Not everyone likes fishing. In fact, there’s often a concerted effort to keep it away from the human-powered outdoor sport world that we cover in this magazine. Lots of hard-charging, focus-on-my-heart-rate athlete types think it’s, well, boring and not a “sport.” Hey, Five Ten founder Charles Cole, who we profile in this issue of EO even says, “We don’t make fly fishing shoes because you can’t die doing it.”
Take that attitude when it comes to the art of angling with a grain of salt. Perhaps, we should tell Cole that his Sticky Rubber Canyoneer shoes are the best wading boots we have ever taken to the stream (they are, after all, built for scrambling over wet rocks). Or consider Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard who rates fly fishing—especially his new passion of Tenkara, the Japanese form of fly angling without a reel—up alongside more deadly pursuits like surfing and big wall alpinism. In fact, if you have lived in a mountain town, you know that the most die-hard ski bums and snowboarders often spend the summer guiding fly fishing trips as all that snow becomes river melt. The mountain bikers and hard-partying resort skiers who can’t roll cast are just visitors, it’s the locals who know the hatches. Fishing gets you deeper in the blood of those towns and their mountains. It brings you to places you might not see when you are bombing down the trail. You become intimate with that place when you fish it. That’s why I knew I had to write about fishing for this, our mountain town issue.
I have certainly gotten to know Boulder (I know, I know, it’s not a real mountain town) better by fishing it. Who knew the fishing in Boulder could be so good. Yes, the fish are small and often selective, but it’s the water that is beautiful. And clambering out to it, sometimes with my 70-year-old dad, sometimes on my own, sometimes with another fly-fishing addict who is just in town for a day. I know where the water goes here, in these spots that the bike path zooms on by. Sometimes, I spend focused hours trying to outsmart fish the size of a big streamer up in the quiet depths of a canyon. Sometimes I’m surprised to pull out a big trout while triathletes run past, seeing none of it.
Here’s the thing about fishing. There are far too many days when you go home mystified.
You see the water. You visualize the fish. Hell, sometimes you even see the fish. But nothing happens. It’s a day of anticipation on the line. But still you stay there, hoping. Eventually, you just give up on the fish, but not on the river, on the changing light, on perfecting your cast. It’s certainly a cliche to compare fishing to meditation but at this point, you find the same things in both practices: you stop looking for results, stop judging the experience and give in to the actual world around you.
But, damn, that can suck. If you didn’t actually catch fish (and if you didn’t feel some profound change in how you view your being on this planet when it comes to meditation), you would never go back. Because in between those Zen sessions of non-catching, there are days that the fish are fat and at the end of your line. Days when nothing can go wrong. It’s a like a powder day, a gift. This is why you do this. This is your spot. You live here now.