Riverbank conversations (1st part)

Tony, a veteran angler and Bob, still a little wet behind the ears in his third fly-fishing season, discuss a wide range of topics that pique the greenhorn's curiosity. In simple, homespun language, the expert angler tries to solve all Bob's doubts about fly-casting, fly-tying, biology, techniques and fishermen.

One-way paths

Roberto: How does a fly fisherman's life evolve?
Antonio: I'm not sure I understand your question.
Roberto: I used to kill fish, but I don't anymore. I used to fish with bait and spinners, but not anymore. Is that evolution? Where does it end?
Antonio: I see where you're going. I don't think I have a very clear answer, but I can think about it out loud if you like.
Roberto: Please do.
Antonio: I can think of several lines of change, all very interrelated. I wouldn't call it evolution, or progress either, because that's open to debate. When you come right down to it, we're all after the same thing: to get the maximum satisfaction out of what we do. Each one achieves that in a different way.
Roberto: What are those lines of the change you mentioned? Which one am I on?
Antonio: The first. Inquisitive anglers change towards a more complex way of fishing. One that involves a little more knowledge, a new challenge. A way that's more fulfilling and more fun. So, from bait, they move on to spinners and then the spinning bubble before tackling the fly rod. As the fisherman starts to find more satisfaction with the new angling mode, the need to take fish home diminishes. Pretty soon it even becomes contradictory to enjoying fishing. The new mode holds a stronger attraction and can even become addictive. What started out as an occasional hobby ends up enveloping and trapping you. It makes you feel things and experience life differently.
Roberto: Is that were it all ends?
Antonio: Well, within a given mode, the number and size of your catches may change. At first, fishermen want the greatest number of the biggest fish possible. Later some fishermen start going for only the biggest ones until they realize they're really only interested in the most difficult ones. You know the funniest thing about these changes, though?
Roberto: That I'm not in any of them?
Antonio: No, you're bound to be. The intriguing thing is that they go in only one direction. They're one-way streets. You never go back.
Roberto: Yeah, that's something to think about.

About fishing

Roberto: What do you enjoy most, casting or fishing?
Antonio: No doubt about it. Fishing. Casting is a lot of fun, though... when you can't get to the stream.
Roberto: What would you say is the most frequent mistake fishermen make on the stream?
Antonio: Alert the trout. Not scare them, but alert them. It's important to tell the difference between scaring and alerting a fish. A scared trout runs and hides. And you forget about that one. But, an alerted fish stays put and often goes on feeding. And you start changing flies like mad and decide the fish knows Latin.
Roberto: What scares and what alerts?
Antonio: Seeing you all of a sudden scares a fish. Noisy wading has the same effect. But, if the trout perceives you stalking stealthily, it'll be alerted. A vertical cast, the glimmer of something hanging on your vest or the fly line passing through the trout's window will alert it. A shout or loud sneeze may alert it; rarely scare it. One sure-fire way to alert your trout is to pick your line off the water noisily or disturb the surface with your pickup. Roberto. How are you supposed to do it, then?
Antonio: Start with the rod tip almost touching the water and accelerate very gradually. You don't want the line to spatter any water. Trout detect this sound a long way away. By the time you get to cast to the trout you saw feeding in the distance, it'll be fully alerted to your presence.
Roberto: But not scared enough to run for cover?
Antonio: You got it. That trout's bound to have experienced that same thing lots of times. It takes more to scare a trout in catch-and-release stretches, but they alert sooner.
Roberto: In other words, they don't take my fly because they're alerted.
Antonio: In many cases, yes. Look. If a trout rejects a natural fly, it's almost certainly alerted to some degree.

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