S2:E17 Finding Fly Fishing Solitude

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Fly fishing solitude is not something you’ll find during vacation season and most weekends. In today’s climate, with growing pressure on the rivers, it takes some work to find a stretch with no other fly fishers. Yet, it is still doable. Click here to listen to how you can discover more fly fishing solitude.

Listen to our episode “Finding Fly Fishing Solitude”

At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

What do you do to get away from the fly fishing crowds? Post your ideas below!

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Fly Fishing Joy at the End of Days

fly fishing joy and the end of days

In the final scene of the movie “A River Runs Through It,” the narrator, Norman Maclean, is alone on the river, trying to tie a knot. He is old now. His brother Paul has been gone for five decades. His wife, gone. Most of his friends, gone.

The narrator says:

    Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand in my youth are dead, even Jesse. But I still reach out to them.

    Of course now I’m too old to be much of a fisherman. And now I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. But when I’m alone in the half light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories. And the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four count rhythm. And a hope that a fish will rise.

Only the river, which has flowed since the beginning of time, remains. It is the one constant in a full life, one of joy as well as tragedy and loss.

The Old Man and His Browning

Norman MacLean’s end of days are a lot like those of my father, whose hunting and fishing friends are now mostly all gone. My father will be 82 this year.

I think of Walter, who hunted upland game and waterfowl with us for 30 years until his wife Laurine died. Dad, my brother Matt, and I struggled to forgive him for putting away his Browning for good after she passed. He said he quit hunting because he had no one to clean his birds. That sounded so sexist to my post-modern ears, but it was Walter’s old world attempt to describe his sorrow.

Walter was only in his early 80s when Laurine died. He passed away in a nursing home about a decade later at 93, his lightweight 20 gauge (made in Belgium) never to be fired again. Physically, he could have hunted for most of the rest of his eighties. Dad and I stopped by the nursing home for a few minutes about a year before he died. He towered over us in his hunting years, but now was diminished in the wheelchair. The TV blared as we regaled him with stories from the last hunt. He said he was looking forward to seeing Laurine.

His Browning now rusts in its case with a son who doesn’t hunt.

Walter’s brother Albert also lived into his nineties – and hunted with us until his late eighties. He called it quits when he said the geese flying over him appeared as shadows, his eyesight failing. We didn’t argue with him, though he still had no problem knocking down birds. But it was time.

He lived for another five years after he stopped hunting. Right before he died, he told his son, who was 70 at the time, “When you turn 80, start another business. You’ll have more than enough time to watch TV when you’re my age and can’t leave the nursing home.” Albert and his son inspired me through the years to pursue my entrepreneurial calling.

Walter and Albert are now gone, as are most of my father’s friends.

My father scans the newspaper obituaries every day, something those who are left behind often do. I spent a two-week sabbatical with him and my mother in North Dakota last fall. Several times during the two weeks, he would look up from the paper and say, “Do you remember _______? He just died.”

If you get to live long enough, those you love pass on one after another until one day you discover that you are alone, in the half light of the canyon, astonished at the brevity of life. You have to decide whether to fly fish when only the river beckons, and the voices of others have gone silent.

Giddy at 80

About a year and a half ago, I got a call from my Dad. He had been out deer hunting, alone.

He said the November Dakota wind was howling up to 50 and 60 sixty miles an hour, the temperature plummeting thirty degrees in a couple hours. On his way home from the hunt, a large flock of mostly snow geese was circling a harvested field along the gravel road, trying to land against the wind. My father stopped the truck, grabbed his Browning and three shells, crawled and walked in the ditch for about 50 yards, crossed the road, shot three times, and knocked down eight geese. Alone.

He had just turned 80 several months earlier.

On the call with me not long after, he was giddy, emotional, like a boy who just had shot his first goose.

There is much to be said about the fellowship of hunting, the late mornings after the hunt in the coffee shop, the Ole and Lena jokes that make you groan, the story-telling while picking up the decoys after a slow morning.

But there’s joy in the hunt itself, in the act of netting a 17-inch brown in late fall. Norman Maclean may be alone on the river near the end of his days, but there’s no place for sadness.

Big Flies and Fly Fishing Joy at River’s Edge

I watched “A River Runs Through It” again not long ago, and the final scene, like always, slayed me. I fired off an email to my podcast partner Steve saying we need to promise each other that whoever remains on earth last will continue to carry on our fly fishing tradition, until like Albert and his failing eyesight, the trout become only shadows.

Steve responded, “I don’t see myself ever stopping. We will just have to fish big flies! And stay near the trail head. Wouldn’t it be cool to fish together in our 80s if God grants us both that much time?”

Yes it would.

And if for some reason I am granted days greater in number than those of my friends, and my kids are too busy to meet me at the river, I will walk the edges of the river alone.

What remains when the only companion left is the river itself is the joy of fly fishing that comes with the hope of a rising fish.

Episode 13: Introducing Your Kids to the Great Outdoors

A River Runs Through It

Introducing your kids to the great outdoors at an early age is mandatory if you want them to grow up loving the sport. But how early should you get them out to the river. In this episode, we discuss how to raise your children to love the outdoors, even if they don’t fly fish. Listen to Episode 13: Introducing Your Kids to the Great Outdoors.

Listen to our episode “Introducing Your Kids to the Great Outdoors”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

At what age did you introduce your kids to the great outdoors?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

View some of our most recent podcast episodes on iTunes or on Stitcher, if you have an Android.

Rate the 2 Guys Podcast

We’d love for you to rate our podcast on iTunes.

