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  • Monday, May 24, 2010

    The Nymphomaniac

    The Greeks & Romans Knew
    some neighbors know
    we'd like to know

    .. "How do you know where the fish are?" We get that question quite often. We try to be congenial as we talk around the point that we really don't know. It's a mystery to us. But less so to some of our neighbors.
    .. After all it's not as simple as placing your fly in front of a fish whose nose is in the air. It's not as simple as targeting a gulper. It's certainly not as simple as plunking down an imitation that matches the live flies on the surface. In fact it's not simple at all.
    .. An enormous amount of time and effort has been expended by fishers in the emulation and imitation of the floating fly.
    .. This has produced a plethora of perfect 'hatch matchers.' "The Truth" abounds in fishing to the rise. Just ask any dry fly fisher. There is a right answer.
    .. For us, on the other hand, there is always mystery. Where are the fish? Why are they there? What are they eating down there - out of our sight? Why are they eating it? The mysteries explode in our head. We're intrigued by the mystery.
    .. Just where is the mystery in flinging the correct imitation, to the fish that's eating the imitated?
    .. Plenty of anticipation, excitement, and visceral enjoyment - for sure. But, mystery? Hardly.
    .. Dry fly fishing is an exercise in technical achievement: perfection in fly tying, precision casting, delicate presentation, squinty-eyed concentration, appropriately quick responses, and studied lifting are required.
    .. Once the technicalities are mastered the fish is caught. The fish that you knew was there has been stabbed in the lip, (or elsewhere.) It's like novice hunting. See it - stick it. Not much mystery.
    .. The best hunters, per contra, know the terrain. The best hunters know the subtleties of the hunting ground. The best hunters have intimate knowledge of the game and it's environment. They explore the mysteries. So too the best fishers.
    .. For many fishers there is seldom a thought about the nature of the water, it's color, it's subtle subsurface currents and up-wellings, its bottom, it's fertility or sterility. There is infrequent concern about where the fish is before the rise and strike.
    .. Where is the sun, where are the shadows, where are the fish? Who cares? There's the nose. No mystery at all.
    .. The technical achievements of dry fly fishers are wonderful. Time, practice and patience all play their part. The formula is well known and espoused by the sage minds of the pastime. Not much mystery but a lot of technical mastery.
    .. Our feet are our eyes. Our legs and ankles, (old and wobbly,) still feel the swirling currents that we disturb as we gingerly wet wade the little waters of the neighborhood. Little dents in the stream bottom are remembered. Out sized rocks or fine sands in unusual places are remembered. These are clues to the mystery of where a fish may be.
    .. Clues only: no ring of the rise, no splashy rise-form, no exposed noses. No certainty of technique here. The mysteries can be explored though.
    .. Familiarity with the water brings an intimacy that goes beyond technical mastery. It's neither better nor worse. It is, by comparison, substantially different.
    .. Many nymphomaniacs, (not a term of endearment in any of it's meanings,) cast all over the water. They walk and wander and fling and flail away. Eventually they poke a fish in the nose and catch one. No technical mastery here. Not much mystery either.
    .. Notwithstanding this a few of our nymphomaniac neighbors are on such intimate terms with some of our waters that they can predict the topography of the river bottom as it changes during the various stream-flow stages that come our way. This removes some of the mystery but not all of it.
    .. They know when a pillow, (in front of, or to the side of a boulder,) will hold a fish - and why. They know what side of the bolder to explore even when they can't see the boulder. Again, the removal of a bit more of the mystery.
    .. Very slight differences in water level or discharge rates send these masters of the nymph to different places on different days.
    .. They catch piles and piles and piles of fish. They don't talk much about the fish. They do talk about the light, the weather, the water, and the many and varied streams flowing within their rivers.
    .. These folks ponder the questions of micro debris in the water column. They quizzically concern themselves about the chthonic nature of neotenous life forms of the benthic deeps. They have a hard time carrying on a conversation with 'real' fly fishers. Their concerns are vastly different.
    .. They see these minuscule life forms as wraiths and monsters. They wonder about their essences and appearances.
    .. They know that their comings and goings are in many ways dictated by the streams and currents. What mysteries do they partake of?
    .. They worry about the bug. They worry about the bottom. They worry about so many silly things that they have long forgotten about what color floss will catch an angler.
    .. They tie flies that will never adorn the pages of slick catalogs. They put bits of stuff on hooks and call them stage-mimics. To us their devices look so much like crud from under the bed that we seldom comment.
    .. We just nod and accept the gifts when offered. Each is a one time-place-space creation. Used and discarded after the moment is gone. We'd sure like to know. The damn things catch fish . . . when the time-place-space is right.
    .. We've posted pictures of some of the dandruff that is used by our neighbors Here.
    .. The ones that are usually in our box this time of year are HERE. Take a look and rejoice in the silliness of it all.
    .. The neighbors know. We follow. Come opening day in Yellowstone National Park we will tiptoe gently in the footsteps of a couple of these nymphomaniacs. We'll be on some small clear water, not worrying about the hatch or the noses. The neighbors will catch unseemly numbers of fish. We may catch a few too.