John D. Voelker once said, “Fly Fishing is a magic way to recapture the rapture of solitude without the pangs of loneliness.” Any fly angler knows what he was referring to. Fly fishing allows for men (and women) to find peace in a chaotic world where we are often in sensory overload with the constant sounds and sights of bustling cities.
Like William Wordsworth preached, sometimes you need to isolate yourself to capture the true sublime in nature. This allows for discovery and self-reflection. After all, anglers might fish their whole life not realizing that it is not really catching the fish they are seeking. Fly fishing by yourself can be magical. Enjoying the beautiful scenery, drinking a cold beer (or two), watching fish rise to darting caddis flies or golden stones… I wouldn’t hesitate to say it is a very spiritual experience for me. You can sit on the edge of the river watching the simplicity of nature all around you and be content.
Although fly fishing alone can be incredibly rewarding, fly fishing with friends offers a different type of camaraderie and excitement. It often results in lots of laughter, empty beer cans, and questionable but hilarious decisions made due to peer pressure (like jumping into a freezing lake because you got skunked that day).
In high school, I found myself surrounded by golf and fishing enthusiasts. After class, my afternoons were spent on the golf course followed by a few hours of fishing at dusk. My friends primarily bass fish, but they showed an interest in fly fishing. These nights slowly turned into fly fishing clinics taught on by my good friend Holden and me. Savoring the fading daylight, we often had to squint our eyes to see our poppers on the surface in the distance.
Although fly fishing with friends can provide a more energetic atmosphere, it can also provide the same type of contentment and peace that fly fishing alone can provide. Often when I fly fish alone, I spent a lot of time analyzing the water, looking at insect activity, and focusing on making the right cast at the right time in the right location. It’s a lot of mental activity that I enjoy. However, fly fishing with a friend can allow for a break in the constant mental stimulation.
This summer, I took my best friend to Colorado for two weeks. We both are trout bums and capable of having successful days on the water alone. However, he is a dry fly purist, and I don’t mind throwing a dry-dropper. While one us fished, it allowed the other person the chance to slow down and enjoy the moment. Not that he needed help, it allowed me to guide my friend since I knew the water well. It also gave us the opportunity to take beautiful pictures and videos.
So the next time you are fishing with a friend, consider taking turns. Switch off every run or fish the water you enjoy while letting your friend fish the type of water he enjoys best. My personal favorite is to play a game. For example, when playing “baseball”, every take by a fish is a strike. Once you have 3 strikes, you’re out, and it’s time to switch.
All in all, fly fishing is a great way to spend time with your friends. Watching and helping one of my friends catch a healthy, strong fish can be just as fun and rewarding as catching it myself. I love every one of my friends. I am even luckier to have friends who love to fish and enjoy the outdoors as well. Being with those guys, as goofy and dumb as they can be, has taught me a lot. I have come to value their friendship, and I look forward to the days spent on the water with them just as much as days spent in solitude.