Years ago, I asked Wally Vait, a fly fishing instructor and guide, if it really mattered whether you caught trout, considering how great it is just to be there — to be in the water, the environment of the trout, and usually cool and clean water, and often shaded by big trees or crowned in bushes that flower in spring, to be out there with the songbirds and heron and maybe a deer crossing the stream. Does it really matter, in two hours of fishing, whether you catch a fish?

It doesn’t matter, right, Wally?

“I’ll believe that the first time I hear it,” he said, and laughed, and that was the semi-jaded laugh of a guide who knew that people who pay for his expertise ultimately expect to hook a trout, at least one before the day is done.

So I could never be a guide — too much pressure to produce.

And as the years go by, catching matters less and less. It gets frustrating, of course — getting skunked when you know you should at least be able to land a 10-inch brown on a nymph. There are days when you feel it’s going to be good, and there are days, like yesterday, when you know it’s going to be tough. Our home waters were running high and fast and off-color, and we would have to use streamers. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, my friend and I both like streamer fishing. But, pretty early on, I got the impression what the afternoon we would be like: We would cast until our backs ached and not catch a single trout. I decided, after about 30 minutes of casting weighted buggers, that it would be wise to take it slow, keep expectations way down low, enjoy the scenery — look for color in the gray winter landscape — and think about the beer that awaited us just before sunset back at the parking lot.

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