Monday, August 18, 2014

Return from Colorado and Occam's Razor

Julie and I just returned from a week in the South Park area of Colorado. My brother Chip and his wife Sandi have a house about 9200 feet above sea level, and near several top flyfishing streams. So, of course, we had to go visit :-). Actually, my main goal in going to CO was to show Julie some country she'd never seen, and to visit our family. Chip and I don't get to fish that much anymore, because he spends the best part of the season in CO. He and I flyfished three days in a row, and had the privilege of having his son Spencer, who lives in Denver, join us for the second day. The fishing was disappointing for Chip and Spencer, but I was pretty happy with our success. We caught over 30 trout the first day, fishing a stream that was only a few feet wide. The second and third days were less productive, but the fish were larger.

When Julie and I returned home, she surprised me by saying that she wanted to learn to fly fish. I was stunned, because she had told me previously that fishing wasn't important to her. But I think she finally caught the flyfishing bug by watching, and by becoming entranced by the beauty of casting. So…we left the dock yesterday morning with our companion Rosie, and headed for the sand where I proceeded to give her her first fly casting lesson. I'd thought about how I would approach the lesson beforehand, and it went really well. I can tell within a few minutes if a person has an aptitude for flyfishing, and it was immediately evident that Julie's innate capacity for mind-body connection was evident in the way that she was able to incorporate each piece of instruction into her body memory. After only a few minutes, she exhibited a clean stroke, and was shooting line. Given her obvious aptitude, I opted to take her on a wade, to see if we could get some close-in shots. Alas, we only saw sheepshead, so after a few minutes, we went back to the boat and headed west to a favorite west-side lagoon where I've had remarkable success on our last two outings. See my posting, "Stopping and Seeing."

We went to the lagoon, mainly to locate and mark an underwater obstruction that nearly sank my Stilt a couple of weeks ago, when I hit it while leaving the area with two clients aboard. But it was much too windy and the tide was too deep to see whatever it was that we hit. So I gave the area a wide berth, and stopped along the edge of some clear water, where my clients have done so well over the past month or so, and where I have landed some very big reds.

Julie didn't have her wading boots, so she couldn't wade the soft bottom; but she encouraged me to fish alone. I had very little desire to fish, but nonetheless, I grabbed my rod and waded with Rosie into the area where single casts had landed 27.5" and 30" redfish on my last two visits to the muddy lagoon.

I waded without casting, observing the water carefully and hoping to see a big trout in the secluded area. The water was clear, but the fish were clearly elsewhere. Rosie and I waded a half circle around the boat, and were ready to head back to the Stilt, when nature called. My hands were occupied when I spotted the only game fish I'd seen since leaving the boat. The redfish swam up to me, saw me (my face, of course!), and spooked. I thought it was all over, so I went back to the business at hand; but then I saw the redfish again, swimming only a few feet away. Somehow I freed my casting arm, and casted the mother's day fly ahead of the cruising red. It was my first cast of the day. The red saw the fly, and struck it with force. Somehow, I was able to set the hook, and put things to right while the red streaked off on its first run. A few minutes later, I lifted the red out of the water so Julie could touch it before releasing it.

Three consecutive visits to the same muddy lagoon, three casts, and three redfish. We went home pretty happy, mainly because Julie had been "hooked" by the joy of fly casting, but also by the Zen-like quality of hooking three fine fish with only three casts. Should I return for a fourth time, or leave the memory in place as an unmarred example of what Pablo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, refers to as elegance, or simplicity? When I heard the famous author on NPR two days ago, he spoke reverently of the concept known to mathematicians and philosophers as parsimony or elegance; that is, the bare essentials without adornment. The medieval philosopher Occam stated that nothing extraneous or unnecessary should be added to the truth. Scientists know this principle as "Occam's Razor," or the belief that the best theories and the best proofs are devoid of unnecessary steps and details. Certainly, flyfishing at its best involves an economy of movement and effort. Getting there may involve significant effort, only to require the relinquishment of effort at the upper levels of performance. 

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