Starting Early

According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. I’ve taken … Continued

According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. I’ve taken this to mean that it’s time to divest myself of the last of my fly-fishing equipment, and donate it to a worthy cause. After three summers of living in prime fly-fishing country, I haven’t touched it, mostly because I never really got any good with it.

I got started as a fly fisherman when I was in my late 50s, and gave it my all. Gunny Bob Newman dragged me to any number of wonderful fishing spots (The Gunny is the best fly fisherman I’ve ever seen in person.) but while I developed into a reasonably good caster, I never acquired the rest of the skills you need.

I started hunting and shooting seriously when I was 15, and had been interested before that, so I’ve had the time to become proficient at both. There’s an astounding amount of information you have to acquire before you do become proficient, and when you’re well over halfway through your life there’s not enough time. The most important element, though, is not hard knowledge. It’s a feel for things.

You can put an experienced hunter down in unfamiliar country, hunting an unfamiliar animal, and it will take him a day or two to figure out what’s going on, but then he will be become completely clued in, and just about as effective in the new place as he is in his familiar haunts. Fishermen do it, too. I’ve seen Bob Newman at work in such diverse places as Midway Atoll, Costa Rica, Colorado, and the Northwest Territories, and it didn’t seem to make much difference where he was; he would know how to yank a fish out of the water.

On one occasion I was hunting with Norm Strung, and we spooked a pair of good whitetails. Norm never said a word. He dashed off, and I ran after him, and then he came to a screeching halt. Just as he did, the deer ran by, and he rolled one of them.

“How you do that?”, I asked.

“I dunno,” he said, “I just had a feeling that this was where they were going to run.”

I’ve seen John Merwin do the fisherman’s equivalent. He would stand, looking at a stream, for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes, or a half-hour, and then he’d make a single cast and, more often than not, catch a fish. I’ve seen my friend Mike O’Neill wade up the same stream that I had just finished flogging to no avail, and catch fish with his ratty old tackle. Merwin and O’Neill got their start as kids, and at the point I fished with them, had a solid half-century of experience, which is what it takes.

I am, however, keeping my guns, including my Powerful Assault Rifle.