In its simplicity, fly fishing transcends the commonplace to become art itself.
Years ago I used to live in the Berkshires, the heavily forested and hilly land of Western Massachusetts, home to writers, theater folk, artists of all types. It is a beautiful place, a land rich with natural beauty. Its rivers and lakes boast trout of all kinds – brook, brown, rainbow, even tiger trout (a cross between a female brown and male brook trout) and fishing with flies is deeply embedded in the angling culture of the area.
The Berkshires are home to painters, too, and of these I count Norman Rockwell as my best example of a painter who grabs the inner heart of fishing. Rockwell, who lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts from 1953 to his death in 1978, did homage to that ideal. All outdoor sports have their cache of needed equipment, and fishing is no different. Every angler has his or her favorite fly fishing gear to port along. But it is in the quiet simplicity of casting flies, over and over again, that one begins to feel what Rockwell once said: “if it isn’t an ideal world, it should be so.”
Fly fishing is a game of cat and mouse, or fly and fish, true. Whether it’s Montana fly fishing, with its pristine mountain lakes and rivers, or a wilderness trek for Alaska fly fishing, it’s all the same.
Combing the banks, one is always on the hunt for the trout rise, trying to read its complex nature – bubbles? rings? nipping rise, or gobbling attack? – and thereby one decides on a fly and a strategy. But at the heart of it lies the desire for more than fish. One is after solitude and peace, and connection with a pastime which stretches back into the mists of time.
Perhaps no one said it better than Herbert Hoover:
“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the simplicity of our forefathers.”