In my intro to photography class, we read an article by a well-known photographer Paul Graham. The article talks about how photography is easy and difficult at the same time. It is easy because people have instant access to cameras via smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices. All you have to do is pull out your phone or other portable device and push a button to capture an image. However, photography is difficult because every moment is fleeting. An image captures time and freezes it forever. Sometimes, people will hesitate to capture time and if they do not capture the moment quickly, it will be gone forever.
After reading this, I started to think about how fly fishing is easy. Sometimes, it’s too easy. I have had days where my friend and I could have slapped down a 25ft cast with a 7.5ft, 4x leader and a size 8 hopper on my favorite spring creek and the fish would still be willing to take my flies. I have had days where I have been on the water back in Texas at sunrise, throwing poppers and frogs at bass in a field of lily pads where I did not miss a single take. It’s days like this that lead to catching 8 pounders with your best friend and laughing away the ridiculousness of the fishing at hand.
I remember one day on my home river back in the summer of 2010. I had been fly fishing for a few years, and luckily, I ended up in the middle of a Green Drake hatch. After just receiving my first lesson on identifying the major insects and their life cycles, I put on a parachute Adams and went to work.
I remember on my first cast I hooked into a decent Brown Trout. I thought to myself that it was just luck, but it happened again and again. I was not sure why I having such a great day on the water, but I equated it to the help from the guys back in the local fly shop. I fished the same run from both sides for almost 2 hours, landing around 15 fish. For a kid who barely landed a few fish on average, I was ecstatic. I thought I had figured it all out. I thought I’d be having days like this everyday on the water. I soon realized that was not the case, but eventually with the help of many, I became a semi-proficient fly fisherman.
These days are few and far in between. When they come, fly anglers can appreciate the peace of mind they bring. Fly fishermen can relax, enjoy their surroundings, and listen to what nature is trying to tell us. They can root oneself in the natural order of things, giving us a sense of peace and tranquility.
So yes, fly fishing can be really easy, but it can also be hard…really hard. I know that I, as well as every fly fisherman, have had days where it has been a struggle to land a single fish.
Last summer, I spent a day in Cheesman Canyon, a place I have done fairly well in and I feel quite comfortable fishing. After getting skunked, I trudged out of there.
Another time, I watched a friend I was guiding struggle to land his first trout on the fly. Eventually, he landed his first trout in Eleven Mile Canyon right before dark on our first day (pictured on the left). All the anguish and stress from the hard work seemed to melt away after that.
These types of days can be frustrating for all fly fishermen, novice and experts alike. They can create a sense of disbelief and stress that should not be present while holding a fly rod. They can force one to be hypersensitive, focusing so intently to his (or her) indicator, dry fly, or fly line that he (or she) ends up missing takes or making sloppy casts, spooking every fish within a mile of you. They can create a sense of urgency, rushing oneself when redoing a triple nymph rig and tying new knots to get your flies in front of a fish again, only to realize you forgot to wet your knot resulting in breaking off the fish of a lifetime.
These days can make any angler want to throw away all their fly fishing gear and pick up a new hobby. I think every fly fisherman would prefer the easier days over the difficult ones, but there is something intriguing about the difficult days. The days of only hooking into one fish that required a lot of work…the days of thinking you have matched the hatch only to find your fly being looked at and then refused…the days of having bass repeatedly slam your top water and not being to get a hook in their mouths.
Now the question becomes, where is the balance between the two? Do you really want to have “easy” days every time?
Every angler is different. Some people will want to catch a hundred fish in a day, and others will want to work hard for one. However, fly fishing is subject to each person’s individual preferences. For me, I enjoy having a combination of both types of days. It’s great to have a day where everything clicks…when you match the hatch perfectly and present your fly delicately to each rising fish with a tactful grace…when you double haul a big frog underneath a hanging tree branch with precision accuracy to find a lunker bass waiting for food…when you sight cast to a beautiful, cruising brown trout and watch him eat your fly with grace.
It’s also a very humbling experience to have to put your work in for a single fish. It’s a humbling experience to struggle to get a solid hook set or to not even get a look from a fish that you know has been feeding actively. These days often make you want to get back on the water even more. These days fuel every fly fisherman’s desire to feel the tug on the end of the line so that they might have consolation in their fly fishing abilities.
All in all, I think every fly fisherman has had a combination of both days. Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s the great thing about fly fishing and life in general. Most times, you’ll get another chance. You can go to sleep at night knowing you will have a fly rod in your hand again, whether it’s in the near future or in a year. However, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that a single day of fly fishing, whether it be good or bad, can fill our minds with memories and thoughts about fly fishing, giving us enough to daydream about and fuel our imaginations until our next trip.
Tanner Poeschel, The Taylor River Trout Bum, is a creative content intern and ambassador for The Fly Lords. Tanner has grown up fly fishing in Colorado, specifically on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. For more of his work, check out his website, Facebook, or Instagram.
Special thanks to professional photographer and videographer Teddy Hoffman! Getting out on the water with Teddy was an amazing experience. When it comes to photographing the outdoors, Teddy knows how to get the shot! For more of his incredible work, check out his Instagram and website.