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Just an Angler

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My Homewater and The Kid blog post shot my website traffic up more than any other day. More than any other day since the site went live. First off….thank you. I really didn’t expect it. I have been contacted by The Kids family, complete strangers, and fellow anglers about the post and the encounter I had with The Kid riverside. All positive, all overwhelmingly positive. It made me start thinking about something that I think has really changed in the culture of fly fishing.

When I was just A Kid, fishing this river, I would have loved meeting anglers riverside. It was a way to gain on site knowledge and hear stories. The problem I found was that the majority of people along the river really didn’t care to talk or share. When I started working at one of the local shops I had to join the “boys club” and went through the rituals and standard hazing that accompanies the “pro” side of the culture. At least that was my personal experience. I jumped through the hoops, ate stonelfly nymphs to join the club, but what I realized a few years back is that those types of things really can be intimidating to the new angler and detrimental to the continuation of the sport. I made a promise to myself to be different. Nothing negative should be said about the handful of people I worked with. I learned so much, became a better angler, and would not have come back to guiding if it wasn’t for the skills I learned from those individuals. A little “boys will be boys” isn’t a bad thing. In reality it boosted my confidence, and it makes me put up with a lot less shit today. Especially when it comes to angling.

That being said, I am not the “boys club” kind of guy. In fact things like innocent hazing, casting contests, fish count contests, or any of that stuff really turns me off in general. When I am met by those types of things today, I put on the hat, go through the motions, and forget about it. I typically make a mental note to steer clear of those types of things and the anglers that engage in them, just out of personal preference. I went through that stuff and I saw it as part of the deal. Something that needed to be done to be a part of the fly fishing community. I find that my connections with those types of people are face value and little more. It’s just not my thing.

While I have nothing against having fun and doing, “guy” things, I just have little time or patience for it anymore. I turn 29 this month and I should be ripe for that kind of behavior, but with three kids, a 10 year marriage under my belt, and more days on the river in the past 10 years than most people my age or in general, I would rather get to fishing and down to business. I have all the patience in the world for children, trout, and most people, but I paid my dues, went through all that stuff and have no time for it now. As I said, it boosted my confidence and left little room for bullshit.

I also have this weird thing that is new to me. I like to work. I used to hate working and just wanted to skimp by and trout bum it as best I could. Life tends to change that for you. I think that the people who meet me have a hard time understanding how much time I actually spend involved with fly fishing with all the things in my life. Its everyday, plus my family and I have simplified our lives and really downsized. It just makes life less stressful, and gives more time for more important things….like trout.

When I started tying 10 years ago, I found something that helped me focus and release stress. I never thought that it would envelop my lifestyle. Over those years I have had a few that were not very involved. I took a lot of time off from tying and fishing while working on other endeavors but I always was able to find days to fish. In college I would repeatedly be late for class and full on skip classes because the fishing was so good. There are a few grades on my transcript that suffered because of my addiction to chasing trout. Not recommended, but it does show you something in the long run.

As I have said before, all that stuff…the school, the work, the bills, the kids, it all fails in comparison to trout, for me. A solitary day on the river, is all that is needed for me to be content. I love my family and dog, but there are days that trout are all that I want or need from life. While I always come home from the river, there have been days when I have seriously thought about just staying. But, if I didn’t leave the river, and give the trout some time to chill out and for myself to chill; I wouldn’t be drawn back to it. Sometimes the mere anticipation of getting on the river is overwhelming. Trout if anything, are intoxicating.

I have met a handful of anglers that share as deep a passion and connection to the river that I have. Those are the ones I love to meet riverside now. There seem to be more of them. To me, the culture and industry has changed over the past ten years. If feels as if a lot of the ‘boys club” mentality has faded away. At least on this river, but also on some of the others I visit.

When I saw The Kid, casting…like a bloody champion! I just couldn’t help myself. I had to make sure, as a fellow angler, that this kid met someone on the river that would share knowledge and expertise, not just let him stand there casting while criticizing and never saying anything. I saw him and all I could think was, “I hope this dude catches a fish! That would be wicked awesome!”

