Okay, allow me to explain the title for this bit. The basis for my title comes from something an old friend told me a long time ago when I was quite young. We had been talking about relationships, and he said to me, “Tom, love and hate are the same thing. They come from the same place, Passion.” This has stuck with me for the last 30 years, and I find it applicable to various parts of life, not just relationships with people, but also with interests, sports, music, whatever. Specifically, for today, I hate fly fishing.
The truth of the matter is this: I actually adore fly fishing. But you cannot have one without the other. There is no light without dark, no happy without sad. Reality is that there are just days when nothing goes right. I have fished my whole life. I am not a novice; I am a professional guide. Yet, we all have to just “pay The Man” sometimes. I do have days where I don’t lose a single fly, don’t get a single snag, nail every cast and stick every fish. Then there are days like today.
It is the beginning of the end of summer up here in the Vail Valley. I have just finished a 4-day stretch of doubles, guiding by day and waiting tables at night. I get up early to take my truck in for a minor repair, come home, have some lunch then take a cat nap. Upon waking up, I decide to go out to fish for myself. No clients. No students. Just an hour or so on Gore Creek. It is, after all, right in my backyard. So, I gear up, break out my brand, spanking new Butter Stick fiberglass rod by Redington, put on my Konic reel with brand new Rio Gold line, rig up a dry /dropper set up and start out down the street. As soon as I take my first step, I hear the rumble of thunder. I look up to see a mass of dark clouds coming over the ridge in West Vail. There is enough blue sky around that I decide to just go for it. I get to my secret spot and toss out my first cast. Then it happens. Things just go, not wrong, but horribly, absurdly wrong. I look down to see that the line is wrapped around the butt of the rod and has, somehow, become inextricably knotted up and tangled inside of the reel. I am always blown away at how incredibly tangled fly line, leader and tippet can get. I’m standing just a few feet from the bank in just a few inches of water. The thunder rumbles above me again. The clouds are covering the valley, instead of clinging to the ridge as I’d hoped. I am starting to feel very frustrated with the birds nest my line has become, my precious, brand new Rio Gold line. In an effort to make sorting out the mess easier, I pull the reel apart and leave half attached to the cork butt of the Butter Stick. Amazingly, the knot becomes even more of a mess. The current has a hold of my rig and about 20 feet of line and is tugging it downstream, over a riffle. The birds nest of line gets tighter. I use my fingernails to pull at one of the knots, but instead of loosening it, my nails cut into the line, damaging it. I feel anger welling up from my guts. I drop the rod in the shallow water to get both hands free. The rod lands at my feet, wedges against some small rocks and stays fast. Thunder rumbles again, and it starts to sprinkle. The line has become very tangled now, around my fingers and at my feet and around the rod. I pull at the knots in vain, and the line breaks at the damaged-by-my-fingernail spot. Now, i’m just mad. I bend over and pick up the rod again and try to pull the remaining line back though the eyelets. It’s such a tangled mess that I just give it a good, hard pull, and the rod snaps in half! I feel the burn of the line that just cut into my finger. It starts to rain, now. Hard. It’s at this point that I realize that the bands holding the other half of my Konic reel to the cork butt have slipped down and allowed it to pop off. In the water. The rain turns to sleet. My Lamson Konik reel. The model that was just recently discontinued. The model that took me forever to get my hands on is somewhere submerged at my feet. So, now, I am standing at the side of the river with a broken rod in my hands, wrapped from head to toe in line, holding one half of my reel, squinting through the rain and sleet, trying to find the other half. The half that is colored black. Against dark brown and black rocks. Covered by moving water that is being sleeted on. Let’s just say that folks in East Vail probably heard a few of my forcefully ejected expletives.
At this point, it was time to call it a day, having made not a single, real cast and paying The Man much more than I should’ve. The fact of the matter is this: It doesn’t matter how good you are, and how much you love this sport, you will simply have crap days out there. And that Well Of Passion will overflow, sometimes with love or with hate, with adoration or disgust. And you might just break something or lose it. But, friends and neighbors, tomorrow is another day, and there are warranties for broken gear. I’ll head out tomorrow morning when the sun is high and bright and see if I can’t find the other half of that reel….