Ever think about what it takes to be famous? Just a little famous. To have your level of skill and knowledge exaggerated and magnified an order of magnitude above reality?
The answer is – not much.
Maybe only one fish for a good twenty days of fishing.
Humm. One fish in twenty days of fishing? Maybe that should qualify for passionate, or obsessed. Whatever. Ask his wife.
Imagine a guy who wants to catch a spring Chinook on a fly. Not by dredging Teeny Nymphs among schools of fish kegged in a slot upriver. This guy wants to cast Clousers to cruising fish in tidewater, swing Chartreuse Leeches in the first few riffles above tide, and entice a grab from fish so chrome they make you squint.
Imagine that this guy is really intent on catching his spring Chinook. He has friends who’ve caught spring Kings more than once on flies, on more than one type of fly, in more than one place. Not just the rare fish that anyone could have stumbled into. He knows it can be done. He knows it takes patience. It could take a day, two days, two weeks, or who-knows-how-long. Imagine that this guy has a very patient wife.
So he puts in his time. He fishes and fishes. He sees fish. He casts to pressure waves. He casts to rolling fish, moving fish, leaping fish, and cavorting, teasing fish. He fishes alone. He fishes with friends. He tells stories about not catching springers. He fishes in sun, in rain, and on every imaginable tide. He fishes days before the fish arrive, the day after the fish move on, and days when they show but won’t grab. He concentrates. He focuses. He visualizes. His hands tremble sometimes, and his heart aches when he casts to rolling fish. But no pulls come. Not one.
He persists. The goal is worth the time. The quest itself takes on life, a ritual of sorts. His imagination never falters. He ties new flies, buys new lines, conjures new strategies.
Then one morning, threading a cast between guide-boats trolling spinner and herring spreads, he gets the grab. It comes when he isn’t even concentrating. It comes when he’s trying to figure out if his flyline is going to get fouled in a guide-boat’s prop. The salmon is just there, an eat-it-and-turn grab that leaves no time for thoughtful hook-setting. Forty feet of running line on the boat deck leap into the air, quivering, searching for a reel handle, a rod butt, a piece of net, a gear bag, a seat edge – anything – to throw a half-hitch around.
Imagine this guy in a state of rapture. A huge smile on his face. Imagine adrenaline. Imagine reel handle busting fingertips, flyline slicing across the current, throwing water into the air.
Then imagine people in several nearby boats on their cell phones.
“You won’t believe it. Yeah, some guy just hooked one on a fly. On a fly! Yeah, here, right between the trollers. Yeah, he has it on right now. Yeah, there it goes. Zxycking amazing! Wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Just trolled through there a minute before he hooked it.”
There you have it.
The next morning, our fly-fisher is at it again. Casting to quiet water. Casting to rolling fish. No matter. No grabs. Same old, same old. One thing is different this day, though. Now the guy is just a little bit famous. As he casts, and casts, and casts, he can overhear the conversation as people troll by, pointing.
“Mumble, mumble, on a fly! Guy over there, mumble. Fly, mumble. Yesterday, mumble, right here! Damnedst thing I ever mumble. No, really, it mumble, mumble, actually bit the mumble.”
So life imitates fiction, and fiction imitates life.
Or something like that.