The bright green line formed a cloud over my head and rained into a puddle at my feet. Smiling, Eric helped pick it free of the broomstraw that stood knee deep along the stream. He was being punished, I assumed, for sins too grievous to name and had been sent to help me learn to fly cast. Along with a wisp of leader and a black gnat the size of a black gnat, the line had refused to go anywhere close to the water during much of the afternoon.
Unlike bait casting which always feels natural to me, fly casting is more like a golf swing – the further from the practice range I take it, the more unpredictable it becomes.
“You must unlearn what you have learned,” Eric might have said but, though patient, he’s no Yoda. Instead he just encouraged me to keep trying which, in reflection, is all any discipline ever asks us to do anyway. So much of our hunting and fishing methodology focuses more on expanding the challenge than maximizing the harvest, and it’s only natural to continue seeking ways to keep the familiar fresh and new.
Much is made of the four phases of a hunter, but I’ve hit upon a related theory of my own. The maxim runs something like this: in Stage One, a hunter just wants to get one of whatever he or she is hunting. In Stage Two they want to fill their limit. In Stage Three they want to take the biggest example of the species they can find and, in Stage Four, they’re focused on sharing the enjoyment of the outdoors with others.
I submit that advancing to the next stage does not eliminate the desires and goals of the previous, but only adds another log to the growing fire. Hunters in Stage Three still want to fill their limit, and it’s a simple rule of thumb that you have to get one before you can get two and so on, so all three of the first stages remain. Those who most enjoy sharing what they’ve learned or built rarely give up hunting entirely and, when they go, they’re experiencing the same desires of Stage One all over again.
Part of enjoying it all involves keeping the methods for each stage fresh. Like deer hunters who begin to devote much of their time to archery, those who enjoy time with fly fishing gear face a broader challenge. Sometimes, being confronted with things face to face is the only way our attention can be diverted anyway, even when the confrontation is only with ourselves, and a puddle of bright green line knotted with broomstraw, of course.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.