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13/01/03 - Flyfishing is a take on Life

An underground snail-fighting ring, somewhere near CoggeshallFlyfishing is cruel.

There I've said it and it's true. Whichever way you turn it, when it comes down to it, it's always cruel in some way or other. It's not as cruel as politics, war or farming for example, but it's certainly more cruel than golf, which isn't cruel in the slightest as far as I can work out; it's just a bit daft that's all, but there again flyfishing is pretty daft as well.

Anyone familiar with this site will know that I've been having a tussle with myself over flyfishing and in particular why I do it, and it's a pretty big issue for me since flyfishing is actually all I do. Sure, okay, I travel, run and have a fairly unhealthy interest in women, but apart from these diversions – which really are just diversions, or if not diversions then, at best, secondary considerations – I don't do anything else. In fact my whole world revolves around flyfishing; my work, my writing, everything I do centres around the fact that all I really want to do is go fishing. And the fact that I don't eat fish, but instead put them all back, which goes to make the whole process pointless in many people's eyes, including my own, only goes further to demonstrate how totally specious the human mind (and I really mean this one) can be.

Forty minutes into the fight, Freddy the Killer Snail, takes advantage of Terrible Tim's lack of apparent interest, and prepares to jump him - the crowd looks on in disbeliefBut, and it is a big but, through flyfishing I'd like to make this world a better place, and I may even be doing just that, in some small way. Or if I'm not, I would at least like to be. Politicians don't make the world a better place, not in my opinion, sure maybe some do or try to, but by and large politics is driven by egos and money. Religion doesn't make this world a better place either; more crimes are committed in the name of religion than anything else – people kill in the name of religion, in spite of the very obvious and often completely ignored “Thou shalt not kill”. In any case how on earth anyone can consciously make that decision I'll never understand, and eating something doesn't appear to excuse the issue. Or was God, assuming that you believe in such a thing, merely offering guidelines and not commandments, and was he excluding animals, other races and one's enemies from this statement? Life may or may not be what you believe it to be, but if you start believing it to be something, then one should at least have the strength of character to follow through with it.

Where does Freddy the Killer Snail get his energy from? Has Terrible Tim been fed Slug Pellets? The crowd goes wild!Flyfishing at least is driven by love and not fear or ignorance. Love of the waters, the planet, the beautiful places it takes us, and the fish themselves. Flyfishermen – or at least the flyfishermen I know – respect and love fish, and perhaps more importantly, have learned about life, the planet and themselves through fishing. They don't start off that way, certainly not in the UK. Most flyfishers start off trying to catch farm-reared rainbows, something which intrinsically lacks respect, and they simply want to catch more or larger fish than anyone else and yet somehow, by some marvellous process, a transformation occurs, from a self-centred competitive person into someone who wishes to make the world a better place; in other words a human being. Well that's what I reckon, shoot me down if I'm wrong here, but if I'm wrong, and I may be, then we may as well not be here.

And that development's fantastic. If that's what flyfishing does, and I think so, then I am privileged to be a part of it. But still, what about the cruelty element that so obviously exists?

Last night I was camped up on the banks of one of my favourite NZ rivers, with Tom, and we were talking about life, women and flyfishing, as you do, and I got into thinking about sandflies. Sandflies are quite an important feature of NZ, and are one of the reasons why there is such great fishing here; you're not going to spend two weeks fishing the C. River, because the sandflies make that C. stand for something else, and so they help keep the pressure low. But they are painful, vicious bastards (or at least that's the impression they give, although no doubt there is no intended malice on their part) and when they swarm and crawl up your nose and in your eyes, it is extremely difficult to remain in any fit state of composure.

Oh my goodness! Freddy the Killer Snail puts Terrible Tim into a death lock. Victory is close!Many years ago, well about 10 years, I spent a lot of time in the bush, fishing and being eaten. I used to maim sandflies, not kill them you understand, but maim them by gently rolling them off my arms and legs. I would cripple them with the intention of leaving them to die painfully. Now this isn't a particularly nice thing to do, to anything, even a sandfly; in fact it is quite a horrendous thing to do, but there you go, I did it.

I don't do that anymore. In Lapland last summer I had a huge problem with the mosquitoes, I did in the end kill some – three in the tent and quite a few more besides on the water – and I would seriously think twice before returning, in spite of the obvious attractions that drunk Greenland women have to offer. Now I know that simply by being here on this planet I am going to kill and harm other creatures, but there is a huge difference between doing this consciously and doing this in passing, or at least there is to my mind.

Sean was a little bit surprised last year when he saw me saving a cicada from a puddle, but hell, it's a nice thing to do, I like cicadas and he wasn't that surprised. I have been saved at least once in my life too – from the sea, which is also a big puddle of sorts – and I've had a whole string of close calls, and one in particular. In fact I really shouldn't be here anymore, but at least I now appreciate it.

