Sunday, July 18, 2021

Dealing With Fly Fishing Expectations: Sometimes The Treasure Is Not Where You Think.



On the way home from the Grand Canyon, we made a southerly loop back home passing through Farmington New Mexico to the San Juan River below Navajo. This trip, and this stop on the Juan particularly was a gracious retirement gift from my wife. My wife was nice enough to stay at Abe’s and not complain. She did her art work while I searched for treasure in the San Juan Navajo Dam tailwater. I fished an evening and a morning and actually caught a fair number of fish.


But it did not live up to my expectations. It had been almost 20 years since I fished the San Juan. I had great memories of this place. Perhaps that was the problem.  Maybe past memories of wonderful trout streams will always be distorted and let us down as we try to relive them.


But even allowing for this unfair distortion there were a few glaring problems. Crowds.  The crowds spread out quickly and cover these waters. I could not get in the type of water I wanted to be in and then when I wanted to move I couldn’t because there was no where to go that was not already occupied. I could not move about and stalk fish. I had to stay in one place and keep casting over the same fish. Not fun for me. Not my game.


And the fish seemed tame. The fish seemed tired.  It was not that the fish were so ultra selective and ‘smart’ from being fished over (fly fishermen are fond of bragging about how smart their fish are) as much as they just seemed harassed and stressed from being hooked time and time again.


The treasure I was hoping to find on the Juan eluded me. I left feeling kind of flat about the whole experience.


So, we left the San Juan and headed to Pagosa Springs to soak in the springs. We had done a quite a bit of running in the Grand Canyon so our aching legs would find the hot waters to be comforting.


I was vaguely aware of a lake just outside of Pagosa called Hatcher. But fishing Hatcher was mainly an after thought. A long shot.  To fish the lake, I had to buy a day permit. There was some confusion (and in my frustration I almost gave up), on where to get this permit but after some running around town, a wild goose chase, I finally obtained the permit. Repairs to the main road to the lake resulted in a detour and more driving around. There was that feeling of being lost. Once again there was the feeling of wanting to give up and the feeling of “Why bother”? But we finally found the lake.


It was a beautiful lake. No one was fishing it. I walked up to the edge not knowing what to expect and immediately sighted a 22 inch rainbow cruising along a weed bed.  Wow!  I quickly and clumsily tried to rig my rod to make a cast but of course I could not get ready in time. It didn’t matter. There would be others.


And there were. Big fat rainbows. I casted an Amy’s Ant to these fish as I walked the shore line. I was doing what I loved best. Stalking fish. Peering into clear water. Moving along the edge of the shore line all alone like a solitary hunter. And then I climbed a small ridge to get a better view of feeding fish that might be in my casting range.


I had to make long casts to reach the fish. And when I put the fly in front of them, they were eager to take the fly and leaped wildly pealing off line as they headed across the lake. Anything, but tame.


I had found the treasure I was looking for and it was not where I had expected it to be.


Wednesday, July 14, 2021


Earthly Things First:

Note:  I know this title alone will cause some to think I have my priorities all messed up. And maybe that is the case. I just know that in my own quest of trying to learn of spiritual things that often I get it all backwards. Therefore, perhaps, at least at times, Earthly Things First.  

Jesus, told Nicodemus that he needed to be born of spirit and Jesus tried to explain to him how the wind was like the spirit.  But Nicodemus didn’t get it. He didn’t understand how a person could be born a second time.  Jesus said to him, “If you do not understand earthly things how will you understand spiritual things”?

It seems that Jesus is suggesting that we can’t skip over understanding earthly things if we are going to understand spiritual realities. We can’t just skip this step. In fact, I think we have to keep going back and relearning the earthly and natural things as we pursue the spiritual. The path to spiritual knowledge seems to work in cycles, going back to the beginning, going back to earthly things, just as natural cycles of earth go round and round and just as Jesus some times takes us back to the beginning; Birth.  

I think Jesus was getting at something very important when he told us to, “Consider the Lily of the field”. He wanted us to consider the earthly qualities of the lily, its birth, life and death, to such an extent that we would also learn some deeper meaning. He asks us to really know the lily and spend some time with it and then we might grasp something spiritual about the lily and life. But, perhaps, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, if we are not learning the earthly things we will not get the spiritual.

