One of the allures of fly fishing is exploration. We revel at the opportunity to find a new fishing hole, sometimes traveling great distances to do so. The fishing may be good, or it may not, but the drive to discover new places is strong in many of us.
Since time immemorial, mankind has longed to see what is over the next mountain, down the next riffle, and around the next bend. That innate drive led to the discovery of the New World and put a man on the moon. The latter eventually led to a phenomenon known as Google Earth.
Like most men, I have a certain fascination with maps. I can’t fullyexplain it, but there is something wholly satisfying about knowing where you are, and how to get to another place from there. When I discovered Google Earth, I felt that I hit the mother lode. Looking at satellite photos of places I once lived or visited is almost beyond comprehension. GPS is another product of the space race and I have gladly utilized it when on business trips to far flung metro areas.
However, with all this technology, there is a downside. Secret creeks and lakes I once imagined had only been the realm of a few close friends now are easily found by anyone with a computer and internet access. There was a time when “blue lining”, the practice of following unnamed squiggly blue lines on the topographic map, was about the only way to discover unpressured waters. Secret mountain meadow creeks were once discovered only by research and hard climbing, and protected by closed lips.
I know the thrill that comes from exploration and discovery. Much of it lately has been carried out after work and on weekends on a small local stream known of by many but explored by only a select few. Lately I have been contemplating how monochromatic life would become if all things and places were known. What would happen if one day there were no more undiscovered or unexplored places on the continent? Isn’t the mystery of the unknown part of the adventure in the outdoors anyway?
What if through advances in science we could reduce fly selection to a single fly, guaranteed to hook a fish on each cast? What if we knew the location of each fish in the river, and we merely walked in, dialed in the number of the fish we desired to catch on our piscador GPS, initiated the flyline launch sequence on our microprocessor controlled flyrod and reel (which calculates the correct double-haul cadence to land the fly in exactly the right current seam), then caught and landed said fish using a computer aided drag system? Would that still be fun?
When does technology overshadow our experience in the outdoors? I know, I have heard all the excuses…we have such a small amount of leisure time, and we want to make it count by making sure we maximize our fish catching potential.
But what if maybe…just maybe we were focusing on the wrong thing? What if the very benefit we seek from being outdoors escapes us because we value a body count more than the chance to commune with the natural world, created to remind us of the Creator?
Perhaps there is still room for mystery, discovery and wonder in the natural world. Omniscience is blissfully out of my grasp.
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau