Lisa TE Sonne ventured to New Mexico, where she never expected to find herself hooked on fly fishing.
Trout fishing has seduced less susceptible people than me. I had no life ambition to be hooked on hooks, but how many times do you get a chance to go out with an author and fourth-generation expert fly fisherman? And do it the day after he was coaching Tommy Lee Jones on the right angles for angling? And do it in a hidden area nicknamed the “holy waters” of Northern New Mexico?
I donned waders and listened to Van Beacham (aka the Solitary Angler) in the sub-freezing crispy air of a late fall morning as he shared a major insider’s tip. After his thousands of hours of experience, the secret is: “less is more.” Apparently you don’t need to have the perfect tennis forehand or a baseball pitcher’s arm to arc the line out. It seems an almost exquisite economy of motion is more effective. And like most things in life, “timing is all.”
Even practicing on an open patch in the forest was getting to me. Something about the sound, the line catching a little light, the humbleness of screwing up, and that little warmth within when you got it close to right.
Van found a good pocket for me in the stream, and we could actually see some brown trout. They seemed to respect him, but when he went upstream to help another student, I think this one fish actually mocked me. It’s hard to say since they don’t have the most expressive faces. Maybe it was the way it got closer to me and my unconscious exuberance went from focusing on “less” to wanting “more,” which resulted in my line getting caught on some weedy, willowy-looking tall growth behind me.
I attempted to gracefully untangle, and peacefully cast again with less motion. I managed to actually get the fly on the line to delicately land in front of one fish, but he but must have already had breakfast. He wasn’t the least bit interested.
Just standing in the middle of a stream is its own pleasure, water forging around me as I watched the morning light play on the big screen of the rock walls. The hands of time seemed to like making art in New Mexico, as the geology looks like beguiling sculptures. Add that to the tall forest flanking a bank, and the smells of morning hatching with the sounds of the sinewy stream.
I was a bit lost in my own musings when I was startled, then amused, at a muskrat passing by. Ah, yes, I was here to fish. I reeled in and cast out again, or so I thought. The fly never flew in front of me. The hook was clearly caught on something behind me again. I reeled in and it didn’t take long to realize that with the help of the wind, I had hooked the back of my own jacket.
Yes, in the vertical splendor of the canyon, in the eternity of the stream’s life force, I was just a little breathing twig, but I caught myself.
I was seemingly alone in vastness, but feeling the delicious solitude of being connected to all that is grander. Connected without electronics and satellites. Communing without words or text. No walls or wallets or clocks. Just some time with little me in big beauty. And this, I think is why fly-fishing is so seductive.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
I get the hardwired excitement of the hunt and the challenge of a new skill–that satisfying sweet spot sound when you have the line whipping in just the right serpentine designs, wrist and pole a metronome for mastery. And for some there is the triumph or glory of pulling a squiggling fish from the stream.
When human time intruded, and the class ended and we all re-grouped, one guy could talk about the eight-inch beauty that he caught and released, and a fellow angler-in-training relived his near misses. I sat quietly with a grin, knowing that I had the biggest catch of the day, me. And that I released a lot of worry. And took home some wonder.
Getting There: Our pro doesn’t like to reveal all his specific secret spots, but it is in Northern New Mexico in the Angel Fire area, and the Angel Fire Resort http://www.angelfireresort.com/) can happily make arrangements. Check out Van Beacham’s website at TheSolitaryAngler.com for more information.
Photo: Lisa TE Sonne