When I think of fly fishing from a sporting standpoint, I can’t help but equate it to running. I am a runner, but very much on my own schedule, fairly inconsistently and, most importantly, no drama. In other words, I like to go at different times of day, at various times of year, sometimes fast, sometimes slow and always at a pace I enjoy. When it comes to fishing I feel very much the same. Sometimes I am ready to bounce out of bed at 4:30 AM and be on the water as the sun rises and the hatch begins, other days I am in the mood for some sunset casting and late night netting. Finally, sometimes I have my mind set to slay the river, and other days I am out there for the scenery, the sound of the water, the potential for wildlife viewings and a cold brew waiting for me in the cooler. Both these sporting scenarios bring me to the consideration of people, whether with me or around me. Like running, I enjoy fishing with friends.
Everyone has their own pace of life, I find this also to be true on the water. Some are patient, trying the same fly repeatedly until they have exhausted all casting options, while others re-rig and re-tie looking for those first cast sets. While some anglers love to walk the river, only stopping momentarily when the fishing looks perfect, others zero in to one spot, or one fish, and lay down cast after cast until their spirit is broken (okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but you know what I mean). In short, there is certainly a personal cadence to fishing, and if you are out there with someone who has a different rhythm than you, it might not be the best day. When you find someone on the same page though, someone that loves it for the same reasons you do, then you have the opportunity to experience and share your day with them, to reflect on it and celebrate it with them, and to look forward to when you can do it next.
Don’t get me wrong, I spend a lot of solo time on the river and am never disappointed by a fish in my hand, but the camaraderie that grows out of the celebration of netting a fish in a tough spot or holding your breath when watching a fish stalk your buddy’s fly is when fly fishing becomes a team sport! There are some things to consider when you are going to try out fishing with another person for the first time, like the amount of time that person likes to spend on the river- 2 hours? 5 hours? Are they a marathoner that doesn’t require food, water or the basics of human comfort? How far is that person comfortable walking? Perhaps he/she likes to hunker down in a single bend and spend the day there (this is not considering the thought process that goes into floating the river- an entirely different set of questions, expectations and considerations). How does this person feel about fishing side by side? I am a talker, so I like being within hollerin’ distance, but I have friends that want to go with me then split so far up river I won’t see them for hours.
Finally, no drama = great fishing. For many, fly fishing is incredibly competitive. While some friendly competition may help guide you or your partner in the right mindset to catch fish, the day can go sour fast when a competitive angler is feeling put off or frustrated for not catching as many fish as his or her partner. Unfortunately, this is something that is difficult to learn before getting on the water with somebody else, but it is often a lesson learned quickly. When I get frustrated by my technique, or if I am having a clumsy day, sitting on a log, taking a breather and enjoying the fact that I am on the river instead of stuck in an office is the best thing for me. I like to fish with friends who will see that and be okay with it, and heck, maybe even join me in it.
One thing I know for sure about the fly-fishing community is that it is a good, wholesome place to be. I’ll never forget attending F3T and literally cheering at video with a crowd full of fly-fishing nerds like it was the Superbowl. If you don’t have friends that fly-fish, you can make them. If you want to be alone on the river, you’ll have anglers watching your back just because it is the right thing to do. When you get a flat tire, all it takes is a fellow angling stranger-turned-acquaintance to make the whole thing a little easier. At the end of the day, you are out there to have a good time- so grab a friend, whether a netting veteran or a river rookie, and have a fishy adventure together.