I read an article recently that anglers torture fish for their amusement – I guess you've all seen and heard similar arguments. What a terrible thing to say, and what a appalling take on life to think that we could do such a thing, but still, I guess we're all in the same boat, or if not in the same boat exactly then at least on the same planet, despite what we may think sometimes. Anglers don't torture fish for their amusement, and all flyfishers who I class a friends, are driven by a sense of urgency to release fish as quickly as possible.

Snail fighting is perhaps the most barbaric 'sport' in today's underworld. Outlawed in all civilised countries we need *your* support in bringing this terrible crime to an end. Send us all your money and we'll stop doing it right now - we promiseSo how do I deal with the cruelty? I know that I used to think that since my whole world appears to work itself out when I'm fishing, and falls about my head when I'm not, that life, the Universe or whatever it is that connects us all, intends that I should go fishing, and stay away from relationships, drugs and gainful employment. And maybe it really is so, but I also figure that through flyfishing, I am at least doing some good, and although flyfishing is undoubtedly a cruel thing to do, we are in fact the guardians of the fish, and if it makes me a better, more responsible person, environmentally aware and respectful of life, then that can only be good. The fish themselves seem to recover quickly enough, which in the end must be what it comes down to; we've all seen returned fish begin feeding again almost immediately, and we've all caught pike and cormorant damaged fish behaving normally, so maybe it's okay. I sure hope so.

Last summer in Lapland, Vegard asked me what I would do if it were discovered that fish feel pain like us. I would stop fishing immediately, of course, as no doubt would everyone. If we even thought such a thing possible, we wouldn't persist with this strange passion. (Incidentally Vegard agreed, shook my hand and passed out against the side of the Wigwam – it was a beautiful moment, if not pretty exactly).

Well, that's an interesting start! This site caters not for passing flyfishers, but for those who, like me, consider flyfishing to be their lives. I had a very interesting conversation involving Tom and a Japanese flyfisher – whose name I think was Hiro. Tom is, like all flyfishermen I know, completely obsessed with fishing, indeed it is all he wants to do, and his life revolves around it. Curious, I asked Hiro whether it was the same for him, that it wasn't surprised Tom – although I had my sneaking suspicions – and in fact Hiro could never imagine such a thing, and he looked at me as if he thought I was mad - at least I think that was how he was looking at me; it was dark and therefore difficult to tell.

If you look even a little bit at this site, it is full of complete flyfishing addicts. There's Mike – I mention Mike first because I have just read ten of his saltwater flyfishing instalments! – Mike doesn't really do anything but fish and writing about it, his life is fishing, as is Ben's. Ben told me many months ago, that all he wants to do is make a life out of flyfishing, and that his University was simply a fall-back position and (I think) a way of meeting women. Sean has already stated on the Board, that all he wants to do is go fishing, ever. Lars has two interests, flyfishing and archaeology, but he's a Viking and so he's allowed two things. Carl is a one-track flyfisher. Carlos is complete flyfishing - it's his life. I imagine that most of the guys on the board are the same; in fact I'm absolutely convinced it is so. Flyfishing is the most important thing, perhaps even the only thing, in our lives, and although it's a dumb, pointless thing to do, when you really stop to think about it, it also happens to be the best thing out there.

The only person perhaps, who's involved in this site, whose life doesn't completely revolve around flyfishing, is Steve. Steve's life actually revolves around this site, as in fact does mine in many ways. Of course Steve's mad.

Beware of imitations

Deano points to the flat tyre and speaks into his walkie-talkieOnce again, I have just picked up a UK fishing magazine and discovered Sexyloops' ideas. This particular magazine seems to be following us by three or four months. There's Paco's suspender fly in one of them, although without the tying skills or the innovation. I notice a “how to wade rivers” article and a catching animals on the fly, which may or may not be a copy of one of the threads on the board. No doubt in three months time there will be an article “Flyfishing is a cruel and yet spiritual thing to do”.

Luckily for this site, we can all write, and none of us appear to have our heads up our arses, in spite of the obvious temptations, as Ben has pointed out. And perhaps it also explains why our monthly readership is over twice that of the magazine in question.

Paul points to the flat tyre and speaks to his thumb: beware of imitationsLast week Mike may have surprised you with his hunt for the Bandersnatch, this week he will quite simply blow you away. This series is The how to approach Saltwater flyfishing, nothing has come close to this, and I have read an awful lot on the subject.

Friday's video day may be a Spey casting instruction, but if I can find somewhere suitable, I'll do one on the backcast for a discussion on the board.

Have a fantastic week,
Paul

Ps Camo-Guy would like a public retraction, he says he's not into teapots anymore...

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