Friday, March 8, 2002


I recently read A Flyfisher’s World by Nick Lyons. It’s a nice anthology of his magazine articles from the early ‘90’s. I recommend it. As I was reading, it occurred to me that Mr. Lyons is one of my fly fishing heroes. He has successfully blended fly-fishing, writing, and publishing into a wonderful career. Of course this career has not been without its frustrations and compromises. In fact, those very frustrations and compromises are at the heart of many of Mr. Lyons’ stories.

This realization about heroes got me to thinking about other fly fishers who are heroes to me. There is a retired gentleman and former club president here by the name of Hugh who pretty much gave me my start with my local club (MN Fly Fishers). Two other former club presidents named Greg and Brian are the standards by which I measure my casting (and surely I fall far short). My good buddy and Best Man Lew taught me to fish with nymphs and thereby multiplied the number of fish I catch several-fold.

Ask another friend of mine Bob about the relative merits of various dog breeds, or my good friend Bill about the finer points of wading in ranch country, or retired writer Jack about any of a thousand things in the heritage of fly-fishing. All three carry fabulous knowledge and great good humor to liven a western fishing trip. A woman I know named Ellen ties the most beautiful Blue Winged Olives I’ve ever seen. I catch fish with flies I’ve tied myself because she taught me how to tie them. I shall be her student always.

Now probably none of these people would think of themselves as heroes. If asked, they’d just say they were trying to pass on a little bit of knowledge here and there, helping some folks along the way, that sort of thing. They’d probably be a little self-conscious to know I was mentioning them here but I feel fortunate indeed to count them all as friends. I try to give back a small measure of what they’ve given me – a few flies, a kind word, or help with a fouled line. But what can you give back to a Nick Lyons or a Lefty Kreh or a Gary Borger? Yes, we might run across these folks somewhere. (In fact, Brian ran into Lefty Kreh on Christmas Island once and has been calling himself “Righty” ever since.) If we ever do see these folks, we might say a quick, half-embarrassed “Thanks,” but can we count on that? I think not. I decided the way I can say “Thank You” to these folks is by the concept of paying forward. I think that’s what they’d want, too.

It works like this. Watch these people. Emulate the ones you admire. That’s what heroes are for. Do what you can to do what they do, then put your own stamp on it. Share the knowledge you gain by doing so. Show a son, a daughter, a spouse or friend a new fly, a cast or a technique. Learn all you can about whatever interests you, whether it’s streamside bugs, fly line tapers, rod materials, flyfishing literature, or a new place to buy outdoor gear. Then pass it along – pay it forward. Be a quiet, half-self-conscious hero to the next generation.

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