It always starts out innocently enough.
A night here, another evening there. Perhaps a Saturday afternoon when things start going well, then Sunday mornings when the relationship is serious. The next thing you know, it’s happening as often as possible and you’re in over your head. You’re full of a new feeling you can’t describe but you know deep down in your gut is perfect and wholesome, so you pursue it with a reckless abandon usually reserved for climbing Everest or celebrating a win at Wimbledon.
After a few years, the feeling is no longer a flame of fury, but an ember of eagerness, a smoldering seduction that still exerts an inexplicable pull over your mind. Yet, it dominates your day-to-day proceedings in the background as opposed to the foreground. Instead of being the focus of your existence, it defines you to the core. It’s your essence. Your purpose for getting out of bed every morning.
Make no mistake – if you’re not head over heels for fly fishing, you will be at some point. I’m willing to bet you’re reading this piece while at work, on your way to the office, or when you should be doing something productive. Granted, I feel that reading my writing is productive, but that’s an arrogant comment to make so we’ll pretend it wasn’t written.
Back to the matter at hand – loving fly fishing is eerily similar to loving another person. I’ve loved, albeit briefly, in my life. Until recently, though, I’d considered fly fishing my greatest, truest, purest love.
Yeah, it’s silly, presumptuous, and stretching the metaphor entirely too far to compare loving fly fishing to the true love Westley and Buttercup shared, but at the same time the only way to explain the love for fly fishing is to explain love itself.
Love makes you do crazy things. It’s responsible for some of our most embarrassing moments (I once serenaded a girl with my ukulele in front of most of my high school), memorable experiences, and it shapes the person we become.
Just as love once made me think about selling my Camaro in order to get a “sensible” vehicle, love’s also drug me around the Western United States in a haphazard pattern not unlike the roller coaster that true love is.
I’ve spent the better part of the past two months on the road, bouncing from river to river, state to state, hotel to tent to my buddy’s spare bedroom, all in pursuit of better fishing. I’ve caught some monsters, met a few people that’ll likely remain lifelong friends, and seen parts of this country that mot people don’t get a chance to lay their eyes on.
The prominent emotion throughout these past two months, as I type this from Rock Springs, Wyoming, has been one of love. Of pursuing a dream. Of living a dream. But again, just as with true love, my love affair with fly fishing hit some rough patches.
That just makes the love more true.
No love is perfect. That’s a foolhardy notion romance novelists (I am one of them) are guilty of inserting into the minds of people across the world. It’s always messy, hard, arduous, and moments occur when you have to sit down and have a conversation with yourself and answer that pervasive question – is this worth it?
A few weeks ago, I drove 900 miles to Oregon by myself. The fishing was spectacular. The company was great. Ryan McCullough and his son Josh are the best fishing buddies a guy could ask for, and Ryan’s deft skills with single-burner stoves, road kill, wine, bacon, coffee, pancakes, and candid photography deserve worldwide recognition. Over the years, Ryan’s taught me more about fly fishing than anyone else I know save the legendary Mysis Mike Kingsbury.
That particular trip to Oregon was the best fishing trip I’ve been a part of – and not because of the incredible girl I met on the river, either. (I let her use my vintage Winston IM6 and watched as she caught a ferociously picky brown trout on a size 22 suspended midge she tied herself. I almost proposed right there in the river.) Yet on the long drive back to Utah, where I spent three days before my schedule took me to Rock Springs, Wyoming, loneliness struck like a Western thunderstorm. Without warning or preamble, I reflected on the fact that aside from my writing and my fly fishing, my life is starkly devoid of that different type of love that makes the world a brighter place in which to exist.
Then in Rock Springs, I saw my friend Rich and his wife for the first time in years. Their marriage is one that should set an example for marriages all across America, and as Rich and I stumbled and fished our way through the Wind River Mountains and the Wyoming Range, I was again reminded that he had a wife and kids to head home to.
What do I have?
14 fly rods. A collection of antique reels. A sweet new Glock. A company I run, obligations to fulfill, contracts to complete, and articles to turn in on time.
It’s all material. All of it. None of what I have contains lasting value. If I were to die tomorrow, the only thing I’d carry on with me is the knowledge I currently have (which is drastically minuscule).
And my love for my family, friends, and fly fishing.
Loving fly fishing is a noble endeavor, one which I always will support. I’ll never quit loving it. I’ll never give up those long days where I drive 500 some-odd miles just to explore a tiny spring creek for a few hours. I doubt the fire to travel and explore will die, because that’s just the way I’m wired.
For the past few years, I’ve been blessed to live “the life.” The last two months is just a microcosm of what I do on a regular basis. What people – other fishermen who look at folks like me with envy and my friends and family alike – fail to understand is that while I’m incredibly grateful I can live life the way that I do, I realize that the love of fly fishing isn’t enough to sustain a person through their years. I never thought I’d admit that, let alone write those words for the entire world to see, but it’s true. A love of fly fishing – or any lifestyle, really – is essential for a good, full life.
But a love for someone else? That’s far more elusive than the 30-inch brown or the 5-pound brookie. It’s more finicky than steelhead, more unpredictable than Rocky Mountain weather, and nowhere near as reliable as the Henry’s Fork salmon fly hatch.
But it’s just as – if not more so – fulfilling than loving fly fishing.
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Spencer is a fly fishing writer and novelist from Utah. His debut novel, Learning to Fly, is set for an August 2016 release from GenZ Publishing. In addition to his fly fishing writing, Spencer is the Utah Jazz correspondent for the Standard-Examiner and Owner/CEO of Wasatch Writing Services, LLC. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram @Spencer_Durrant, or on Facebook @spencerdurrantauthor.