What Do Fly-fishing and Writing Have in Common?

Nothing, you say. I’d like to convince you otherwise.

Consider the target or should I say treasured celebrity of the fly-fisher(wo)man, the elusive trout, a delicacy that thrives in cold streams. In order to catch trout, we use a “fly,” an artificial bug offered in more colors than a rainbow (I’m thinking fish again). The hook is just large enough to seize the trout’s bony lip and hold tight through the dance of reeling it in. But let’s start at the beginning.

Fly-fishing requires standing in icy water up to your waste for indefinite lengths of time. While the lower half of the body gradually turns to slush, the top swings the pole — thankfully light — in a sweeping pattern across the river to land the “fly” on the surface, acting “naturally” and swimming with the current. The fisher(wo)man watches for the tiniest change in the behavior of the bug. A dip may mean that the trout has just taken a bite. But wait! It’s disgusting, unworthy of being eaten.

Above the water, this is the moment: We jerk the pole to set the hook, the line whips the air and … the fish was quicker. The movement of swinging the line, placing the bug, focusing and waiting continues… Every time the fly lands, new hope emerges. This time, the trout will like to eat.

At last, we yank and hook at the correct instant. The pole bends like we’ve caught a whale — all is relative when considering the typical trout weighs a pound and the pole less than eight ounces. We reel as anxiety mounts. The fish is still beneath, next to impossible to see in the dark shadows of the stream. It darts back and forth, close then far. It must be huge. We begin to salivate. Almost there, grab the net.

The line goes slack. Mr. Trout has escaped with a new lip ring — our fly. By now, fingers are frozen and refuse to knot the thin and nearly translucent line to a new fly. Not to mention that our eyes hurt from staring at the stream and refuse to focus on the tiny loop the line has to navigate. We wade to dry land, ready to warm our frozen extremities, ready for hot coffee or something stronger. Definitely something stronger!

For the uninitiated who don’t see the connection. Here it is spelled out in plain English:

Like fly-fishing, writing requires

  • Skill
  • Patience
  • Perseverance in light of uncertainty
  • Dealing with discomfort
  • Lots of time
  • Luck
  • Timing

There are more, but you’ll have to find them yourself. Those that love to fly-fish will always want to do it. Those that write must write. What else can I say?