On Fly Fishing and Writing

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By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner

While home in Montana for a visit, I went fly fishing a few times. I love to fly fish. Being on the river brings me tremendous peace and even if I do not catch a fish, watching nature around me is reward enough. This year, as I was standing knee deep in rippling water, I realized how much fishing has taught me about writing.

1. I have learned that with both writing and fly fishing, a great amount of patience is required. As I fish, I know that I am fortunate to induce a fish to strike while I am out on the river. With writing, I have learned that I must set aside my work in progress, give it a few months to rest, before I return to it with fresh eyes so that I can edit it more clearly. Flaws in the story line or prose that were not evident before I set it aside become clear and the editing is easier. When I first started writing, I remember reading the advice to set aside my work for a period of time. That seemed impossible. I was eager to share my work, naively confident I did not need more editing. But with time comes patience and a better understanding of craft. My writing and work in progress have only improved due to my patience.

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2. As with fly fishing, writing takes a lot of practice. Learning how to cast well and learning how to choose the correct fly takes time and a tremendous amount of repetition and practice. The more I write, the more I have learned the craft and the less editing I need to do. I look back on the heavy editing I did with my first book and I realize how far I have come. As with anything, the more I continue to write (or fish), the better I become.

3. Unless it is very early or late in the season, I believe that real men (and women) don’t wear waders. I don a thin pair of pants I do not care if I get wet, a pair of Keens or Teva’s and wade into the river, often up to mid thigh. For me, waders impede my ability to feel like I am a part of the environment. There is a sensual delight in wading in rushing river waters and getting wet. For me it is an integral part of fishing. I feel more in tune with nature and I feel like I have had an authentic experience. With writing, this means immersing myself in the experience. Taking a blacksmithing class and learning what it feels like to strike hard pieces of iron and forging them into something beautiful. Or taking a mining tour, going down a mining shaft, smelling the dank air, and envisioning the hours in near absolute darkness. I am the type of writer who needs hands-on-experience, who cannot surmise all that is needed to describe and envision my character’s lives by reading descriptions in a book. I need to immerse myself as much as possible in the experiences they had in 1900.

4. When I fly fish, I make some dreadful casts. Sometimes I laugh at myself because they are truly awful, other times I look around, hoping my brother or friend was not paying attention to see my cast. Not every cast can be pretty or go exactly where I want it to go. However, I know that I can recast and, even if it takes a few tries, I will eventually reach the riffle I want. In writing, not every word is perfect, especially in the first draft. I have learned that the first draft is to capture my ideas as my muse speaks to me. If I can not think of a word at that moment, I leave an X, an indication to myself that a perfect word exists, but I don’t know what it is at that time and I do not want to spend that moment searching for it. I did not like editing at first, but now I have grown to like it. I enjoy watching my story change and grow and become more polished.

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5. As I stand in the river, watching my fly float down the current, I love observing nature. I love studying the new hatches of flies that come out, hoping that the fly I have tied on is similar to the ones I see flying around me. I love watching the osprey fly overhead or hearing the kingfisher give it’s rattling call before it swoops by. I become more observant. Writing has also made me more observant. I now notice the different types of architecture. When I enter rooms I look all around to see if there is period detailing such as a beautiful ceiling or an oak bar. I study people: how they walk, talk, and interact with each other. I am fascinated by the world around me.

Fishing brings me peace, centers me, allows me to breathe deeply and makes the world outside of the river and canyon fade away. I forget my worries as the warm breeze soughs through the trees, the pine scented wind caressing me as it journeys down the canyon. Writing makes my soul sing, and as I sit immersed in a world I have created, I realize it is like fishing for me. My concerns and doubts disappear and I am at peace as though I were thigh deep in river water.

I hope that you, too, have such joy in whatever makes your soul sing.

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10 thoughts on “On Fly Fishing and Writing

  1. I find writing far less enjoyable than fly-fishing. But, the opposite is true when I finish a piece. It’s like my flower beds. People ask me all the time if I love gardening. I can’t stand it. But I love having flowers.

    Regarding #4, one of my favorite old saws is, “It’s not your cast, it’s what you do with it.” True dat.

  2. To share the link there is. Facebook share button on your site at the bottom of each post.
    .

    Then you can choose to post on your timeline.
    Or you can copy the URL of the post from Safari and paste in the Facebook post. Hope that helps.
    Xoxo

    -njf

    Sent from my iPhone

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