There are three major indulgences I permit in my life: fly fishing, excellent beverages, and books.
I've refused for many years now to permit television in my home. Other than the occasional Netflix series (full disclosure, I binge watch) there is no form of television. In fact, I don't even own one.
I'd rather spend my nights decompressing over a good drink and a great book.
One of the first things Jacob did to get me really excited about fly fishing all those years ago, was to buy me all of John Gierach's books.
I poured over every one of them, again and again.
Last month I received a copy of A Fly Rod of Your Own. It happens to be autographed and Jacob happened to speak with Mike Clark, win, win.
I binged this book as bad as any Netflix series, the book was devoured within a day. A full, rich day of sitting in the sunshine and reading a book; nothing more, nothing less.
It's typical Gierach. There are stories you laugh out loud at, stories you shake your head about, but most of all they're all stories that you identify with. I'd be willing to bet that besides being wildly entertaining, Gierach's finest quality is relatability. We've all been on that trip. Maybe we haven't fished in Alaska, Labrador or the notorious St. Vrain, but we've all been on those fishing trips.
And, you can't help but feel a sense of comradery when you read about his "bad days."
This isn't a review, I have no business to review a John Gierach book any more than Jacob can comment on a Mike Clark rod, but I will tell you to buy it. And, I will tell you to read it, because as always it won't disappoint.
"I went down to the river myself and stood there wondering how I could so dearly love something that's really just an example of water obeying the laws of physics. But a river running too high muddy to catch trout on dry flies isn't the worst that can happen, and, like everyone else I know, I had plenty of things to do besides go fishing I just couldn't think of any of them at the moment."
-John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own
It was the best of days.
65 in January.
We literally chased trouts downstream all day.
Not one broke off.
Take note; to bend to life, chase it, and not break.
You wake up, it's still pitch black out. You can hear the rain pouring down outside.
Drink coffee. Grab fishing gear. Bundle up. Make sure you are as waterproof as you can be.
You leave the house and head out. Sure it's wet and cold, but the fish are already wet and cold, so it really doesn't matter.
You arrive at a soft, still, run; bubbling from what appears to be rain. The closer you get, the subtle differences between a raindrop hitting the surface and trout feeding on the surface becomes apparent. Every so often you can see bright, yellow tails break the surface, taunting you and making you even more aware of their presence.
Every cast is an effort in futility. Size 24 dry flys are no match for the mighty raindrop.
It's an excruciating process, one you only participate in if you are truly, certifiably crazy. But you will be rewarded for your mad routine, with gold, in the form of a brown trout or two. So, you continue this crazy pattern until your hands are so cold and wet you can no longer set the hook. You warm yourself with good conversation and beer and go at it again, only to repeat this pattern as well.
Eventually, you decide that you're soaked and good conversation can only go so far to warm you, the car heater does a much better job. You make your sojourn back to the car, soaked and tired and slightly buzzed. You may look broken down and smell like a wet dog, but you leave knowing that you are worth your weight in gold.
I woke up this morning to air filled with smoke, so thick you could hardly see what was right in front of you. It hits your lungs hard and weakens your body almost instantly. We decided that for today, the trout would have to wait. There was plenty to accomplish in the workshop.
And so, we set to our tasks.
It's good to sit down an create. It's good to make something out of nothing. It's good to restore something to its original glory. There is work to do, and it is as important and meaningful as exploring the hills.
I spent my day in front of my machine, sewing away, wondering why in the hell a rod sock would possibly need pockets. But, the rod sock got pockets.
Jacob completed one restoration and began a second build. The workshop smells of varnish, warm bamboo and pipe tobacco. It's a good smell.
Yesterday I noticed the details. I often get wrapped up with the end result, the goal, so much so that I forget to pay attention to the little things along the journey.
When fishing I often get so consumed with getting the "money shot" of a fish that I neglect all the artistry that's found in between. I often don't notice how delicately beautiful a dry fly is on a strand of fly line, the eruption of a release, or the peaceful water droplets that appear when a trout is feeding on the surface. I get caught up, as a lot of us do, with catching the fish that's "slurping" and not notice how beautiful that act is, in and of itself.
We overlook so much, not just in fishing, but in life when we become all consumed with an outcome.
I've been consumed. So focused on one thing that I've overlooked all of the amazing things that are happening all around me. And, when I started paying attention, the journey became that much sweeter.
So here's to watching that fish, not just trying to catch it.
As many of you know, Jacob and I have been involved in a local organization known as Casting Carolinas. It’s purpose is to help women battling and healing from cancer escape from that world for a little while through fly fishing. The group of women that head this up are truly amazing, spending their own time and resources selflessly. There are two retreats and year and one amazing tournament, know as
Tie One On for Casting Carolinas.
This year I was unable to attended the tournament, due to a bug that snuck into my body and left me binge watching Netflix with a bucket and ginger ale. Not fun. Last year, I was graciously able to photograph the event and I truly missed being able to do that again this year. Jacob, however, had a full rich day! Between guiding an alumni team, “judging” a pro team and being an overall helper, he got to participate to the fullest extent.
I am most proud of the beautiful bamboo rod that Jacob and his mentor, Charlie Downs, of Yallerhammer Rods, built and donated to the organization for a drawing that will be held after the 100th ticket is sold. This is the second rod the two have made together and it is beyond beautiful! Being able to witness the process of student and mentor coming together and creating is something that words cannot describe.
The details of the rod are as follows:
This year’s collaboration is based on the
classic E.F. Payne “100” taper.
A smooth medium action 7’6”, 4Wt
that’s perfectly suited for high mountain streams.
E.F. Payne 100 Taper. 7’ 6” 4Dt
Hand Split, Hand Planed, “Blond Cane”
3X3 Node Spacing
Orange Silk Windings with Chocolate Brown Tipping
Nickel Silver “Swiss” StyleFerrules
Amber Agate Stripping Guide with Nickel Silver Frame and Bezel
Spalted Maple Burl Reel Seat with Nickel Silver Cap & Ring
Ratan Wrapped, Full Wells Grip with Orange Silk Windings
Four Dipped Coats Spar Varnish
If you're interested in purchasing a raffle ticket, Casting Carolinas will have a booth at several of the South East's Fly Fishing Shows, including the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Expo.
Tickets are $20.00.
You'll also get a chance to look at this piece of art and learn more about what CC does as will as meet the wonderful team of women and several participants.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.