Christmas came early this year. Whether you’ve received fly-fishing-related gifts and stocking suffers (or not), you’ve been enjoying the real gift of fly fishing all year long. Or at least during the seasons of the year when you were able to fish.
The new reel or fly rod or gift certificate to your local fly shop is great. But the real gift is fly fishing itself. It’s an experience that gives you more than you might think. Sure, there’s the joy of hooking and catching a trout. But there’s more, and Charles Orvis recognized this in 1883 when he wrote:
More than half the intense enjoyment of fly fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life thereby secured, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard, and done.
Orvis identified at least three gifts in this statement. These gifts are still a huge part of fly fishing today.
1. Beautiful surroundings
It’s one thing to see a snow-covered mountain range from your car or from a scenic overlook along a highway. It’s an altogether different experience to see it when you’re standing in the current of a river. It’s the difference between being a spectator and a participant. It’s also the difference between a quick glance accompanied by a photo opportunity and the chance to linger in the moment for an hour or more.
Even when the scenery is not remarkable, the pasture-land or the trees along a river exude their own beauty. The water is stunning, too. Riffles, eddies, seams, and pocket water provide an endless source of fascination.
Weather adds a flourishing touch, sometimes transforming a tranquil scene into a wild or a haunting one.
Fly fishing bids its participants to slow down and soak in the magnificent grandeur or the gentle beauty in and around the river.
2. A new lease on life
A day on the river can also secure a new lease on life—or “of” life, as Orvis said. A few hours can bring clarity to a situation, insight into a challenge, or energy to face a problem.
Tension dissipates. Ideas emerge. Calm prevails. Dreams form. Desires awaken. Anger diminishes.
If you fly fish, you know this from experience. That’s why fly fishing can be some of the best medicine for a weary or uptight soul.
3. Pleasant memories
Fly fishing gives birth to so many good memories—or pleasant recollections, as Orvis called them. Such memories lead us into peaceful sleep at night. They warm our hearts. They connect us with places and people long, long ago. They nurture a desire for what lies ahead.
I recall a warm summer evening on a little creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The year was 1978. My younger brother and I took turns casting the cheap fly rod we shared. Every cast resulted in a 10- or 12-inch brookie, rising to our size 14 Royal Coachman. As the sun began to set, I remember running back to our campsite in the Custer National Forest to report to our father what we had accomplished.
One of most striking memories from this past year is landing a brown trout in the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park while a herd bull (elk) was bugling on a hillside about 200 yards above us. I’m sure I will remember this as vividly in 40 years (if I make it to 97!) as I do the memory in the Black Hills.
These are only three of fly fishing’s gifts. There are others. If you were able to enjoy fly fishing during the past year, then Christmas came early. It will next year, too, because fly fishing is a gift that keeps on giving.