“I guess I have to say a lot of fishing we do is a little promiscuous, which, as everyone knows can be a little dangerous but nonetheless has its charms.”
– John Gierach, Standing in a River Waving a Stick.
Although the reasons we fish are as numerous and diverse as our community of anglers, there are 2 distinct categories of anglers:
- Anglers who are happy and/or content with their home waters and fish them well.
- Anglers who have an insatiable urge to see what else is out there.
As someone who's moved homes and changed jobs at least 12 times since graduating high school, I fall into the latter category and it can be a real drag sometimes.
It must be pretty nice to NOT have a powerful lust for new water…
Or is it?
What follows is some insight into the world of us anglers with wanderlust – it’s either a cry for help or an attempt to rub it in the other camp’s face – I can’t decide.
We maintain subscriptions (electronic and paper) to more than a few fly fishing magazines and newsletters, as well as a shelf full of books on the subject.
This keeps us informed about what’s going on in the world, all the while contributing to a steadily growing bucket list of waters we have to fish. This list that never gets shorter somehow incites excitement and anxiety in us at the same time.
Every introduction to new water is a roller coaster of emotions. “Wow! Look at this place. It’s crazy!” Followed by, “Damn! How am I going to fit this in my schedule?” Or, “Just when I thought I had it all mapped out…”
We keep a stack of dog-eared atlases and gazetteers near our desks with little sticky notes protruding from the pages to mark places we've been.
These serve as monuments to our accomplishments and as trophies to show off the state of being “well-fished.”
They're also constant reminders that we only explored a couple of those pages. We know of a few places we missed when we were there, and with a little more searching we're positive there are some gems that could change our perspective on things.
Plus, that stack can always get a little higher with some careful planning.
Depending on how deep the sickness/passion goes, the more technically inclined of us maintain maps on Google that serve the same purpose as the atlases. Each of those little red pins reflects a great story that brings back images, smells, conversations, and those random lines from songs that get ingrained in our heads on the trip.
However, once we look at a map in Google, especially in terrain view, we see every blue line and dark green spot without a pin as another place requiring thorough exploration.
Some of us maintain diaries or logbooks, both electronic or on paper, that capture our exploits – rivers, states, provinces, species of fish, times of year, etc., just to keep it all straight in our heads.
Every time we look at that list, one of our eyes starts twitching or a leg gets restless with the thought, “Yeah, 151 rivers is a lot of rivers but it isn’t an even number."
"I gotta hit 152.”
When we finally stop dreaming and actually go on a trip, there are the emotions that run through us as we travel to new water – a lot of excitement, a little anxiety (what are we forgetting?), and the problem of sleeplessness the night before, much like that of a kid on Christmas Eve.
There's the chaos at the airport and/or the long drives fueled by anticipation and caffeine.
When we finally get there, the walk up to new water is similar to approaching a potential mate – we’re undeniably curious, cautiously confident yet nervous, and hoping rejection isn't in the cards.
It's here where all our research, all our experience, all our instincts are put to the test.
When it pays off, lines comes tight and those first fish come to hand – it's like that Foreigner song (be the first one to message us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of this classic and win some Brookdog Fishing Co. swag).
When it doesn't pay off, we walk away momentarily despondent, a little smarter, and pissed enough to vent by the fire over booze that night making plans to step our game up tomorrow.
You decide if this is passion, sickness, or a bit of both. I don’t know if answering it is even important.
Besides, I just got a new magazine in the mail, some tantalizing fish porn junk email to review, and a new state to plan for…
Are you an angler with wanderlust?
Share this article with friends on social media!
About Ryan Shea:
Ryan is a fly fishing guide and co-owner at Brookdog Fishing Company in Western New York. As a logistician and project manager in the US Marine Corps, he served his country on multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and executed nearly a dozen moves throughout the country – fishing where and when he could (but mostly working his ass off) along the way. During this time, he formed a life goal of catching a fish on a fly in all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces (the bucket list keeps growing though), and he is nearly halfway there. After spending more than half his life on the move, the idea of “home waters” started to sound appealing. With a desire to grow roots, provide stability for his family, connect with community, and teach others the joys of fishing and importance of preserving our natural resources, Ryan got together with his friend Nate and started Brookdog Fishing Company back where it all began – Western New York. Follow them on Instagram (@brookdogfly) and Facebook.