Lessons in Fly Fishing – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Lessons in Fly Fishing

The day was near it’s end, thankfully, as my arm was numb, my eyes burned, and my spirit was settled with exhaustion. One more point sat there, not 200’ away to the right and I knew that there was one more fish to be found but I had pretty much given up hope of it really mattering to me if there was or wasn’t. I just wanted to fish that point, reel in my line, drink some water and bask in the sunshine that filled the Amazon on that last day in the jungle.

There was nothing about that day that one would describe as “good” when we climbed aboard the skiff, surrounded by the ever present buzzing of 1000’s of bees that seemed to what nothing in life other than to sting the soles of my feet on their last of days. Any angler knows that hope is all we really have at the start of any day; so we did what anglers do and headed into the stifling fog with only a fisherman’s hope for the day ahead.

The heat was miserable as the fog quickly burned away, it was replaced by a thin layer of clouds that gave hope for a cooling sensation that never quite happened. The river was still coming up, but the water color had finally settled to a color that could only be described as “Brown.” The only breeze was to be found while motoring between the backwaters and lagoons that fill nearly every bend in this river on the edge of nowhere. The bees were bad too, did I mention that?

If not for a few small stretches of bank that looked like the other 125 miles of bank we fished that day, the day would have ended only with the hope of what it might have been rather than the satisfaction that only a fish to hand can bring. A few, small Butterfly Peacocks saved the day with their savage strike and brilliantly saturated melody of orange, yellow, and olive.

It was near the end of the day, at the end of the last lagoon; on the last day of the trip that frustration finally gave way to acceptance. I had fished well, fished with my father, and experienced one of the last truly untouched parts of the angling world. The heat had been brutal, the bugs annoying, and the casting exhaustive at times; but this was the jungle on the edge of humanity and I was seeing it as very few have seen it before. Night skies that have never known the pollution of light and river banks that are as pure in design as one could ever hope to see. The tension left me, my arm felt alive and I could feel that fly in my hand take one more breath as it prepared to do it’s work, one more time.
I can’t say that I knew what happened next would actually happen or that even expected it to happen. However, as I looked at that final 10 yards of bank that lined the southern edge of that final lagoon, I definitely still had hope.

Hope was the only thing that kept me casting the last unbroken rod in my possession which just so happens to be one of the best big Tarpon sticks to ever grace the world and is knows as the 911 Scott S4. It’s a great rod for big Tarpon, but not so much to cast for 8 hours with a line that DEET has turned into something that more resembles kite string than the latest in modern plastics technology. Still, if I relax a bit and let the rod “do the work” it always seems to make that impossible cast seem just a little bit more possible than I would have thought.

As I watched the 70 feet of fly line slowly unroll for the hundred thousandth time that day, I wanted nothing more than for my fly and leader to track true too so that I could enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making one, good cast. The fly landed last, softly settling kinked at it’s articulation point, just waiting to be fished like the man who created it had intended this fly to be fished. The moment wasn’t really any different than any of the other ones that day, to be honest. The difference came about 20’ later when the line went tight with a fury that stole my breath and brought screams of joy from all of us on the boat that evening.

The only thing that really made that moment possible was that none of us gave up hope that something magical might still be possible. There are clichés aplenty that come to mind, but the truth is that you can’t ever succeed unless you at least give yourself the opportunity. Fishing is how I understand the lessons in life that are true and real…like the value of hope.