Because it’s Awesome by McKenna Hulslander
Because it’s Awesome.
I was just like most every college student ever. I would study as little as possible, and spend most of my time out with friends. I can remember my older brother teaching the importance of scheduling my week so I didn’t have to spend my weekends trapped inside. But there I was on a Sunday afternoon fixing the red highlights on my paper. I was attempting to explain why I thought fly fishing was the best thing in the world. I was frustrated and unable to express to my professor, who resented me for even picking the topic, why I’d rather spend my evenings chasing trout than attend her seminar in the library. I was on my last edit with shoes already on and keys in hand trying to answer her bolded red letters that asked “but why is fly fishing important to you?” I remember typing out because it’s awesome knowing it wasn’t going to meet the requirement of a proficient paper and that I’d have to tackle it when I got back. Maybe as a freshman I wasn’t mature enough to think on the question long enough, or too focused on getting out the door to take time to thoroughly answer the question. But either way, despite graduating, I’d like to go back and change my answer.
I was fourteen the first time I attempted to fill my dads neoprene waders. I could barely hear him yelling at me over the loud sound of the water I was standing in. I’d like to think my family can do most things we put our mind to, but fly fishing charades is not one of them. He kept pointing to the massive rock on the far side of the river where a trout would rise ever so often. I caught a glimpse of a tail and the sound of a world unknown at work. I was the one with the fly rod in hand and a fly at the end of my line, but between me and that trout, it seemed the roles were reversed. I was hooked, immediately mesmerized by a world I had only just met. I had lost my fly hours ago and had no chance at reeling in the spotted pink belly cutthroat I knew was in there, but it didn’t matter. I’d be back next weekend, and the weekend after that. It would take until the next summer until I would master the basics of tying on the proper leader and twisting my tippet into a strong knot, but even my failures brought a feeling I couldn’t explain. I’d learned curiosity was my greatest asset and if I was willing to scrape my knees to get to the next corner I might find a place no one had been.
That first summer dad would bring me home magazines that would consume me for the rest of the night. I can remember flipping through the pages to learn about places I wanted to fish. On one page was a painting of an old man in a river with his cast stretching long behind him. He didn’t seem out of place, almost as if the beauty of the painting needed him within its brushstrokes. Instead of trying to take a piece of the river, it was more like he found his place in it. I was unsure how something as simple as fishing could be so fulfilling. I began to understand that fly fishing, to those who understand, captures as much elegance and grace, as fish.
It would take me sometime before I would return to that corner of the river confident in my cast and the fly on my line. But before I knew it, that same girl was standing on the same corner, holding the same rod, opening the same fly box, but everything had changed. Four years had flown by and I was a month away from leaving for college. The flies staring back at me didn’t instill the same confusion, and instead I was greeted with familiarity. I tied the fly exactly like I had practiced at the kitchen table. The same rock peered at me on the far side of the river like it had so many times before, but this time it didn’t seem as far, and the river seemed at peace. My cast landed just above the rock and effortlessly floated down to find itself in the calm next to the wild river that surrounded it. I knew it, I knew I had him. The splash of his tail brought me right back, except this time I found myself joining the picture that had come to life. I was mesmerized not just by his spots, or the blue that shone behind his eye, but the whole encounter; The painting had come to life and I found myself inside the frame.
We connect with a world with a completely different perspective, grounded in appreciation. Fly fishing challenges our patience and our pride. It’s not a matter of athleticism, nor can it be entirely captured on paper. It is my true belief the best fly anglers excel not only because of their skill and knowledge but their perspective, and that perspective is sometimes hard to find. We view it as a connection, a rhythm, and an art. It’s for the people who have love and appreciation without complete understanding; that we would be willing to meet the world below the water’s surface without the comforts of ours. When you reach such a perspective you realize the scary and uncomfortable parts create an even deeper love. The goal is not merely catching fish, but to simply partake. Few things in life give you the opportunity to hold the past, present and future in your hands, and not every angler will experience this power. But to some patient anglers, fly fishing is the vehicle for which we travel through time. In those moments on that water, I can feel my past and the present merge into one, and if I was lucky my future would be there too.My original answer isn’t wrong: fly fishing is awesome. Fly fishing gave me Sunday afternoons with dad. It gave my grandfather someone to pass down stories and old fly rods to. It gave my brother a reason to bring his sister. It gave my mom a story to hear when I got home. It gave me stars to stare at and mountains to climb. It gave me more than I could ever possibly capture on paper. It gave me a framed picture that sits on my desk that isn’t confined to a single date but is alive, almost as if a piece of me will always be standing in that river. It is a reminder of a world that is, well, awesome.