Witty Outdoor Sayings: “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”

You should have been here yesterday – I can’t think of a more annoying comment. I’ve had some great days on the river. But I’ve also had a lot more days on the river when I was reminded later by some jerk I had never met before that the previous day had been a lot better.

The phrase “You should have been here yesterday” is not really all that witty. It’s pretty much a thoughtless taunt. At least it feels like a taunt. Maybe it’s simply small talk. It’s unnecessary chitchat, for sure. It’s a saying that complete strangers at a fly shop or at the coffee shop will offer up with no warning.

It’s mindless. And flippant.

Shame on My Friends

Worse, it’s a saying that even friends and family have the audacity to blurt out, with little to no provocation.

For a generation each fall, I have hunted upland game and waterfowl with my father and his cronies. For decades, I carved out a week of my life and traveled back to North Dakota. My sons and brother and I bounced around the prairie with my father’s generation, who regaled us with Ole and Lena jokes, some of which raised the eyebrows of my young sons, who giggled at the occasional potty language and body parts.

Invariable, no matter how good a week of hunting, one of my father’s friends would pipe up, just as sure as the sun rose that morning, “It’s too bad you weren’t here last week. We shot so many geese.”

This is another perverse form of saying, “You should have been here yesterday.”

Last week. Yesterday. The other day. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Maybe I’m just being too sensitive. But when an inconsiderate slob, even a family friend, makes the brainless observation that I should have been fishing here yesterday, he or she puts me in a mood.

I wasn’t here yesterday. I am here today. And the fishing stinks.

I will say, though, that the wisecrack rarely comes up on a guided float trip down the Yellowstone River.

Before we put in, the guide may say, “Man, it was really good yesterday. The browns were slamming hoppers.” However, as the day goes by, especially on the slower trips, the conversation rarely drifts to yesterday. That’s good. Because I’m still thinking about his earlier comment how good the fishing was yesterday while feeling grumpy about the action today.

Guides are pretty savvy. They know their tip comes at the end of the day. So, it’s never strategic to offer up the saying to an exasperated client at 4:30 PM.

My Bigger Struggle with “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”

A couple years ago, Steve, my podcast partner, and I fished a stretch of Montana’s 16 Mile Creek. By sheer luck (Steve’s connections and a rare opening on private waters), we spent six hours reeling in trout after trout until we cried “Uncle.” At about 4 PM, Steve said, “I am wrecked.” I was too.

Exhausted, we wrapped up the late afternoon and early evening with 4,000 calories each at the area’s best steak house.

The next morning, we were back at the fly shop, still feeling sluggish from the carnage at the steak house, and I began to make small talk with one of the shop monkeys. I mentioned that we had fished 16 Mile, and he said that had fished a stretch of the river not long ago.

I couldn’t help myself.

“You should have been at 16 Mile yesterday.”

Witty Fly Fishing Sayings for the Ages

Proverbs are little sayings that condense a volume of insight into a pithy sentence. A few years ago, I picked up a book of Haitian proverbs in a bookstore in Port-au-Prince. One of my favorites is: “Pretty teeth are not the heart.” I am also fond of Savvy Sayin’s, a little book of proverbs from the old west. One of the gems it contains is: “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.”

I’m a big fan of proverbs and aphorisms. By far, my favorite collection is in the Book of Proverbs (in the Bible). One of its well-known aphorisms is: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15.1) Another blunt-but-true proverb is “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit” (25:16).

Fishing One Liners for the Ages

So far, I haven’t found a book of fly fishing proverbs. But I’ve discovered some great one-liners as I’ve read fly fishing books and listened to wise fly fishers. Here are some of my favorites. These sayings drip with wisdom. They challenge me, stop me in my tracks, and make me think. You might find a few of these useful, too:

    You don’t learn fly fishing as much as you survive it. [Tom Davis]

    There are lots of ways to catch a trout. Maybe that’s why there are so many experts. [Bud Lilly]

    There’s no taking trout with dry breeches. [Miguel de Cervantes, about 400 years ago]

    The more you fly fish, the less flies you will use. [Bob Granger]

    Rivers and their inhabitants are made for the wise to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration. [Izaak Walton]

    The deepest satisfaction comes from letting go. [Tom Davis, on catch-and-release fishing]

    There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm. [Patrick McManus]

    Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip. [John Gierach]

    No hatch is good enough for you to risk waving a nine-foot graphite rod around during a lightning storm. [Bud Lilly]

    There’s a fine line between fly fishing and waving your rod like an idiot. [adapted from a proverb by Steven Wright]

    Accepting advice makes you no less a fisherman. [Peter Kaminsky]

    What a tourist terms a plague of insects, the fly fisher calls a great hatch. [Patrick McManus]

    Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. [Henry David Thoreau]

These pearls are words to live by as well as to fish by. Here’s one last fly fishing proverb:

    Blessed is the fly fisher who has nothing to say and doesn’t say it.