by Dave Micus
ne of the great benefits of fly fishing is the opportunity to be alone, but it is important to have a fishing partner. This is no dichotomy; it is what novelist Thomas McGuane calls "the comfort of solitude enhanced by companionship."
The best kind of fishing partner to have is a fanatic (assuming that you are a fanatic, too). There is more to this than the obvious reasons like who else will meet you at 4 AM on a freezing cold morning in October to fish for striped bass, or will drive six hours with you to catch the evening hatch on a far-off trout stream. The most important function your partner will serve is that of contrast gainer.
It is difficult to explain the allure of fly-fishing to a non-fishing spouse. It is even more difficult to explain why you want to spend every waking moment teasing fish with a fly. This is where the true value of your fanatic fishing companion lies.
You convince your spouse that, yes, perhaps you do take fishing a bit too seriously, but she should be grateful that you're not like (in my case) Jim, elaborating with anecdotes that make Jim look like he's ready for a twelve step program. Looking good by making others look bad is a skill we all learn in childhood, and it's still a useful strategy for disguising vices like drinking and fly-fishing.
I'm not being disloyal to Jim when I use him this way; our relationship is reciprocal. He has his spouse convinced that I'm the fanatic. (She once offered me a magazine article on changing compulsive behavior while Jim looked on with his best pitying, and innocent, expression.)
He tells his wife how I, overly excited about the prospect of a fishing trip, awoke at 2:30 am even though we weren't going to meet until 5, and, unable to wait, left without him. I tell my spouse how he brings his fly tying vise (stressing the word 'vice') to work and ties flies during his breaks. This arrangement works well for us both.
If our spouses ever catch on to the fact that we're equally fanatical, we'll both have to find new and bigger contrast gainers. I've been stockpiling anecdotes, just in case. For instance, I read that Jack Hemingway, Ernest's son, brought his fly rod with him when he parachuted behind enemy lines in World War II. He convinced the officer supervising the loading of equipment that it was a cleverly designed radio antenna needed to stay in contact with London. Now there's a fanatic.
My secret weapon, though, is a story once told to me by Mike, a legendary striper bum on Boston's north shore. He said he has had only one fight with his wife over fishing-seems she couldn't understand why he would need to go fishing on his wedding night ("The moon was new and the tide just right," he explained to me).
I would never do that (but I think Jim would).
Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
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