I like to catch big fish. I do so far less often than I’m willing to let others believe, but I like it when I do. Most fly anglers do. Perhaps because I understand how rare they can be, or how they may be more wily than their more diminutive counterparts, or just because it makes me feel superior to my fishing partners without having to vocalize it specifically and overtly at the time. My psychological motivations may or may not be those of other anglers; read on and find out.
I’ve read the predominant view of the angler’s progression, and you probably have too, it being a common theme of angling writers’ hackery. You know, the one about wanting to catch one fish, then many fish, then… blah, blah, blah. It often ends with a BS description of a non-sensical, quasi-spiritual motive where fishing without having to catch any fish at all becomes the goal. Perhaps this theory accurately reflects others experience, but I doubt it will ever be my own. If I stopped catching fish after some period of time I deem far beyond the wildest stretches of cold spells, I’m near certain I’d stop bringing a rod along. I might become one of those backpacking types, who goes out in the wild without any stated or intelligible reason.
I’ve been thinking recently about one of my most beloved trout streams, because that is what fly fishing bankers do while sitting behind their desks. I won’t call it my favorite stream because I inordinately pride myself on consistency, and don’t want to paint myself into a corner I’ll likely carpet over later. This stream may contain big trout, but I haven’t caught nor seen one yet. I like it because it’s beautiful, rarely crowded, full of bug life and full of wild fish. It also lends itself to the pursuit of said fish with a dry fly. Part of me may like it a little more than I might otherwise if it weren’t a lesser known, but I am unsure. I am sure the experience it provides epitomizes fly fishing as I like to see it; there is no preoccupation with measuring the fish or with trophy shots of any kind--even the good ones where the angler leaves the fish in the water; and there is no preoccupation with second guessing which technique will get the biggest fish--nymphing down deep with lots of lead, hucking a monster streamer-lure—because this is a dry fly stream. Just the joy of the cast, rising fish and quietude. The quiet provided is more than the lack of sound; it is the peace of angling to merely adequate-sized fish.