Sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
Attributed to many.

Those of us who relentlessly pursue large trout with a dry fly are hopeless addicts. If we weren’t, we’d take up easy chores like curing cancer, ending world poverty, or explaining how long forever is. The essence of our addiction is uncomplicated:

When we see a good trout rising, we don’t simply want to catch it. We believe that we have to catch it.

But if we act on our urge to be the first to cast to every trout we see, we’ll be bound to fish alone most of the time, and—regrettably—miss out on the delightful companionship of a good fishing buddy. To avoid this fate, many of us acquire and hone a skill that was first proposed and perfected by politicians. When it comes to negotiating the first cast to a good fish, we learn to fake sincerity.

StrohWhen it comes to nearly everything else, though, a good fishing buddy rarely fakes sincerity. My friend Dave, for instance, always sinks a couple beers in a small feeder creek for us to drink on our walk out from the river. His generousity with beer is as sincere as his concern that a less sincere fisherman might pilfer a can, so Dave drinks Stroh’s, and—although he won’t admit it—I am convinced he does it to reduce the odds that someone will steal his beer. His son Brian drinks Hamm’s for the same reason.

During a recent hike into one of our favorite spots, Dave said he hadn’t fished this year. Not once. I’d already been out a couple dozen times, so when the first fish rose I “sincerely suggested that Dave catch it, and he did. All eight inches. When another fish rose he caught that one too. Sixteen total inches of fish on two casts seemed pretty good to me, but, rather than risk twenty-four inches on three casts, Dave retreated to the bank and ignited a stinky cigar to fend off the mosquitoes.

Dave and I were chatting about past outings and fondly recalling a large fish he had hooked last year in this very spot when another fish rose tight against the upstream bank. Its tiny body emerged from the water each time it rose for a fly, and we pegged it as a seven- or eight-inch fish.

“Your turn,” Dave said.

Fish On

Why would a fisherman who has spent thousands of dollars on rods, reels, clothing and flies use that equipment to cast for such a small fish? For the same reason, I suppose, that Wile E. Coyote spent thousands of dollars on Acme equipment to chase The Roadrunner, rather than simply spending a few dollars to buy some food. “I think you’re missing the point here,” Cliff Clavin once explained to the gang at Cheers, “It’s not that Wile E. Coyote wants to eat necessarily, or that he wants to eat a roadrunner. What he wants is to eat that particular roadrunner.”

Much like the hapless coyote, I didn’t decide that I wanted to catch a small fish. I decided that I wanted to catch that particular small fish. So I slowly worked into position while Dave sat in the grass and smoked his cigar. Just before I made my first cast, though, Dave said that what we thought was the entire body of a seven-inch fish might, instead, be the nose of a much, much larger fish. It was.

Twenty inches of fish on one cast.

“Dave,” I said after I landed and released the fish over a hundred feet downstream, “this should have been your fish. I wish you would have caught it.”

“No, Tim, I’m glad you got that one.”

I’m sure we both sounded sincere.

Large Brown Trout


Howard LevettJune 18, 2016 - 2:53 pm

Once again your way with words (suitably and beautifully illustrated as well) has just absolutely stunned me. I had one of those days with a friend yesterday and you described it perfectly. Thanks Tim.

Tim SchulzJune 19, 2016 - 12:57 pm

Thanks Howard. I’m happy that you enjoyed the essay, and I’m more happy that you had one of those days with a friend. Best wishes.

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