Sometimes the best way to say something difficult is just to say it. So here it goes. Fly fishing sucks.
It’s actually really hard. The visuals presented in fly-fishing films and Instagram photos are quite misleading. Sure it looks inviting, but there’s so much you don’t see…like how many mosquitoes and black flies the angler had to swat away while holding that prize trout at just the right angle, which is only slightly out of the water (like only one third of the fish). And you also have to position it at the perfect angle, with one hand holding the fish’s tail just slightly outstretched and the other arm, bending only slightly at the elbow, holding the fish’s body nearly fully extended. There’s a reason it’s called “angling.” It’s so complicated. And if you have really large hands and are naturally “big boned” then you need to really question whether or not you want to take up fly fishing at all. Trout appear smaller when held by large people, which will not make for enticing social media images.
Maybe that’s a good place to start, by questioning your motives. Why do you want to take up fly fishing? Is it because it’s niche? You’re looking for a peaceful pastime that takes you outdoors so you can spend time clearing your head while avoiding the crowds. Not going to happen. It’s next to impossible to throw a stone in the air in Montana, Idaho, or Alberta without hitting someone with a fly rod in their hand. Not that I recommend throwing stones with fly rods around. If you happen to miss a fly fisher and hit one of their rods, you’ll likely break it, which really angers these people, especially in the middle of trout season. Sure the rod is likely to have a warranty, but it takes months to get the rod fixed. And going out and buying a new rod is out of the question because the poor guy probably took out a second mortgage just to buy the first one.
If you’re still thinking about joining the fray, you’ll need to purchase the following: a fly rod for $1000, a reel for $400, waders for $500, boots for $250, a gear bag for $150, a fly box for $50, and you might as well throw in a drift boat for $8000. Try not to worry when you max out your Visa because the feeling you get the next season when you realize all your gear is outdated is…priceless.
On top of that you’ll have to buy flies, casting lessons, and go out with a guide so you can learn what’s going on (ballpark $1500 for that trio). That knowledge will be good for at least a few days, until the Ephemera simulans hatch is over. Oh, I forgot to mention that you’ll likely also have to take an online Latin course in order to enhance your entomological understanding.
Now that you’re broke your time is going to be more limited because you’ll likely have to get a second job. You’ll want to make sure the extra hours come in the evenings so you can keep your weekends free for studying Latin and for fly fishing, especially through the summer months. This is the most productive time to fly fish.
Manage your limited free time wisely because summer only lasts for about 90 days. With weekends off, you’ll have 24 days where you can get out and cast a fly to trout. Of those 24 days, let’s say six of those will be too hot to fish, for even Shakespeare knew that “sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines.” And then three of those days are likely to be cancelled because of thunderstorms. Again I’ll defer to Shakespeare’s meteorological insight: “And often is [the sun’s] gold complexion dimmed.” How can you argue with Shakespeare?
You’re now left with 15 days to fish this summer, which isn’t too bad I guess. But with climate change causing high water temperatures, there are usually quite a few river closures. Last summer in my region I think I endured two weeks of closures. If that happens, now you’re down to ONE DAY.
I know this goes without saying, but if you’re getting into fly fishing to relax and get away from it all, you might want to reconsider. It’s going to be challenging to relax when you’re stressed about the looming academic load and the financial burden you’ve incurred for that one day of fly fishing. Realistically, there might be a reason it’s perceived as niche. You may want to take the family to the water slides instead. Even if you don’t pack a lunch and buy burgers at the park, you’ve likely saved around ten thousand dollars.
Let’s not fool ourselves though. Life is not all about saving money. Everyone knows you can’t take the checkbook with you when you go. In the end it’s all about relationships, right? Okay, this is where fly fishing gets really tricky. Any way you cut the onion, it’s going to make you cry. If you’re married and your spouse doesn’t feel the same about spending time in nature casting a fly to trout, this causes tension because of the sheer number of days you’ll be “gone.” “Ahaha,” you say, “I caught you in a lie. I knew I’d be able to fish for more than one day out of the entire year!” Well, no. What I mean is that you’ll be eternally thinking about that one day because fly fishing is addictive. You’ll run through every scenario in your mind such as what flies you need to pick up, what stream you’re going to fish, who you’re going to go with, who’s going to pack the lunch (Shoot, I almost forgot. You need to run out and buy a cooler for $500), and what rod you’re going to bring. I may have also forgot to mention that you’ll need to purchase more than one rod. You’ll need one for big water, one for medium water, and one for small water. You’ll also need one for windy days, one for calm days, and one for slightly overcast days. You can never be too prepared for that one day per year you get to go out and enjoy!
Undoubtedly, your mind will be consumed. You’ll end up spending very little time thinking about your spouse, which can have very serious consequences. Likely, the only way you’ll be able to save your marriage is through couples’ counselling. Had this need come up before your addiction, you would have been able to afford it, but now you’ll have to sell some of your fly gear to pay a qualified counsellor to help you through your issues. It’s a classic catch-22 (not 22 trout…stay focused).
I know; you’re one step ahead of me. You’ll just include your spouse in your addiction. Really? I agree it’s the most obvious and viable solution. That is, until you start to double the costs above. That’s sure to create an insurmountable financial strain on the marriage. Then…back to couples counselling, which may eat away at your one day a year.
You see, you’ve been looking at the films and the Instagram photos all wrong. You see them and you think, “I want to do this. I want to be like those people.” No. Appearances can be deceiving; remember Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (et tu Brute). See, your Latin lessons are not wasted on entomology.
I’m telling you because you are my friend…fly fishing sucks.