Why are we not learning the earthly, natural things such as knowing how to read the skies to know if a storm is approaching or how to read the waters we fish? Most of us could not grow or obtain our own food. Why is it that so much of our culture lives life separate from natural processes?

Maybe we are just not interested, or, we don’t think earthly things are important. Maybe we were taught that wilderness has nothing to do with our spirituality when in fact our Biblical tradition tells us it does.  Maybe we just think it is more important to stay at home inside and read books about the spiritual and maybe we just don’t want to get cold, or dirty and be away from our computer gadgets, TV’s., and the comforts we have grown accustomed to.

I often meet folks who may know their Bible and can talk about religious ideas but often there is a lack of intensity and depth. Spiritual ideas can be too domesticated and sterile.  Maybe they lack time in the “wilderness” missing nature's wonders and brutalities and at the same time miss something of the “wildness” of God.  Perhaps they have not been grounded with earthly things. A spirituality without the weight and grounding experience of earthly things seems light and lofty.  Perhaps we all need some kind of an on-going wilderness experience to know the depth and weight of earthly things so that our spiritual experience has a place to settle.   

Consider the lily said Jesus. Look at it long enough to really know that one lily on the side of the path you take to a river or the top of a mountain. Consider it, look at it, and spend time with it.

Or, consider that one tiny mayfly you often stare at and try to imitate with your hand tied flies as you watch trout sip them.  Watch that one mayfly closely. And watch that one big rainbow as it feeds. Pay attention to the swarms of mayfly’s overhead that fall to the water. Wonder why the fish sometimes eat them like it was their last meal or on other days, ignore them entirely.  Watch the mayflies live and die only to be reborn the next morning. Watch them die out when Fall approaches only to be born again the following Spring. Then, after several decades of standing in the river and taking into consideration these tiny bugs you may understand some thing of the Spirit. Maybe; maybe not.

Jesus spoke of other natural things such as wind, water, mountain, meadow, seeds, rock and soil. Yes, even, dirt. Jesus asks us to consider dirt and to be aware of the depth and fertility of soil in our souls. He asks us to strongly consider if seeds that blow in on the wind from another kingdom could grow in our hearts and take root and grow strong[AS1] .

Do we have enough earth? Do we have enough fertile ground inside our souls?  And, do we know enough of Earthly things to understand spiritually what He is trying to teach us?


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Fly Fishing and Existentialism:


Sartre said that by writing he was existing. Relating this to fly fishing my thought is that there are fly fishers who might in a similar manner claim they exist by fly fishing. 

I can look back to the pond I fished as a kid and make a similar conclusion. By fly fishing at a pond, I existed.  And in the years after the pond, I continued to need fly fishing mainly on the South Platte River where I existed as a guide.

Soren Kierkegaard added a religious component to his own existence and to his ideas on existentialism. He thought that until a person becomes deeply religious and authentic, we simply are not serious individuals. It is like playing Christianity or playing around with our lives and taking neither seriously.

What I appreciate about this type of Christianity combined with existentialism is that it forces the individual to take responsibility for his/her life and his/her choices. We can’t just dump all our problems on God and refuse to take responsibility. We have to choose but we choose while deeply aware of God watching us. Together, the individual and his awareness of God, becomes serious.

William Barrett described this seriousness in this way, “It is the simple and forthright seriousness of someone who at last has arrived at his center and who is therefore totally engaged in the project of his life and with all that entails. The person exists under the eye of eternity and therefore what he does in the moment is absolutely real.”

The choice to walk to the pond was real. I chose the path in a moment of time.  It felt weighty in that moment and to follow that path had a price because I chose to be more or less alone. In looking back at that aloneness, it now feels glorious, especially in comparison to all the crowds I now experience on the river. Oh, how I would love to be alone, or at least somewhat alone now on the South Platte River. I doubt such aloneness will ever return to the South Platte.

The eyes of eternity were upon me and I could feel their weight. The eyes of eternity were also upon me every day I guided the past 35 years and are upon me now as I try to adjust to booming guiding businesses and crowds on the river.

This will be a big adjustment for me to make.

What is the greater challenge? Being alone? Or being part of the crowds?

Or, feeling alone within the crowds.