Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Secret to Running

"The secret to running is running," or so says one of the coaches with whom I work. Honestly, I don't know the first thing about running - I don't run if police dogs are chasing me, and you would guess as much when first you saw me - but I understand the metaphor. To improve at anything one must practice; to run better, one had better run.

Like athletes, fishermen generally improve with time afield. As with any of life's more valuable endeavors - grilling pork tenderloin and drinking vodka come to mind - experience is the key. With each successive season on the water, the angler casts more handily and precisely, ties knots more quickly and securely, wades more stealthily and carefully, and swears and curses more vociferously. As such, this is a sport where age often has the edge, but there are anomalies.

Consider those fellas who've been fishing for thirty or forty years who can't read water, tie knots, or cast worth a damn. These are the sports who keep many guides in business, make the rest of us feel pretty good about ourselves, and - as painful as it may be to admit - we want these folks on the water. We need these folks on the water. As the fish are generally much brighter than the fishermen who chase them, our egos would be devastated without those incompetent anglers alongside whom we might juxtapose ourselves. If you're a little overweight and want to look good in a picture, then surround yourself with the morbidly obese. You know what I mean.

Conversely, there are those select few on the other end of the spectrum; the naturals who pick up the long rod for the first time, and seem immediately connected. They're dialed in. They're casting 40 feet on day one, double-hauling ninety feet on day three, and tying married-wing Jock Scotts at the end of their first month. Sadly, I am not one of these people. I hate them - all of them - because I've had to learn over 30 years what they were gifted at birth. Jealousy rears its ugly head.

I suppose that I'm relatively competent; my knots generally hold, I've a good eye for water, and rate as a decent fly tyer. I will not, however, be winning any casting competitions. Ultimately, I'm a product of my environment. The ditches in which I wet a line are relatively small. Only very rarely do I need to throw more than 40 feet, and that's usually the extreme. In my neck-of-the-woods, it's far more important that I place a fly precisely than cast a country-mile. So, I'll let the Rajeff brothers hold onto their trophies just a little bit longer.

I guess my point is this. Lots of folks run, but only a select few run in the Olympics. Those that aren't competitive, run simply for the joy of running (occasionally for survival), or so I'm told. Again, I wouldn't run if Darth Vader's star destroyer were chasing me across the galaxy. Maybe those of us who are merely mortal, fish simply for the joy of fishing. Maybe it isn't about competition, the payoff, or the money shot. Maybe fishing is just about the exercise.

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