Monday, July 8, 2013

The Ballet

Looks Easy
takes years of practice
Over 50 years combined experience in action:
not a word exchanged.

.. We've had the opportunity to float-fish the lowland Madison River quite a few times over the last 20 years or so. For us it's a different sort of fishing: one that's captivating and delicious in unique ways each and every time.
Catching Up
.. On rare occasions we've been privileged to float with a couple of outfitter/guides in the same boat.
.. These folks work hard and seldom get to fish with each other. Rare is the opportunity to absorb it all.
.. Bless their hearts: their tolerance is saint-like. We get to catch fish, (that's given,) but more than that we  get to observe genuine professional acumen in action.
Ready To Go
.. It's the sort of expertise that looks natural. It looks lazy and gentle and familiar. It seems effortless and nonchalant It's none of the above.
.. The captain at the oars has many jobs that must be accomplished - all at once, (not counting getting the boat and gear rigged and ready for the fishers and the river.)
.. They must safely pilot the boat through the water: mindful always, of course, of passenger safety, of boat safety, and catching opportunities.
.. They must present the angler with the best opportunity to catch fish at every wave and ripple, riffle and boulder, slick and pocket, that crosses their expertly chosen course.
.. They must watch both the angler's casts and floating flies as they manuever the boat to advantageous positions: keeping in mind the skill level and expectations of the fisher. At this point in the performance the captain is the stage manager and participant.
Full Participation
.. Never mind the conversation about the river, it's fish, and history of the region. Never mind the instructions, suggestions, observations and anticipations of the next prime opportunity. Never mind fly selection, hatch variability, or tangles and re-rigging.
.. Conversation is part of the performance but secondary to the execution. Just row the boat like it was as easy as it looks,
.. The angler must be mindful of the water within casting range. The boat should not be a concern. The oars are only a slight impediment - they are there - so avoid them.
.. Fish close, that's the captains job. Present well: that's the anglers job. Watch the fly. Watch the bobber. Watch both bobbers. Mend the line. Take up line. Shake out line. Keep the fly in the zone.
.. Once a fish is hooked, the ballet continues and quickens, (in spirit if not tempo,).
.. Sometimes it is pretty, sometimes it is ugly, occasionally it is very beautiful. The fish has an agenda! The fisher has a competing agenda.
.. At this point the captain is the choreographer that brings the dance to an end in the most propitious and successful end possible under the given circumstances.
Return To Sender
.. Slow the boat? Turn the boat? Dodge the Boulder? Ride over the rock? Move to shallow? Move to shore? Move to deep? Follow the fish? Pull the fish? Drop the anchor? Play the fish?
.. Questions by the score and by the second arise continuously: verbally or silently.
.. Answers beget decisions and decisions beget actions that lead to the end of the dance.
.. As the fish becomes tired and is brought to boat there is yet, a final act to the resolution of the dance. Land the fish and, (usually,) release the fish, (or infrequently, kill it and keep it for dinner.)
Whatever It Takes
.. Park the boat? Lengthen the anchor line? Shorten it? Starboard side? Port side? Shallow net? Deep net? Bounce the fish? Pump the fish? Side pull? Pull up? Get out of the boat? Stay in the boat? Hold the boat? Push the boat?
.. The captain and the fisher must be in synch. Find and hook and land the fish!
.. It's the part of the dance that matters most to catchers. It matters to the captain if it matters to the fisher.
.. When the expertise and experience of a pair of professional fishers come together in the dance it is a ballet. It's a ballet where the story is familiar: the characters are known. It's the performance that becomes central; and beautiful it is!
.. Very few words, (if any,) blemish the plashing of water or singing of the line. Staccato clicks of the drag punctuate the chorus and the breeze becomes an unseen player in the story.
.. We have been blessed on all too infrequent occasions to watch this ballet. The ballet has different nuances. The story is embellished or twisted as the situation demands. The whole of it is of a single theme. The parts of it are unique and singularly beautiful.
.. It sends us back to our home waters with an appreciation of the broad depth of our pastime and the beautiful performances of the truly expert.
Not A Tango:  Still It Takes Two.