OLD HABITS DIE HARD
The initial plan was to find something new to open the 2017 fishing season with.
Which, in a roundabout way, shows how little I’ve been fishing lately, since we all know the year-round Colorado fishing season never actually ends but only tasks us to purchase a new annual license each April 1.
The idea of something new to greet the summer was curious but not entirely sufficient, at least when it came to parsing ideas for what’s new in the world of fishing.
That goes specifically freshwater fly fishing, since that’s what I spend most of my fishing hours doing.
And then I ran into an acquaintance who was wandering through downtown stores seeking a gift for a bride-to-be.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” she rhymed in response to my question. “That pretty much leaves it wide open, doesn’t it?”
While the rhyme refers to items a bride should wear during the ceremony for good luck, I decided it’s OK to appropriate the quatrain for the first day of what for many/most anglers is the beginning of another season of hope.
Something Old — I’m torn.
Should that something old be a venerable rod (I have several pre-1960s bamboo rods that remain eminently fishable) and perhaps some old-but-still effective fly patterns (maybe a few snelled specialties whipped up by the late “Shorty” Mauldin of Delta more than 40 years ago)?
That said, most of my rods qualify as old, if 10 years is the cut-off point.
The hard part is that if something unforeseen happens, these treasured items are gone forever. But maybe it’s better that these precious artifacts are lost doing what they were made for, rather than shuffled into some dark closet and forgotten.
Something New — No doubt on this one.
I turned to my still-in-the-box Gore-tex waders, purchased late in 2016 and not used because, shortly after, the purchase of a hunting license for elk season took priority and the weather turned cold.
I bought the waders after noticing the slow leak in my 12-year old pair had grown into a steady drip. It was OK for a while but, by late November, standing in the Gunnison River with one leg wet to mid-shin no longer was funny.
Something Borrowed — How many of our fishing companions have, over the years, “loaned” us a piece of equipment that somehow becomes part of our personal and perpetual arsenal?
From tippet cutters to nets, from wader belts to face-saving buffs, it seems I’ve been the recipient of many friends’ largesse.
But that goes both ways, because I still recall loaning out flyboxes, thick socks, spools of tippet material or even a spare reel and not even thinking about asking for their return.
In practice, however, the “something borrowed” will be the knowledge accrued over the years from fishing companions, guides, outfitters, authors and the occasional “what the heck?” moment when a bigger-than-expected fish gives you a lesson in what fishing really means.
Something Blue — This is where it all began.
A dear fishing companion died last year, leaving a raw-edged hole in the lives of the many people he touched and leaving many of the summer’s fishing decisions still unsettled.
One usually goes into a new fishing season full of questions without answers, which is part of the allure of perusing maps and listening attentively when other anglers talk about places where trout rise to a fly. But somehow, this season looms larger than most.
Author Norman Maclean offered some insight into our hours on the water.
“In the Arctic half-light of the canyon,” Maclean wrote in his short novel “A River Runs Through It,” “all existence fades to being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.”
It’s that hope that pulls each of us to the water’s edge, to greet the dawn of a new year with optimism and confidence, and the realization that fishing, and not simply the catching of fish, is what makes us a nation of anglers.