Friday, March 27, 2015

How Important is Matching the Hatch?

       Last Saturday, I was standing in the Cache de Poudre River, northwest of Ft. Collins, engaging in that wonderfully frustrating past-time, "Fishing".  [Note:  I did not say "Catching"!]  I had spent the week prior brushing up on what to expect: what the weather might be, the water temperature and flows, and what kinds of bugs might be prevalent (i.e., what the menu might be on the trout smorgasbord).  It was a glorious day, and I was set!  The fish, on the other hand, had other ideas.
       One of my fellow-anglers was not experiencing the same level of frustration as I. And, so, as fisher-folk often do, I asked "What are you using?"  In other words, did he have the secret formula for a fly that, were I to use it, might result in MY success.  HIs answer didn't offer much help, as I was already using much the same thing . . . and I didn't have available to me the exact pattern that he was using.
       And so, as I stood in the river, I began musing on the strange business of fly-fishing and fly-tying.  One of the biggest pieces of advice assumed by all fly-anglers is that one needs to "match the hatch."  That is, if fish are feeding on a certain species of mayfly (because they seem to be "hatching" at that time), then they will probably not pay much attention to your offering of something resembling a stonefly.  Or even more frustrating is that they  might be feeding readily on a reddish bug, but ignore a black bug of the same style and size.
       So we embark on the quest for the right match.  Famous fly-tyers from across the years, and around the country, develop new patterns and tweak old ones in the pursuit of 
precisely replicating the legs, antennae, wings and tails of teeny little bugs.  One extra wrap of this wire.  Precise proportions of wing height to body length.  It's a quest for a Holy Grail!  And the funny thing is that almost ALL of those patterns will catch fish (well, except when they're on the end of MY fly-line!).  The correspondence between the actual bug and its replica doesn't have to be exact.
        Most anglers know the names of the afore-mentioned "famous fly-tiers".  We attend seminars given by them, hoping to learn the tricks and techniques that will improve our art.  We recognize that some of their patterns will work better in some parts of the country than in others.  They've learned on different waters, with slightly different insect populations.  they may have affinity for different materials; "natural vs. synthetic" is one hot argument.
        As Saturday wore on, and the times I changed flies increased, I began to see the whole enterprise in theological, or religious, terms.  Or, perhaps, to turn it around, I began to think about our religious longings in the same light as the longing for the "perfect fly".  If we get the ritual right; if we say the right words; follow the right theologians; if we understand the Divine in the right way; if we do all of these things correctly, then maybe, just maybe, we'll have that life-altering encounter with our quarry.  And I suppose this makes some sense.
        On the other hand, there were many of us in the river last Saturday; the parking lot was FULL, and each vehicle usually carried more than one person.  We were all in the pursuit of the same goal.  And, I dare say, few of us had exactly the same flies at the ends of our lines.  But most were successful in the encounter.  And, almost to an angler, we rejoiced with their success, not spending time arguing that THEIR flies and technique (which actually worked) were the WRONG ones.
        I learn a lot from fishing.



Friday, March 6, 2015

If you build it, they will come!

     About this time of year, in 2005, I was training to ride my bike 585 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  I had signed up for the AIDS Lifecycle 4, pledging not only to ride my bike a bunch of miles, but also to raise a bunch of money -- all in support of AIDS research.  Fortunately, I was successful on both counts, thanks to the help to MANY people, before and during the ride.
      I didn't really have much of an idea of what I was getting into in some respects. I knew that there was going to be a lot of hard work; that was a given. I knew that we would be setting up and taking down tents every day and packing our gear into trucks. I knew that my main responsibility was getting from one campsite to the next, preferably without falling/crashing/"bonking" (basically running out of steam). But I had no way of knowing how the 1600 riders and 400 "roadies" would form an instant community.      We were of many ages. There was one girl I remember who missed her high school graduation because she was riding. I remember one man who was in his 70's.  We were from all over the United States and beyond. Ethnic diversity! Gay and straight. Very healthy folks as well as riders who were HIV positive (they rode with orange flags on their bikes -- the "Positive Pedalers"). Many experienced cyclists, and many who rode their first century (100 miles in one day) on the third day of the ride.      As we cycled, we talked with folks we'd never met prior to that encounter on the road. "On your left" (the shout letting riders know that someone was passing them) may be the only human voice we'd hear for a while. But, if someone had a flat or other mechanical malfunction, there would immediately be a group who'd stop and help get that rider going again.      It was an entire society created within and for the week. We were all committed to the same overall cause, as well as the immediate goal(s):  completing the ride, both for the day, and the week. We suspended many "normal" rules of interaction, rules of separation. Pretty much NOTHING was more important than all of us reaching Los Angeles and celebrating our common achievement.      We built that alternate society that week.  Certainly, since it was AIDS LIfeCycle 4there had been several prior events, and for many riders/roadies, the 2005 ride wasn't their first.  They had begun the building of that society and I had witnessed it in the late 90's while on vacation in Santa Barbara.  I knew then that I wanted to be part of that "world"; in 2005 it happened.
      We can build an alternative world to that in which we live.  I work with students who are committed to world where religious differences are real, but that are not divisive.  They embody that belief and attract others to their events.  I would like to think that many of us are tired, tired, tired, of all of the discord and ready to move forward.  Certainly these students are.  They are building; may we all.


PS:  For more information about the AIDS LifeCycle, surf on over to: