My wife Ashley thinks I am losing my mind – she is probably right. I am extremely distracted at the moment and it because I am an addict whose drug of choice will be delivered in the near future. I am addicted to fly fishing and I live in the desert – I get few opportunities to get my fix. Currently I go on one trip each year – for 4 or 5 days.
My father grew up in Colorado and loved to fish. He taught me and my siblings how to fish with bait at a young age and we eventually learned to fish with lures and spinners. It was my father’s friend, on a trip in my early twenties, that introduced me to fly fishing which almost immediately became my favorite way to fish.
The reason Ashley thinks I am losing my mind is because this year I started preparing for my trip close to 2 months in advance. For weeks different size hooks and different materials have been arriving in my mailbox and with those materials I have been tying flies – dozens of tiny flies. I try to tie at least 4 every night. My hope is to have every possible color/pattern combination on hand when my brother and some of our buddies visit the San Juan in New Mexico.
Occasionally I try to explain my love for fly fishing to non addicts because we almost always let all the fish go. It is bizarre to think that we work so hard to figure out what combination of thread and feathers an animal is willing to consume, to battle it for sometimes 10 or 15 minutes, only to handle it gently and let it swim away. I love to eat fish, but the truth is that we fish so hard that we don’t want to deal with preparing fish to eat. The entire trip is dedicated to maximizing hours on the water. We are usually the first guys on the water and almost always hike back to our car with our headlamps on to find only our car left in the lot – we are addicts.
The adrenaline rush I feel when a large trout takes my fly is incredible, but I think it is my focus when I fish that makes me love it so much. It is the greatest escape. For those few days I am able to check out and simply focus on spending time with my brother Colin and our buddies – catching fish and trying to one up each other with the best “that’s what she said” jokes. When I have a fish on my line everything else shuts off – no thoughts of the box business, the stock market or pool PH, no worry of what in my home I just stepped on with 2 potty training toddlers and an 18 year old poodle that continues to live only to spite me. All of that goes farther and farther away with each bump on my line.
I feel a connection to my father every time I fish. He was very proud that Colin and I took up fly fishing. Towards the end of his life he couldn’t join us on trips, but loved to hear our tales and see our pictures. I am very grateful for the fishing bug he infected me with. The last trip I took with my dad was when he was in his 70s and he said something that I still struggle to grasp. I was giving him some pointers on how best to catch some trout on a traditional rod rigged with a fly. He told me he had caught enough fish for his life and that he would rather watch us fish than catch fish himself. This was a man that would slip out of our family tent on summer trips at 4:00 in the morning to fish in peace for a few hours before all us hooligans were up. Before he married our mom he chased trout all over Colorado. Nobody loved to fish more than my dad and he had caught enough fish for his life? Is that possible? Will I ever feel that way? I feel there are always more fish to catch.
In a way tying flies this year has provided on a small scale some of the same therapy I get from fishing. The flies the trout like where we fish the San Juan are so small that tying them requires a great deal of attention so much so that I find just having the TV on to be a distraction. So for 15-20 minutes every night I am able to check out.
The anticipation of the trip gives me an excitement, a hope, and an appreciation for life that isn’t easy to articulate. It also gives me an appreciation for Ashley who holds down the fort with our 2.5 year old twin boys. As sweet as those boys are they can do some damage around the house – which currently loses a little bit of resale value every day. My boy Denver is a fishing fanatic. The only show he wants to watch on TV right now is Monster Fish with Zeb Hogan. Fortunately seasons 4-6 are on Netflix. We watch Zeb every day, which is cool because I knew Zeb in college when we went to the University of Arizona. Now he has a fishing show and I sell boxes – suppose I should have studied a bit more. Denver might be the only 2 year old with “sturgeon” in his daily vocabulary. Miles likes fish too, but would choose children’s programs over Monster Fish every day.
My 14 year old son and 7 year old step son like to fish too. I look forward to big trips with all my boys down the road. Perhaps one day I will be content just watching them fish – but I don’t think so.