In these moments, we do what long rodders have always done. Faced with variables that exist outside of our ability to predict or control - we soldier on, and try to make magic happen in spite of the river gods. We clench our jaws, and push double-hauls into the wind. We run loaded rigs of split shot and heavy bead-head nymphs when all we really want to do is cast a delicate no-hackle dry to browns feeding on top. We leave the flats, fish off the shelf, and have little to show for our efforts other than sunburn and sea churned nausea welling in our guts. These are the moments when fly fishing starts to feel too much like work, and needless to say, fly fishing should never feel like work.
What do we do? How do we bug chuckers avoid the malaise that sometimes accompanies a fruitless day on the water? How do we turn the page on our frustration, and find satisfaction when fly fishing is ... well ... just a little less than satisfying? The answer - I suppose - lies in the periphery, along the edges of our poorly timed casts and slightly beyond the fish that is snubbing its nose at our poorly tied flies. We need to appreciate the small things, those little victories that can mean the difference between having a good day and sulking on the drive home.
I'm suddenly reminded of my years working in a fly shop, and a gentleman that came into the store on one otherwise nondescript evening. He looked haggard, much more so than the legion of other bug chuckers who've been soundly throttled by the Battenkill. Sheepishly, he approached the sales counter; I noticed his hands were shaking, and he cleared his throat several times before speaking.
"Uhh ... is there a free clinic in town?"
"A clinic. Is there a clinic in town?"
With a grimace he turned his head to the side, and it was all I could do to stifle a laugh. There, in the cartilaginous flesh behind the man's ear - in that nebulous bit of space between the jaw and skull - was a #6 beadhead Prince Nymph. The fly was buried to the hilt, well past the barb, and would require the skilled hands of a physician to remove without further injury. Sure I could have done it, and had it been my ear I probably would have had at it while standing in the middle of the river, but I wasn't going to be responsible for this fella' needing a Miracle Ear the rest of his days. I pointed him in the right direction, and had my laugh once he was out of earshot.
And that's the one. That's the image I keep in mind whenever the day isn't going the way I'd like. No matter how badly the river treats me, no matter how poorly I perform (piscatorially ... I mean), I am not the Prince Nymph guy. My ear drum isn't impaled by half an inch of chemically sharpened steel, and I've never had to suffer the humiliation of asking another bug chucker for directions to nearby medical assistance (although I have come close). This little nugget usually makes for a pretty good day when everything else seems a distraction.
When that one doesn't do the trick ... I just think about the upcoming steelhead season. Soon ... soon ...