Thursday, May 29, 2014

Probably Knot

When I worked in a fly shop - a time in my life that is lately much on my mind - I was frequently asked mundane questions about the most mundane aspects of bug chuckin'. It was just the nature of the job. New fly fishers ask new fly fisher questions.

At times I found the questions tedious, but the people asking them were usually sincere and well intentioned so I always did what I could to offer my help. From time to time, I couldn't help myself and tried to have a little bit of fun with folks - usually the shop regulars who were used to some good natured ribbing.

My waders are leaking. How do I patch them?

I wouldn't know. Our shop's waders never leak. You should buy your next pair from me.

Are you a swinger or do you nymph for steelhead?

That's a conversation you need to have with your wife.

How long have you been fly fishing?

Eleven days. No ... twelve. Twelve days as of this morning.

Do you have a favorite knot for connecting  fly to tippet ... tippet to leader ... leader to line ...?

Probably Knot.

While I suppose it's possible that you've never heard of the Probably Knot, I can say with absolute certainty that you've used it from time to time. The Probably Knot is often the knot of choice for angling neophytes and experts alike. Sometimes, the Probably Knot is the only knot a fisherman knows how to tie. The Probably Knot is neither a Bimini Twist nor a Blood Knot. It's not a Palomar or Perfection. It's not an Albright or an Improved Clinch, and it sure as hell isn't a Surgeon's Loop. It's none of these, but at different times it steals bits and pieces from each.

The Probably Knot is the knot we tie when we're in the final three hundred yards of a twelve hour float. It's the knot we use when we can't control our excitement at the oversized snout slowly sucking spinners from a foam line. It's the knot we're most likely to tie just moments before stinging the largest fish of our lives. It's almost invariably the knot we use when we blink into the rapidly darkening sky as we try desperately to tie on a #18 trusty-rusty before the light fails completely. The Probably Knot is the knot we're most likely to use at both the dawn and dusk of our angling lives.

What's best about the Probably Knot is that it doesn't derive it's strength so much from the principles of chemistry or the laws of physics as it does from an angler's hope. Hope may not have 100% breaking strength, but as Emily Dickinson once penned, "Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul."




The strength of the Probably Knot comes from the soul - from an angler's faith that the knot will work when the angler needs it to work. Wars have been fought and won - whole nations have been conquered by faith. If given a choice between fluorocarbon and faith, I'll take faith every time.

But for those of you for whom faith is never enough ...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dear River ... Nevermind

Dear River,

Never mind my last post. I was out of my mind when I wrote that letter. Someone must have slipped me some bath salts or a badger tranquilizer. We're fine. In fact, we're great.

I love you Baby,


Dear River

Dear River,

Hey. We need to talk.



Scratch that.

We don't need to talk. I need to talk. You need to listen.

We've been together for a long time now; this season marks 21 years. When we first met, you were a mystery - nothing more than a faint blue line winding its way across a forgotten page in my Gazetteer. I was eager and full of energy, and you were the undiscovered country - an unknown whisper of a trout stream in an otherwise forgotten corner of my world. I had heard whispers - of course. Old men spoke of you quietly and with a gleam of fond remembrance in their eyes. "If only I were still your age," they'd say. And the stories they told - they were too fantastic to believe. They were too fantastic to be true.

But they were true. Every story. Every time. They were true. You were every bit the river those old men said you were. Nearly a quarter of a century has passed, and I'm still wading your runs; our history only makes more difficult those things I have to say.

I never thought the day would come; I can't believe I have to say this, but I think we need some time apart. I want to say, "it isn't you ... it's me" but that's just not true. The truth is that it's you - entirely you. For years you were constant as the north star, a friend whenever I needed a friend, a confidant who helped me soldier through my worst moments of worry and regret. You made me feel loved, but something is different. Something small but significant has changed. You're not the same river with whom I fell so desperately in love all those years ago. It's like I don't know you anymore - if ever I did.

There was a time when I knew - with absolute certainty - that the first week of May meant fiddle-head ferns and a tremendous hendrickson hatch. Fish would rise - big fish - with the carelessness born of a long winter, and I would leave the river every evening having been reminded that I am a man. After the hendicksons were sulphurs, and after the sulphurs came drakes, olives, and white flies. Every hatch - every fish - was an assurance that you loved me the way that I loved you.

And as much as it pains me to say, it's over, isn't it? Seems I just don't know anything anymore. Last year, the hendricksons came in March. March? Really? This year the hendricksons have been sparse at best and entirely absent at worst. Why?

How could you so easily discard my favorite hatch? You must know that the first hatch of the year is always the best hatch of the year. Was it deliberate? Did you want it to cut? Did you want it to hurt? It did.

So that is why - as much as anything else - I've decided that we need a break from each other. You need time to become whomever it is you're becoming, and I need a chance to explore other corners of the world. Please don't misunderstand. I love you. I will always love you, but I am afraid that I cannot go on loving you if things continue as they are. Maybe after we've spent some time apart we'll discover that what we really need is each other. I hope so. I do.