The same thing happens to me every winter. Thankfully in PA, Muskie season never goes out. When the weather turns cold, the only obstacle that stands between me and fishing for that sought after “fish of 10,000 casts” is not knowing from one weekend to next, what the river is going to be like. The anticipation kills me. That’s why as soon as the first 32 degree day hits, I start praying for Spring and pleading with Mother Nature for sunshine and warmth.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid of getting cold. But the bite picks up with the water temperature. The fish of 10,000 casts is more like the fish of 50,000 casts in the winter time! I’m out there in the cold and frigid weather, for sure. But I sure like it when the weather warms up and the odds start tilting in my favor!
This year, however, is a little different. As the days are starting to get a little longer and consistently getting a little warmer...I’m getting more and more anxious. Not the kind of anxiety of not knowing if I’ll be able to fish from one weekend to the next, but the kind of anxiety of knowing that I WILL be able to fish. Sounds kinda funny. Especially coming from my mouth. But I’m embedding on a journey, a change if you will….I’m going to be getting out of my COMFORT ZONE.
When I stand holding my rod straight up beside me, it towers over me. Over 8 foot long, heavy power and fast action. My beast of a bait caster that has yet to let me down can hold high test line, gives me the needed ability to throw my wide variety of large, and usually heavy baits effortlessly and smoothly. Don’t forget my leader…At 100 plus lbs, those toothy fish aren’t biting through. This is my gear. The stuff that I use every single time I’m out. It’s what I have grown to know, to love and to perfect over the years. It’s what I’m comfortable using. My COMFORT ZONE….Until now.
I always watched fly fisherman (and women) with awe. Their casts and motions seem so graceful, effortless and yes...I’m even going to say beautiful. When I think about fly fishing, words like grace, rhythm and calmness immediately come to mind. Fly fishing is something I could never do. I’m none of these things. I trip over rocks, am bird nest prone and I have the amazing ability to snag where there shouldn’t even be anything to get caught up on.
I am determined to learn. I want to share my journey with you. How determined you might ask? I was in a Musky tourney last summer. I was casting into a swimming hole in the lake. In typical Cyndi Hartline fashion…..I find the only piece of burlap on the bottom of the lake that somehow made its way through the sand and rocks on the bottom and on to the most expensive lure I own. My stubbornness of not wanting to cut my line and lose my lure caused the boat to bottom out into the soft sand. I got us so stuck that we had to call a couple friends who were fishing the same tourney to come and help get us out.
Of course, I did eventually get my lure back. It only took me jumping overboard and wading into it, hoping that the water didn’t go over my boots. There was still 5 hours left to fish and the last thing I wanted was cold feet and squishy boots. The hooks were so entwined into the burlap that I had to actually cut it free with a pair of scissor.
This is one of those memories that I’ll never forget…and makes me wonder…how someone could like that EVER fly fish. I’m like the complete opposite of the “kind of person that fly fishes”. But what if that’s just it? What if it isn't about having the most graceful, flawless casts? What if it’s now about the eloquence? Maybe it’s something more.
What if it’s actually about creating those kinds memories that you can look back on, whether it’s about the very first fish you caught on the fly, or the places fly fishing takes you? Maybe it’s more about the comradery of the sport, the inherent challenge that you’re actually mastering the most challenging way to catch a fish. Maybe it’s about the rhythm, the concentration, and the joy that comes from a deep connection with the environment and an immersion in nature.
Fly Fishing for sure has had a sense of elitism about it. I’ve had fishing buddies tell me “you’d have to be an idiot to get caught up in it”. Fishing is about catching fish, however you can. I just think there’s something more.
I’ve got my bait caster, and I’m soaking wet, scared all the fish and have an had epic snag that you have no idea how you’re going to get out? That’s exactly it. That’s exactly why I decided to live a little and learn something new. This why I’m getting anxious about the days getting longer and the warmer days ahead. Anxiously and excited to be exact...to put down my gear, my 6 inch lures, pick up my never been touched fly rod and cast OUT of my COMFORT ZONE.
I’m so proud to be a part of the RiverBum family. One of their goals is to help bring more people into the sport of fly fishing. They have completely discarded the old aristocratic and elitist notion of the sport. They encourage all folks including gear fishers, women and children to cast a fly rod. For them, it’s less about fly fishing, and more about a connection to the outdoors.
This is going to be a journey. A journey I’d love to share with you. I’m going to catch snags, I’m going to hook trees behind me, and for sure I’m going to catch the only snag in the pool. Please follow along with me as I share my trials and tribulations with you….the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And that’s the thing about getting out of your COMFORT ZONE. You’re never going to learn anything, you’re never going to improve yourself, you’re never going to experience all life has to offer you if you stay in your COMFORT ZONE.
Just maybe, UNCOMFORTABLE is the key to ever increasing learning and happiness.