Being wet is an inevitability of fly fishing. Fishing in general, really. Well… life, in general, really. Aside from the obvious, and expected, wetting that comes with entering the water and interacting with fish, there is precipitation in all its forms. Rain, snow, sleet, hail. Mixed with a dose of cold and a driving gust of wind and the makings of a short day on the water are literally swirling all around you. As a creature on this planet, the sensation of being wet, cold and miserable is one that we’ve all likely experienced at one time or another. While most reasonable people avoid situations that may precipitate a complete soaking, anglers, time and again, enthusiastically seek out the places and times that conjure these sensations. If you’ve had a conversation with a winter steelheader or a true tailwater junkie in-season, then you know.
Being wet is going to happen. You entered this world wet, and if you’re spending any amount of time outside, then being wet again is something I can confidently promise. If you can accept this fact, and remember to pack your Gore-tex, you’re opening yourself up to a kaleidoscope of lessons and experiences that your run-of-the-mill 21st century denizen is totally foreign to. In this coddled, velour-lined, $1.50 slice society of ours, being legitimately wet, cold and miserable is something that needs to be sought out if it’s going to be experienced at all. I’ll spare you the common gripes about ‘kids these days’, but ‘adults’ these days are not exactly having to cross mountain passes through driven snow to bring dinner home every night either. Just as a blasé burrito needs a dash of hot sauce every now and then, the shock of being uncomfortable is a refreshing return to something true. Something primeval that’s in all of us. We may get to shuck off our wet gear and waddle back to our bland burrito existences, oozing with queso and endorphins, but for a moment we were privy to a feeling that becomes rarer every year. Discomfort.
In a less philosophical sense, coping with sodden freezing conditions while fishing will make you a better angler — it most certainly did for me. Attempting to focus on the pod of risers in front of you while your frozen digits shake and judder, trying for the 10th time to thread 6x through the eye of that speck of dust that the kid at the fly shop sold you, is a frustrating exercise. It takes more than a little grit and perseverance to acknowledge that you put yourself in this situation, that you don’t necessarily want to be there anymore, and that you’re going to continue because you’re certainly going to miss 100 percent of the proverbial shots you don’t take.
These days I find myself seeking out the worst weather I can. Not as some kind of cold, masochistic exercise, but because so many of my favorite fishing experiences have happened on the most miserable of days. I’m not sure of the exact mechanism, but my angling memory is filled with images of ice-clogged guides, rain-streaked sunglasses, snow stinging my cheeks and laughter ringing out in between gusts and peals of thunder. These images far outnumber my recollection of bluebird skies and wildflowers lilting in the breeze.
Whether actively sought out or not, relish the days of moisture that the universe decides to throw your way. Tighten up the cuffs of your coat, pour another draught of coffee and wade easy in knowing that being wet is well within the natural order of things, that you will be dry again, and a little stronger for it to boot.
By Connor Murphy | @troutjockey