Having just returned from a week mostly isolated from the world in the Adirondacks, I have given considerable thought to the fish I did not catch. We got skunked on the West Branch of the AuSable, I caught what seemed to be the only brook trout in the upper East Branch of the Sacandaga, and I only caught one bass in a lake plentiful with bass and pike.
I could mention that the local fly shops told me it has been an unusual year, that the trout strangely were not feeding on hatches, which were also a little late and thin. I could say it was the weather that went from quite cool to downright hot in five days, or I could blame it on my own unfamiliarity with and inability to adapt to new streams. While all of these excuses may help me justify my inability to land fish all last week – the excuses actually diminish the true value of the experience.
For me, and for many that I know, fly fishing is about what we gain from being on the water, not what we take from it. It is about the unspoiled places where we spend our time, beautiful cascades and over-shadowing mountains, and the friends and family with whom we share the streams. Time on the water has the ability to change us, for the better, if we allow it the opportunity. While we endeavor to leave the streams and the trout as we found them, the streams will actually send us home better than they found us, if we let them. This is what we gain.