This morning, at 8:45am CST, I completed my goal to fish 30 consecutive days. I have to say, it didn't seem like such a big deal at first (and still doesn't just thinking about it). It was, however, more difficult and far more exhausting than I originally estimated. I'm haggered.
It has definitely taken a bit of a toll on me and my gear. I've lost at least 7 pounds. Instead of eating food on my lunch at work, I usually spent them at the fly shop replenishing equipment or on the internet searching for the next day's fishing spot. I fished sick. I fished tired. I'm almost certain I have athlete's foot from wearing wet shoes almost everyday. I've been sunburned. I've been bitten by things. I've gotten more cuts/scrapes/bruises than I can count or remember. I froze and shivered uncontrollably, and I roasted and sweated uncontrollably.
My tackle isn't in much better shape. I broke the TFO at a male ferule about 20 days in, but limped in on it as it was still fishable. I can finally send that in for replacement (I'll fish on the backup, though...). I burned through two furled leaders, one Feathercraft and one Deercliff. I miss that Deercliff. I tore my 2wt DT line (no clue how that happened). I lost an entire flybox worth of flies, little by little each day. I imagined the other flies starting to miss their comrades, noticing that not all the troops made it back after each expedition. The replacements were, superstitiously, placed directly next to older, wiser flies for education.
I saw a lot of water, but I regret not fishing a new spot each day. That would have taken, actually, an immense amount of planning. My work schedule is chaotic, so I would have had to really plan ahead. There's plenty of water, though; maybe that'll be a goal next time. ...or 60 days.
I wish I could say that over the last 30 days my casting dramatically improved, my nymphing improved, that I can now drag-free drift, that I'm a clutch rollcaster, or that anything about my skill is better at all. I don't think it is, really. I estimate that I caught between 200-300 fish, which is respectable, but not record-breaking (is there a record?). I can say better things, though. I got to live, basically, the life that makes me happy for 30 days. Each day, stepping into a literal stream of water had me stepping progressively out of some other figurative stream.
A conversation I had with Chris last night punctuated and fixed this process as being both genuine and meaningful. The more I fish as a way of life, the more derelict and pitiful a "good American" I become. Afterall, here I sit writing in a hipster coffee shop full of young, wealthy "professionals" who doubtless drove up in a car with those fancy HID headlights. My headlights haven't pointed straight in years, and I am in my fishing clothes still a little damp with the cotton from cattails coating my shoes. I don't fit in very well.
Discussing the complexities of simplicity, the coterie of dedicated radicals that Chris, Ronnie and I have become has continually stirred the waters of "what ifs." It's not that we want to abandon the weights of "successful adulthood" so we can fish all the time, it is more that fishing all the time has opened our eyes to the relative worthlessness of the life we are each supposed to be living and/or pursuing. The uninitiated call us crazy, lazy, coping, escaping or just plain stupid. Not everyone gets to have a revelation about what life is supposed to be for them; I know three guys (including myself) that have had it through fly fishing. I'm sure it happens through other means, other passions too; flies are our gateway.
I remarked during one conversation (or two) that I never thought the way I do about life or fishing the way I do now while I was baitcasting. It was still fishing, but a hectic, burdened and downright heavy sort of fishing. My main tackle box weighed in at exactly 50 pounds; my second was 20 pounds. There is a certain parallel between choosing fly fishing and choosing to leave the modern, normal, typical, popular and generally acceptable way of catching fish. I've stepped out of the stream of modern expectation and into a stream of enigmatic tradition that makes me happier. At the same time, it is a simpler, lighter and often more effective means. A real bum will exhibit a go-anywhere catch-anything attitude born primarily from the versatility-through-simplicity of the tackle. It doesn't take a poet or genius to transfer that to the rest of life.
Looking back, I can say I did "it." I fished 30 days in a row. I could say that I'll stop now, go back to being a good boy, a good homeowner and a good husband. I won't be fishing every day anymore, almost, but not every day. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere in there it clicked that fishing everyday is less about fishing everyday than it is just doing what comes naturally. I'll always fish everyday; the occasional day where I don't throw a fly can't override that.