There are a lot of mysteries in the world; lost civilizations, ancient artifacts, Kangnam Style, and the list goes on. But how much mystery is in fishing? Is mystery what attracts you? I know when I "read" a river, or find that deep pool, or cove covered in lily pads you imagine what lurks below. It's always the anticipation of catching what you think is in there. Sometimes I'm amazed when I catch nothing and convince myself there is still a trophy lurking; he just didn’t want what I had for him. How many times have you spotted a fish you couldn’t get to bite, or fought and lost a fish and it killed you to not know what he looked like above water?
Just like the places we fish and mysteries we chase, some of us choose to become shrouded in mystery ourselves. Every trip to uncharted or unfamiliar waters becomes a game of charades with local anglers or fly shop owners. You size them up like you would a used car salesman. Really, a purple bugger is the most reliable fly on the lot? Sometimes everyone needs a little help. Granted some things are earned and earning them the hard way is a great way to get your stripes, but what’s the fear? Someone will ruin your secret mysterious spot? If it’s public land, how many “secret spots” are left? Someone will catch them all? Of course you’re not going to point out where the big ones swim to the guy with the 5 gallon homer pail on a catch and release only river.
Out of a lot of people I’ve run across fishing many places, very few divulge helpful info to try and help me enjoy my day on the river. But to those few who do: I thank you. The first time I set (a heavy rubber boot) foot in a river with a fly rod, a woman I barely knew gave me a handful of flies, her container of weights and some great advice. Had it not been for that, who knows, I may have quit. A few years back when I had a very sub-par day I crossed paths with a man who had much better luck than me. Without hesitation he donated some “special” soft hackles to me. Some kind folks have given me many a gifts and great info. I am willing to bet someone helped all of us out in a similar fashion at some point in our learning journey.
That’s one of the great things about this sport. You never stop learning and always have to keep an open mind. The day you think you know it all, is the day you might as well fish alone on a creek for chubs. You can’t judge a book by its cover either. I know a man who fishes in jeans and hip boots right next to the guy who looks like everything stuck to him the last time he walked through Orvis, but could rattle off a library of fish species and insects by their scientific name that would blow the “pro’s” mind. Some newbies and younger folks can teach you something you never even considered….or forgot. So don’t be too stingy or scared, help the beginner and pay it forward. I know I’ve donated flies to some beginners and I buy into “Karma Fishing”. And remember: the characters you meet and information we trade are sometimes just as interesting as the mysterious fish we admire.