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.



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