Is this real? Affluenza and the sport of fly-fishing.

The other day I was on a piece of river with a fellow fly-fisherman, and with my camera around my neck as usual.
The going was really tough. We caught nothing on this stretch (again!). Apart from catching nothing, the stream was full of logs and trees and sticks, from a government tree clearing initiative gone wrong. We scrambled under fallen trunks, slipped down eroding muddy banks, got scratched by invasive American bramble. Our socks were full of black-jack seeds. The rocks were covered (in places)  in fine layers of silt from erosion upstream.
This doesn’t sound pretty does it!
OK, so here’s the picture:
Umgeni river (1 of 1)-3
Looks good doesn’t it?

Like a magazine cover.
And herein lies the point I want to make today: We live in a world in which we aspire to live a life as depicted on magazine covers. We carry a mental picture of clean vehicles, sparkling water, fat Trout, and a bandanna around our necks that looks oh-so-slick in the pictures. We dream of a big 4 X 4 pickup, a perfect fly-vest and backpack, clean air, and a babbling brook. We picture arriving at the stream to see rising fish, we identify the insect, we imitate it, and we catch fish. We get perfect photos of the beautiful Trout at the first press of the shutter, and within seconds we return these fish safely to the water, just like it says to do in the books.
And why shouldn’t we believe that! Take a look on facebook:  every few seconds, perfect pictures are uploaded: Trout flies tied to perfection; Gleaming silver fish; Big grins; colour coded tackle.
Then we head out on the week-end, just as the weather turns perfectly foul, and get stuck on the way in,  in our cars, catch several sticks, maybe one Trout, rip the mesh on our net on a bramble bush, and our flies come unwound.
Facebook pictures…………………………….our week-end.
Which one is real?
And when we can’t create the magazine cover day in real life, how do we react?
Let me postulate:  We look for better tackle. We try to get onto better water, where catch rates are better than where we went. We buy a new fly vest. We buy a new net. We buy more flies, or fly tying stuff. We abandon what could be classed as a “second rate” river, and rush off to the easier, prettier places. We work hard (and spend hard) to create the magazine cover life.
A psychologist friend of mine calls it “affluenza”.
I take the prettiest pictures I can, and post them here on my blog. I see the romance and wonder in every day on the water, and I capture it in prose, here on these pages. So do others like me.
Guess what:  we visit the same places that you do. We have the same number of blank days. We throw out thirty photos of reality for every one that we post on the website, or print in the book.
So please don’t be disillusioned with your fishing experience here in dry dusty South Africa or elsewhere. Keep going out there, to the imperfect waters, and falling in the mud. Every now and then you will have a champagne day, that IS like a magazine cover experience. Enjoy it, but be prepared to fall in the mud again next time. And read that magazine, and this blog, with the pinch of salt that you need to stay sane in this world of instant gratification.


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8 Responses

  1. That’s right, the mag cover days are few and far between, there’s a whole lot of slip and stumble and lousy photographs between. Although we may live for the pretty and romantic, they’d be nothing without the framework of the dark and thorny, fishless days.

  2. So true. It is in those fowl weathered days that we remember and admire the perfect fishing days. For in those days ( snowy ,rainy and windy days ) the reward of just one catch in 8 hours , is so much greater than the perfect 20 catch day !
    Magazine covers ( fly fishing dvd’s ) equals the food photo’s on a menu.

  3. So true. Every so often, I think to myself that I should carry a real camera–something other than my crap smart phone. I don’t think it’s going to happen though. I go to the stream to fish.

    1. I will admit that the camera is one more thing to carry and worry about, but photography can go well with fly-fishing for those of us who frame a shot in every view. There is a place for days of just plain fishing, those same shots committed to the privacy of ones own memory alone.

  4. Perfect moments can make a day. And, collections of them make up our lives. Like you, I too pack a camera. More often than not I find myself pulling it out of its case while trying to capture that perfect moment that sums up the day. That perfect moment. Is it a grand illusion? It certainly makes up for all of the down time and less than perfect moments. It gives one a reason to case the camera and continue with the days fishing.

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