“Did you catch any fish…?”

The author fly fishing the Bow River
Summer 2020

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

A River Runs Through It

I’ve taken up the sport of fly-fishing. Again. That is, after 10 years when I was first introduced to it. Through some of my mentor’s I’d gotten the itch this summer to get back into it. I’d already had some of the basic fishing, or “tackle,” gear. I still needed to grab a few more items, flies and all.

I’d asked a friend of mine to be my guide and he kindly took me out on a river to give me some live demonstrations. That was quite worthwhile and totally worth it. Also helpful, as both seeing it and doing it are the best ways I learn to do anything.

A big find for me this year is wader’s. Who knew? I realized pretty quickly after a couple fishing outing’s that it would be highly advantageous to have one of those, out there in the stream and all. So, I picked up my first pair of wader’s, and have enjoyed wading through the open water. It’s as if I have a wet suit on and ready to go for a slalom ski.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

A River Runs Through It

I’ve been able to get out on the Bow River a couple of times these past few weeks, which has been great! I honestly have no idea what I’m doing and the fish seem elusive to me. But I keep coming back to the water, like the same way I (somehow) keep going back to the first tee.

One thing I’ve noticed is that each time I’m out, invariably someone will ask me: “Did you catch any fish?”

My answer, up to this point has always been ‘no.’ This has been hard for me.

But my response after that is what’s really intriguing to me.

I am IRRITATED by their question and my having to be honest in saying I haven’t caught anything. I haven’t even had a bite, for crying out loud!! For me, it’s as if everyone has equated fishing with catching something; which is loaded with high-expectation and performance. And I hate it. I can’t stand it. I am still quite new to the sport. In other words, if I haven’t caught anything, then it’s been a waste of time and I feel like I’ve failed on this outing.

What I’d like to say instead is: “I’m out here, right?”

In other words, do you have any idea how much work, effort and time it took for me to actually be out here, with my fishing gear and all, (not to mention these heavy and awkward waders to walk in) to even be able to stand here before you, at this very time on this very path or river?!?

“The cast is so soft and slow that it can be followed like an ash settling from a fireplace chimney. One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.”

A River Runs Through It

Let me seek to clarify this for all you inquisitive-question-asker’s whenever you see me with a fly rod in my hands:

This is what this time of fishing has personally cost me:

  1. A trip to Canadian Tire to purchase not 1, but 2, licenses to fish in AB – WIN card and fishing license. 
  2. Trip out to Bass Pro Shops at Cross Iron for: tackle gear my guide had suggested to get me set-up & ready, so that I can even start fishing on the river
  3. Multiple trips to a fly shop for more flies (as I’m in the custom of losing several of them each time out – at $4 each.)
  4. Gas in my car to fill up the tank so I can drive to fishing spots around the city.
  5. Time in my day I have to carve out – willingly, I might add – to get myself down to try and find a safe parking spot (so that I don’t get yet another parking ticket, thank you Bowness Park enforcement for that infraction “parking ticket”; at that afternoon church picnic. That was a welcomed ending on this hot and glorious day. There goes my giving for the month.)
  6. Then, to grab my gear, wader’s and all, and commute IN to where the water is. It is a hike to even get to the good ‘ole H20. Oh yeah, and it’s hot and uncomfortable, too. But I’m sure you already knew that, right?
  7. Not to mention, the time it takes me beforehand in setting up my rod, tying on my fly with the correct knot (both of which I am green at, so it takes me EXTRA time and brain power to actually do; often, not on the first attempt, either.)
  8. Then, to get set-up in a flat area of land next to the river, so I don’t have to do battle behind me on the trees, twigs etc, versus actually trying to cast my fly line onto the water – and to focus on what’s in front of me, in the water.
  9. THEN to try and “read the water” for where I can actually find these little silly, slimy creatures with eyes on the sides of their head. This, I am told is “the Prize.” 
  10. And then to allow time to put on a new fly, in the often-event of losing it due to a twig, rock or strong current. or possible fish who’s taken it, that I haven’t even noticed or felt through my fingers. Did I mention I was new to this sport??
  11. And to put on a new tippet, due to knots or who knows what else.
  12. I still haven’t even touched my leader line yet. So far, so good…I think.
  13. Then to trudge in to the (often cold) river and strong current just to get in to the fish’s habitat (the first couple of times when I didn’t own waders my running shoes would get instantly soaked and it was then that I realized the forceful, powerful effect of water, noted by the heel padding coming completely off that one time.) Then, I’d have to remain in this wet, slippery condition until I got to my car and drove home so I could finally take a hot shower and change into warmer cloths. Fun times.
  14. Then, to unpack my fly rod and pack up my gear into my fishing box and walk back to my car, put it in my car and drive home
  15. And then, once at home and able to have feeling in my feet again, put away my equipment and rid myself of my dirty clothes.

So, time-wise, this “fishing trip” can take 2-3 hours, easily. Sometimes more.

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of mind.”

Washington Irving

So, now I ask each of you: Have you caught any fish? Do you even know how to fish? Have you tried fly fishing?  

Perhaps, the next time you encounter me on some off-beaten road or river, you can send a little bit of encouragement my way. You can do this by giving me a kind word, to fill up my love tank so that I don’t have to feel so hopelessly alone going down to the river all by myself with mixed feelings of anticipatory hopes and anxiousness in trying to land one of those escape-like-artist fish. 

“The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad.”

A.K. Best

One more thing: You don’t think I WANT TO CATCH A FISH…?!!

Why do you think I am even out here in the first place? Just for the fun of it? Or, just so that I can talk with you, for all of 3.4 seconds worth, and leave feeling discouraged and beat up inside? I can go to a restaurant and talk to a girl and get that same outcome. 

No. This is supposed to be enjoyment for me. You know, the fun kind? And peaceful. And relaxing and life-giving. And a chance to allow beauty into my soul, which, may I remind you, is completely absent 8-9 months of our year here due to this stupid thing called winter. 

So, excuse me for trying to be a passionate, beginner fisherman who is only trying to squeeze in an evening of bliss for himself. Maybe for next time, you can work on presenting your best self to me. You should try it.