The ancients wrote of the three ages of men; I propose to write of the three ages of fishermen. When he wants to catch all the fish he can. When he strives to catch the largest fish. When he studies to catch the most difficult fish he can find, requiring the greatest skill and most refined tackle, caring more for the sport than the fish.. ~ Edward R Hewitt
If it is a well known fact fly anglers progress in such a predictable manner, less is understood, I think, about our evolution beyond the catching.
In my mind, there is a Fourth Age of fly fishing, a stage in which I have been enamored for some time.
Beyond catching great numbers, or measuring length x girth, or even finally, finally! sticking that one obstinate riser, lies the fourth stage- the Experience.
Experience these years increasingly defined by the effort invested, by the remoteness of venue, by the quality of vista, the purity of air, the clarity of waters.
And last, by the rarity of that pursued.
Admittedly, I have spent much of my time here in NM seeking out those places beyond the beaten path, relishing the heady sensation that is the untrammeled high country.
Still, in many respects I remain no great angler, no headhunter to be feared by our finny friends. In fact, I suspect my skills with the rod and reel may well have already peaked.
Oh yes there remains many a fish I will not catch, can not catch, big fish among them. Curiously, a fact that might have driven me to fish dawn to dusk at one time, honing my skills as an angler, now seems.... trivial.
Fly fishing blasphemy? I guess that might be true. More likely it's that Fourth Age.
Saturday, on the drive home, with two sleepyheads in the back seat, I mulled around a revelation of sorts.
The desire to pay the Experience forward.
On to my next generation of anglers.
A Fifth Age perhaps?
Of that I have no doubt.