by Chuck Stranahan
I need to go fishing.
To say so can invite somebody else to jab me, saying “So why don’t you do it?”
It’s not that easy these days. My gear is in worse shape than its usual state of perpetual disarray. As for me, let’s just say I’m not feeling up to it. This too shall pass, as I often say, and I know that – but I’m getting impatient.
You might say I’m in a funk.
My best cure for a funk has always been to go fishing.
And even without fishing, in my funk I have choices. I can stomp around the house, glowering and muttering, absorbed in my self-inflicted misery, but Jan wouldn’t put up with it. So that’s out.
I can listen to music, music that resonates with warmth and love and a dose of inspiration, and that helps.
Or, I can pull on my new Irish cardigan, snuggle into its comfortable warmth, and sit down behind the fly tying vise – and just play. Playing at fly tying is a good antidote for a lot of ailments.
While I’m there I tend to daydream about fishing – and outside of fishing itself, that’s probably the best cure for a long winter’s funk that I can muster up these days.
I’ll have to clean up the mess that has accumulated around my new Dyna King fly tying vise and have a go at it. I’ve let the mess pile up for too long.
The vise, brand new shining brass and steel, immaculately precise and elegantly engineered, looks foreign and out of place in the center of that dull pile of scraps of fur and hair and feathers, screwdrivers and unopened envelopes and neglected coffee cups that don’t belong there, and who-knows-what that might be hidden under the surface.
Sorting through that mess, one feather here, one bit of fur there, a tangle of small hooks to be fingered through and returned to their rightful containers, is not a task I look forward to. I know people who enjoy that sort of thing and find it easy; enjoyable, even. I don’t.
So, I’ll have to dial up a positive self-talk about the values of persistence and delayed gratification and get at it.
And I know, at the outset, what my biggest obstacle will be: Distraction.
I’ll get distracted, somewhere along the way, by a forgotten piece of material. I’ll put a hook in the vise. I’ll start to tie the fly calling for that rare scrap of material. I’ll shove the pile aside so I can see better, try to find the hidden tools I need underneath it, and press on – but not in the way I intended. I’ll get lost in my distraction. And the pile, the task at hand, will still be there.
And somehow, I’ll be playing behind the fly tying vise again. In place of the scrap of fur I’ll have a few flies to fish with next season.
I’ll have memories, like the bright clear autumn day on the Blackfoot when I delicately dropped a small nymph, tied from a similar little scrap of fur, in front of what turned out to be a nineteen-inch cutthroat. That fish was hiding under just enough water to cover its dorsal fin in the quiet corner of a riffle. I remember the leader pausing against the current, coming up with the rod tip, and the rush I felt when that trout surged into the power current.
And I’ll anticipate fishing with those flies as I tie them. I might dream of another trip to the Blackfoot, or maybe another run to the lower Missouri around Cascade while the Missouri River Armada is making its assault upstream, or my favorite stretches of my home water here in the Bitterroot.
I’ll feel, in my memory, the hot sun from above and the cool breeze from the river at once against my cheek, see the piercingly bright colors of the day in my mind’s eye, hear the sounds of the river and the birds and the gusts of breeze moving the leaves and needles of the trees overhead, and lose myself in that reverie.
It’s not the same as going fishing, but it will bridge the time until I can go. And bit by bit, despite such distractions, I’ll work away that mess on my fly tying desk. And no doubt, the funk will disappear with it.