d found yourself in the midst of a major caddis hatch, and how it had actually spooked you a little. Damn, they were everywhere. On your face, up your sleeves, down inside your collar, on your hat, and even in your mouth if you weren’t careful. They were just everywhere, and yes, it had taken some getting used to. But not now. Now it’s more like a warm embrace from caring arms, and it means that in this time and place, in this here and now, all is right with the world.
You continue making your slow quiet way along the watershed, coming at last to what is likely the first in a series of your favorite spots.
It is still quite light out yet, so you sit awhile. It is the hour before and after sunset that spurs your imagination; that exciting window of time wherein the waning light drives the caddis to the water’s surface to lay their eggs and provide our finned friends with an almost irresistible opportunity to feed.
Checking your gear, checking your leader and all the knots, carefully tying on ‘the’ fly. You know the one; the one that will work, just because you know it will. You treat yourself to the snack that has become a part of this ritual, and then simply relax; absorbing the tranquility of the moment, reveling in the sense of inner-peace that only the quiet laughter of the river can bring to you. There is a kind of magic here, albeit a subtle unobtrusive sort.
You are now in full predator mode; sight, hearing, touch, smell… all tuned in and dialed up to levels well above normal, and it is a state of being that you’ve come to find can be quite addictive. Your eyes, intensely focused, constantly slowly scan the water’s surface looking for those telltale signs; an out of place swirl here, a small, quickly dissipated ring there, a dorsal fin silently cutting the rippling surface for seconds at a time, or that adrenaline-inducing explosion as one of the big boys launches itself clean out of the water. Your hearing as well seems to extend well beyond its normal limits. The loud splashes are easy: no mistaking their source direction or location, but it’s those soft sipping and sucking noises, virtually indistinguishable from the wealth of other sounds generated by the lapping water as it endlessly folds over itself, which challenge your auditory senses. Learning to recognize and identify those subtle rise forms can often make or break an evening of dry-fly casting.
It’s at this point that you generally make a decision. Why am I here? (and no, not meant in the existential sense, not on this particular evening anyway. Although if there’s a better place than stream-side to ponder that sort of deeper philosophical question, one would be hard pressed to figure out where it might be) Am I here to catch as many fish as I possibly can, or am I here just for the pure pleasure of being here? More often than not the answer to those questions has as much to do with what else is going on in your life as it does with anything, and more often than not those questions are rendered moot by what the river decides to throw your way, as is the case on this evening.
There! Two large fish rocket noisily out of the water almost simultaneously. Right where you hoped/expected to see them.
You wade as carefully and unobtrusively into the stream as you can, well conscious of how easily these sensitive creatures ‘spook’ out of a pocket, positioning yourself to take maximum advantage of the current.
It is at this point that the transformation is complete. Where but scant minutes ago you were as you normally are, filled with all the thoughts, doubts, and contemplations that life has such a way of cluttering your mind with, now, now, you are a creature of the water. Microscopically focused, totally in tune, completely immersed in your environment. Nothing exists beyond the undulating waters surface and your now almost instinctive intentions.
Strip line and false cast, strip line and false cast. Smooth, fluid, graceful. Your mind automatically calculating distance, water speed, surface features, and half a dozen other variables that will affect the successful delivery of your fly to the precise point you wish it to traverse, with little or no drag and drifting as naturally upon the surface as is possible. One more false cast, then, release.
What happens next is a matter of fate, skill, luck, and the whims of the river. No matter what the outcome however, you will end this evening with one thought uppermost in your mind.
Life, my friends, is good.