I used to stand there casting like a noob, while anglers floated or walked by, some called out with not the nicest things, but most just saw A Kid struggling, and criticized to themselves and then moved on down river. In all my years on the Yakima I have never had another angler give me flies. Never once. Its sad honestly. I make a point to make up for all the times that a moment between anglers could have been shared and wasn’t.

Isn’t part of being an angler to share? Whether its a lie, a fly, or a not so secret spot, fly anglers are part of a larger community. A community that has decided to trick trout with flies. Not the most effective method, but there is something about it that draws certain people to it. I saw that in The Kid, just like my mentor saw it in me. I had to make sure that The Kid was welcomed into the community proper….at least in my opinion, and I just happened to be hauling a bloody motorcycle out of the river next to the run he was fishing.

I wanted to pass on the legacy that my mentor gave to me. Share the knowledge, share everything one can, keep the sport going, a good angler is always looking to expand their own knowledge while also giving what they already know to others. It may not even be fishing related. While The Kid didn’t teach me anything new about angling I did learn something about people. I also met a young angler, which is always something that deserves attention and some respect, we need more young people outside in general. Those who choose to be riverside are in my realm. Meeting another member of the fly fishing community riverside is something I always look forward to. Its just an added bonus to the day of fishing. I meet people from all over, of different ages, and all sorts of skill levels while on the river. When I saw The Kid I saw myself, and I saw all the other anglers that I meet, he was no different than any of them in my book. Just another angler.

I especially enjoy meeting the old timer guys, the ones in their 50’s and 60’s that used to fish the river before regulations and the interweb. They have the best lies and stories. They are always surprised when I give over a handful of flies for the hatch. Most of the time they are having trouble honestly. A simple fly switch to something a bit more unique or specific can change the whole day. I just can’t seem to help myself. I see another angler and I want to make sure, as an angler, a local and, an active member in the fly fishing community, that they have a great time on the river. They always appreciate it, its always positive, and it just connects you to more people who share the same passion.

I remember one guy who was having a hell of a time chasing trout during the cranefly hatch in late September. I watched him from downriver as he cast into some of the fishiest water with his October caddis imitation. Fish were rising all over the river. Nothing was being tricked by his fly. While 100 yards away fish were coming up one after another for the cranefly I was fishing. I could see him watching me and you just know what is going through their head. Or at least what would be going through my head.

“What the hell is he using?!” or “Some young punk is out-fishing me!” Again, I couldn’t help myself. I made my way over to him. Fishing along the way. He spoke first,

“What ya using?”

“Cranes.”

“What?”

So I walked up, did the formal riverside angler greeting and showed him. Then I pointed out the naturals. Then I pointed to the pool he was fishing and just told him to wait and watch. Sure enough, after the fish got over being spooked by his casts, a crane shot out across the water and a cutthroat came screaming off the logs for it. He couldn’t believe it. Always fished the October during this time of the year never even knew about craneflies. I handed him a few of the ones I had tied that morning, told him how I would fish them, shook his hand, and left. I don’t remember his name, I’m sure he doesn’t remember mine. He did ask where I picked up the flies, I told him they were hard to find in a shop and that I tie all mine. I saw him a few seasons later fishing cranes, in the same pool, catching trout. All I know is that little moment I shared with a fellow angler made his day better, and he came back to the river and was fishing something I had enlightened him too. That’s more than enough of a pay off right there.

As an angler, a steward for the river, a guide, or a “pro”. Which is a stupid word and should never be used in terms of fly fishing. No one is a pro at this sport. It is a never ending discovery of knowledge and fish. Pro just makes you sound douchey. I’m just an angler. The kind of angler that gets just as excited when others catch trout as when I do. An angler that cannot resist the opportunity to share. An angler that has little patience for time wasting and hullabaloo. Lets get the business out of the way if there is any, and lets get to chasing trout, which is always more fun. The type of fly angler one is can be an insight to the true nature of a person, at least in my opinion.

I…am just an angler.

Tamarack

1 thought on “Just an Angler

  1. Nicely said Nate! You remind me of my husband, Tom. We can’t wait to fish with you in July. Don’t ever stop writing. It’s always a great read. Tammi Cammack

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