"Many men fish their whole lives without realizing it is not the fish they're after."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why we fish.

To many who don't fish, an enthusiasm or passion for the sport can quickly be stigmatized as nothing more than an obsession. In response, I've always found it difficult to explain why fishing provides so much allure [haha]. Last week, I had the opportunity to fish the gorgeous Blue River while driving west on i70 through Colorado. To my own satisfaction and maybe yours too, I think I've found an answer.

I was about an hour into my peaceful pursuit of rainbow trout. My mom patiently watched while reading a book from the bluff above (what a trooper). The weather was great! Fishing weather that is--slightly overcast, and cold enough to delay the runoff just long enough for me to tap into some great fishing :-). However after an hour, I was still fishless.

I had been fortunate to attract a few fish on my size 10-12 stonefly nymph and various beadhead droppers, but couldn't set the hook effectively. After finally realizing that my strike indicator was set far too deep, I was hopeful that I could land a few of these hungry fish. I was drifting my flies through some nice pocket water, when I finally got what I was looking for.

Quite honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect from the river. It was a fairly good size river, but I didn't expect monster rainbows to be hiding in the depths below. Boy was I wrong. As soon as I hooked into this fish, I knew it was something special. You see, if you fish long enough, you'll start getting dejavu...similar fish, similar situations and your mind races to past rivers or experiences. As soon as I set the hook, I was swept back to the Deschutes River in Oregon last summer. I pictured myself in a similar pocket, watching a MASSIVE rainbow devour my size 12 Normwood Special. As the fish approached my fly, my eyes lit up and I set the hook with a cautious but firm action. Immediately, the fish made a run and my anxious hands couldn't give her enough line. SNAP. Away went my flies, my fish, and more importantly my heart. It sunk to the bottom of the pool as I watched the fish of a lifetime rush into the swift current of the Deschutes.

As I set the hook this time, I remembered my past failure. She took a run downstream and my anxious hands were sure to give this fish some freedom. Its like when you've done something awful (relative term I guess) in a relationship. Sometimes the best thing to do is loosen the drag, and let your catch go. And so I did.

I patiently fought this beauty for 15 minutes when finally I felt like it was time to bring the fish to my feet. With my forearms burning, heart racing, and mom documenting it all in the background, I carefully brought her too the surface. A MONSTER! I wasn't sure how large, but surely the biggest rainbow I'd ever landed. The fish approached my feet. I kept the rod tip high, and went down to possess my rightfully deserved prize. As I did so, my weak 6x tippet snapped--the end of the fight. The fish won by knockout as I ungracefully fell to my knees. So close.

I tell that story to ask this: What if we fish because of the big ones we've lost? Or maybe it is because of the fish we are yet to catch? I can tell you, the opportunities come sparingly. Whether you loose a big one or even land it, we fish in anticipation of these great moments. Every cast is a reminder that there are always bigger fish to be caught and more battles to be had--I think this may be why we fish.


  1. Conner, You did not include that your mother caught her very first trout with your guidance. Great story and a true fish story at that. Love, Mom

  2. Nice story man, you probably should be an English major. My favorite line.."You see, if you fish long enough, you'll start getting dejavu...similar fish, similar situations and your mind races to past rivers or experiences."

    Really, couldn't have said it any better myself. I don't think anyone could have, magical man.