My son, a certified guide now, goes about fly fishing like a scientist; he’s very focused and precise in his choice of flies and his presentation of them as he prospects along the river for trout. I was sort of scientific in my approach once, and, recognizing that, I find it interesting and amusing to reflect on the stages you go through as you develop into a fly angler.
Stage One is where you’re learning; if you get the bug, you become eager and even aggressive, determined to get the sloppy out of your casting. You can’t get to the river enough, and you don’t spend a lot of time looking at your surroundings. You’re just focused on fish.
In Stage Two, you take what you’ve learned about insects and fish into the river, often alone, and you apply the science; you’re more confident about hooking a fish and determined to catch larger ones. Most of us stay in Stage Two for the longest time.
At Stage Three, you become more relaxed about the whole thing. I think I have moved to Stage Three. I still get frustrated when I can’t catch fish, but I don’t let that feeling eat me alive anymore. This hit me the other day on home waters, and it was liberating. The river was low, and we picked a spot that’s not known to consistently produce fish. My son caught one tiny, wild brown trout. I hooked one — possibly a fall fish — but didn’t land it. I spent more time regarding water, woods and light than I did scouting trout. In Stage Three, that’s OK. I was just happy — and I think you could say quietly ecstatic — to be there.