Fly fishing was not a catch and release concept as it applied to my life.
Oh yes, when applied to angling, I believe and practice this concept quite religiously as an adult. But the art – the vice – of fishing, never let go of me.
It happened gradually. My Dad would not just let his five boys stay at home on weekends and watch the tube. Instead, he had us out helping him carve figure four deadfalls for rabbits, or getting as close to drowning or smacked by lightning as we possibly could without actually doing so.
Sometimes these family outings involved fishing. Usually, some type of homemade vessel was in the mix, and added to the anticipated and unforeseeable outcome of each trip.
The seed was planted and cared for well. Any interest in outdoor pursuits of any kind were well received by Pop. Mom played along even when we would bring the outdoors inside, turning the house to splinters while whittling full sized canoe paddles from choice pieces of driftwood.
And so an obsession was born.
To be precise, this was not a sport of instant gratification. It was angling with flies tied out of what was handy, and to an eleven year old that vowed to fish this way or never fish, there were mountains to climb.
The feathers and fur were no issue. They strutted and slinked around the yard every day. The hurdles were the tools and the hooks. Long nights in the workshop finally gave up a very crude vise that didn’t really hold much for long, a bobbin that cut through my thread, even though it was just Mom’s sewing thread, and a pair of brass welding rod turned hackle pliers that miraculously has outperformed any I’ve used since.
When long, dark nights of winter cast it’s cold blanket over my young life, the tying brought me just close enough that I could see hear smell everything that angling was.
When I grew up I realized what an effect my angling and tying had on my life. It was way more than just fishing. The hunt for fresh cdc, perfect bronze mallard, new ringneck pheasant skins, or whatever it was that time, imprinted on me the value of such stunning sunrises most people miss. The worth of a forest thick enough to hear every footfall of every wild thing. The open country of western plains many call ugly and worthless, become masterpieces in the dearest galleries of the mind.
And to what end? Fishing. The game of wrapping a hook with fluff sometimes taken from a milkweed seed, a flashy feather from that pesky cedar waxing last winter, and tying it to the line, to be whipped around and finally laid out in the swirl of rapids and riffle, to be drifted with delicacy and convincing deception, to the hope that is the chomp of the ultimate prey. That end. That one flash and splash, that brings the dance to the hand, and thrill of accomplishment to the wielder of the floppy wand. All this is the game that has my life in a vise.
Charles Card is the SCP’s Northeastern Utah Coordinator. Charlie is an avid sportsman and resides in Dutch John, Utah, the gateway to trout fishing on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam.