It is getting up early in the morning and living off a Stanley thermos full of Folgers classic roast. Stepping into the cold river and watching the world wake up before your very eyes. The birds start to chirp, the orange sun peaks over the horizon, and the beast I have come to conquer starts to feed in the river. It is the full game plan that I have constructed the night before, euro-nymphing deep runs with size 28 hare’s ears and nymphs, quickly turning into throwing massive streamers to catch the big brown trout I briefly saw as the sun started to hit the water. It is the mental challenge of adapting to every element of the water over and over again, so I might have a chance of beating Mother Nature and catching one of her most coveted species. The adrenaline rush I feel when I hook into that first fish of the day, no matter the size. It is the tug on the other end of my rod when I set the hook and the slippery feeling of the trout when I gently grasp it in my hand. It is the mutual respect between two species when one has bested the other. That is why I love fly fishing.
It is going out with three generations of men in my family, all of which are role models, with the goal of spending quality time together, not so much catching fish. The countless stories swapped between grandfather and grandson, and the friendly trash talk exchanged when one man catches a fish before the other. It is the grandfather with decades of experience in the sport, taking time out of his fishing trip to teach his grandson what he has learned, hoping that he will not only hook a trout, but one day share his knowledge with his own grandchild. It is the core memory of doubling up on gorgeous brown trout that will stick with both of them for the rest of their lives, a wholesome moment from such a simple scenario, that will be remembered until they have both left this earth. It is the truck ride home where conversation is just two men reminiscing on the good times they have had together, while drinking cold Coca-Colas from a cooler that is older than the grandson. That is why I love fly fishing.
It is the lifelong friendships that will be built through the sport in the most unexpected ways. It is two energetic upperclassmen that you meet in your college’s fly fishing club that you hit the water with any chance you get. The friendly competition that arises during the days on the water. The years spent together can be summed up as three guys catching fish, making memories, and telling lies. It is the shared beers on the river and suppers back at the apartment together. It consists of one man who wants to headhunt his favorite river with streamers, one man who wants to solely euro-nymph, and one who has no idea how he wants to fish until he is on the river and even then it may change.
It is the friendship that only exists because of three boys’ love for fly fishing and has translated to doing everything together from chasing trout and ducks, to going to Clemson Football games, to simply hanging out on the couch together and talking about nonsense. While we all may have ended up in the same classroom to learn more about fly fishing and potentially find a fishing partner, we found those people you can always count on to be there for you, help you out, and tell your girlfriend some super embarrassing stories from your past. And none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the burning urge to target trout. That is why I love fly fishing.
Finally, it is the inner peace that is achieved when the sport does its magic. I find rest and rejuvenation in an activity that can be very physically straining at times. I fight a mental battle every time the bite is not working in my favor, causing me to dig a little deeper in order to outsmart the species. I feel subtle spurts of frustration come across me that some people could describe as unhealthy or unrelaxing, but that is not the case. Fly fishing has an uncanny ability to cause a man to be disgruntled and frustrated, but rarely stressed. The activity will always bring me peace. Why this is, I am not sure.
I could spend days thinking about it. Maybe it’s the disconnection from society, the beauty in my surroundings, or the adventure in the journey. But every time I leave that river, every time I take my waders off, I have never yet wanted to go home. I have taken time to sit in my truck for a few minutes after a day on the water and reminisce on the adventure I just had. I sit there in my day-to-day life with stress, problems, and unfortunate situations that arise, and yet I fish. A therapy method that is so hard to describe we often tell people to “just try it one time” so they too can feel why we love the sport so much.
That is why I love fly fishing.
Will Scott placed second in the Outdoor Writing Competition for Clemson University students, sponsored by RiversandFeathers.