Years ago I met a man who told me he didn’t fly fish anymore because he had become an expert. He knew all the hatches in his area, and fly fishing had become blase. So he quit. He struck me as one of the saddest people I have ever met. He had approached the sport as something to be conquered, and having done so (in his mind), there was no longer any challenge.
Another co-worker told me once how deer hunting was boring. He climbed into the same tree on opening day that he had hunted from since he was a boy. As predictable as the sunrise, he would tag out that morning. He never went back to the woods for another year.
I can only shake my head in wonder at such thoughts. One of the great allures of the outdoors is there is always something new to learn.
Considering the sport of fly fishing, there are many facets of the sport to enjoy beyond the act of fishing itself. Some are drawn to tying flies, some to photography, entomology, rod building, or collecting vintage gear. A talented few paint or sculpt, inspired by fly fishing. There is never a dearth of subjects to explore.
Boredom though seldom is an overnight event. I never worried about becoming bored with fly fishing, but recently I found myself sliding into a bit of a rut.
Fishing the same spots and using the same flies and techniques I had found success with in the past provided a sense of accomplishment. But something was missing. The thrill that accompanies learning something new had slowly faded from my enjoyment of a day on the river.
Enter the long rod. My most recent “new” thing is diving into the world of euro-nymphing. Inspired by a presentation from George Daniel at our recent Trout Fest, I decided it was time to give this method a try. As is my norm, I immersed myself in the technique, reading books, watching videos, and asking lots of questions of those ahead of me on this journey. Of course a new fly rod was needed, which necessitated selling some old rods that I no longer used to keep the savings account un-accosted.
There are also new flies that favor this method, so my vise, long dormant, has been dusted off. “New to me” competition and jig style hooks are now strewn across my tying area.
I now look at familiar stretches of home water with a different eye – they have almost become new again as different wading approaches and casting techniques are needed.
Indeed I have still caught fish in places where I have caught them in the past, but in addition, sections that seemed barren now have now opened up to me.
I think this points to my belief that we are hard-wired to learn and grow throughout our lives. When we cease to do so we begin to atrophy.
Recently I saw that President George Bush 43 had taken up painting, after reading a book on Winston Churchill (who also painted). But he also mentioned that he had become bored in his retirement. And he chose to do something about it. I think this is key.
He hired a teacher and began to learn. Not with the end goal of being the best or even an expert at painting. I think he recognized that continued learning is key to vitality. The result has been a series of paintings of some of the heroes who served under him during his time as Commander in Chief, as a way to honor them. That was probably not his goal in the beginning, but it is interesting to see the ripple effect when someone chooses to continue to learn.
You have the pebble of learning in your hands…when will you decide to toss it?