Most fly anglers I know are not casual about their passion for the sport activity: it’s an obsession, or at least it becomes one after a period of time. Be it for better or worse fly fishing eventually consumes them as it becomes woven into the very fabric of their lives, and for those with OCD tendencies, channeling that intensity and restlessness into a productive* activity is paramount to maintaining sanity. To that end fly fishing calms the beast within. (* Nobody ever said fly fishing was productive)
Let’s take one particular individual for example: Rugged Eddie Bauer Man. We first met him over a year ago, HERE. The man we encountered was intense and stern; humorless. His all-business expression suggested that he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders as he dabbled in a variety of meaningless activities, seeking to squelch the fire that burned in his belly. Neither climbing the masts of sailboats, toting large cargo nets nor carrying heavy rope could provide the escape he needed from a cruel reality. These empty endeavors did not speak to him; nothing satisfied his thirst for more. When we left him last he was deep in contemplation, wondering perhaps, “What else is there?”
A year later, we caught up with Rugged Eddie Bauer Man. The first thing we noticed was that he seemed somehow…different; the powerful jaw, while still prominent, was no longer clenched intensely.
He definitely seemed more relaxed; more at peace with himself and the fast-paced world around him. The smile appeared genuine; not contrived.
No longer fiercely comptetitive, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man had become the guy who would reach out with a fingerless wool glove-clad hand and help a brother cross the street as opposed to throwing him under the bus.
He appeared, for all intents and purposes (not intensive purposes), to have become the guy who would engage you in a friendly conversation and perhaps even tell a good joke, or at least laugh at one. Warm hands, warm heart.
Rugged Eddie Bauer Man seemed to be less about work and more about play. He appeared to have embraced recreation for the pure enjoyment of it, rather than as a means of competing against and dominating others.
Sure, there were moments when Rugged Eddie Bauer Man would lapse into images of his former self, but these moments were short-lived. And cut a guy some slack—he’s not perfect. But he is obviously making a concerted effort to not take things so seriously.
Like an addict in recovery, at times Rugged Eddie Bauer Man seemed troubled by his serious past and would give pause to ponder where he had been just a year earlier. During these episodes we step back and give him space while at the same time letting him know we are there for him; rooting him on: “You can do it, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man—resist the darkness…lighten up.”
Fortunately that steely resolve which made him so intense also served to bring him back around and it wasn’t long before the muscles in his face and neck had relaxed once again. Maybe it was the new corduroy blazer that made him happy again; whatever the case may be, the lighter side won out. Rugged Eddie Bauer Man had fully embraced the notion that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown.
And he got himself a dog. Dogs are good for people. It’s been proven that man’s best friends have a calming effect, and Rugged Eddier Bauer Man’s best friend certainly brought out the best in his master. The former Rugged Eddie Bauer Man wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing a cardigan sweater. Time changes a man. Fred Rogers, rest in peace, would be proud.
So what was the cause for this transformation? Had Rugged Eddie Bauer Man taken sensitivity training? Did he have a an epiphany? Perhaps a brush with death that made him appreciate life? Or had that intensity simply been channeled productively** into an activity that tempered his fiery soul? The transformation was remarkable. One can only conclude that Rugged Eddie Bauer Man had found fly fishing.(** Again, nobody ever said fly fishing was productive)
Welcome to the club, Rugged Eddie Bauer Man. Let’s go wet a line, brother.