That helps fellow fly fishers decide whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

The Tenuous Nature of Life in the Outdoors

Every year, Steve and I fly-fish a stretch of the Yellowstone (the ‘Stone) River near Tower Fall, a 132-foot waterfall that empties into the Yellowstone. We generally park at the General Store at the top of the canyon and hike the switchback trail to the bottom. Then we hustle up river three or four miles, trying to leapfrog any fly fisherman. The farther you hike, the better the fly fishing (and the greater the risk for encountering a grizzly bear). This is simply part of the tenuous nature of life in the outdoors.

One year, while returning at dusk, we plodded along the trail along the river and looked up to spy a herd of bison lying like lazy milk cows in the trail. Maybe eight or nine bison, including a calf or two. I’m terrible at judging distance. Perhaps the bison were 150 yards ahead of us.

“What do you think we should do?” Steve said.

There was no alternate way back to our car at the top of Tower Fall. The swiftness of the ‘Stone’ and its slippery rocky bottom was too treacherous to cross, even (or especially) with waders. And there was no route around herd to get to the switchback that would take us to the top of the canyon. There was no going back upriver. Darkness was falling.

“Let’s keep walking,” I said. “They’ll get up and move up the ravine.”

Sauntering Curiosity

We did, and they did. Well, at least all of them except one. One of the bulls.

He did not appear overly anxious with our oncoming presence and when he finally scrambled to his feet, he switched his tail and began to saunter toward us.

It is now conventional wisdom that the male brain does not fully mature until its mid-twenties and even thirties, and my over confidence simply confirmed that the prefrontal cortex brains of our late forties had more room for development.

There was an uncomfortable silence between us after we stared at each other, at the river to our right, and at the oncoming bull, who seemed curious to meet his new trail mates.

We edged our way to the few feet off the trail to the bank of the ’Stone and held our collective breath. We could wade out only a couple yards into the river before needing to turn back. There was no escape hatch.

I don’t remember who blinked. But at about 50 yards (again, I’m a lousy judge of distance, just as I am the size of trout I catch), the brawny beast simply switched its tail and turned up the ravine to catch up with the rest of the herd. Steve and I hiked in silence most of the rest of the way to the top of the canyon, which was still almost an hour away.

Tenuous Reality

Like many, I’ve always found a greater sense of the grandeur of God while in the outdoors than while sitting on a pew in a church. The pew has its role, though maybe more of a kind of Puritan stocks to force discipline on my restless mind than anything else. And while feeling close to God in nature is always pleasant, there is another dark and important narrative to the outdoors. Beauty is over-rated when you think you’re going to die. I really could die out here.

There is the bison, the grizzly bear, the snow squall, the slip of your boots while wading into the ‘Stone, the rattle snake bite with no bite kit, or the turn of an ankle four miles upriver with no cell coverage.

It’s not morbid, just a reality that strangely helps me see the tenuousness and beauty of life.

Episode 3: Wildlife Encounters While Fly Fishing

A River Runs Through It

Wildlife encounters while fly fishing are quite common. What makes the sport so unbelievably wonderful is the unpredictable nature of the great outdoors. In this episode, we tell a few yarns about running into a wolf, a herd of bison, and other animals while fly fishing America’s great rivers and streams. Listen to Wildlife Encounters While Fly Fishing.

Listen to our episode “Wildlife Encounters While Fly Fishing” now

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Do you have any strange encounters of the wildlife kind while fly fishing? Please post them below.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

View some of our most recent podcast episodes on iTunes or on Stitcher, if you have an Android.

Rate the 2 Guys Podcast

We’d love for you to rate our podcast on iTunes.

That helps fellow fly fishers decide whether the podcast is a good fit for them.

Episode 2: Five Ways to Catch More Trout

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Catch more trout? That’s a no brainer. Who doesn’t want to catch more trout? However, it’s one thing to buy a fly rod, watch a video on how to cast, take a class on hatches, and read a book on how to read a river. It’s another thing to catch fish. Catching fish is why we took up the sport, right? In this episode, we discuss five big ideas on catching more trout. The ideas are simple, but profound, if you’re an aspiring fly fisher. Listen to Episode 2: Five Ways to Catch More Trout

Listen to Episode 2: Five Ways to Catch More Trout

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Be sure to post a story or comment about techniques or ideas to catch more trout.

By the way, we’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Other Articles on How to Catch More Trout

    When to Cast Your Fly Downstream

    Finding the Hot Zone in the Run

    5 Tactics for Deeper Trout

    Deeper Nymphs, Better Results

    The Reel Truth about Fighting Fish

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Episode 1: My Best Day on the River

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Best day on the river – it’s almost impossible to reduce all the great days to only one. In this inaugural episode of 2 Guys and a River, we discuss our best day ever fly fishing. Of course, the day involves catching trout. But it’s always much more than that. If you watch fly fishing videos or read the literature, you may begin to think that every day on the water should be a banner day. Most days are not. But that just makes the great days on the river all the more enjoyable. And all the more memorable.

Listen to our inaugural episode:”My Best Day on the River”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

Describe one of your best days ever on the river? What made it so special? Why is it burned in your memory?

By the way, we’d love for you to refer our podcast to a friend, your TU chapter, or fly fishing club. Be sure to pass along our podcast to others.

Other Similar Episodes

    One Fine Morning on the Little Jordan

    One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

    One Fine Day on Canfield Creek

    One Fine Day on the Blue River

    One Fine Day on Willow Creek

    One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 1)

    One Fine Day on the Gardner River (Day 2)

    One Fine Day on the Madison River

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

Or you can simply subscribe to the RSS feed here:

Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Fly Fishing Podcast” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!