"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
Our personal paths take us each forward on the journey of life… Along the way there are steppingstones, potholes, sunny meadows, gurgling steams, bridges and yes, paths that meander though dark forests.
I like to think that I am on a path that will teach me, help me grow and live my life fully. Those dark places that we must travel through can be daunting at times, but we can and must push through. We will undoubtedly find ourselves straying from our path for any number of reasons. Sometimes out of pure distraction and sometimes out of the life’s unseen circumstances. In order to get to where we want to be going, we really do need to make a map and to occasionally check our compass to be sure that we are on course.
My path this summer has had a couple of bumps and potholes that I have had to endure. Continuing the metaphor, I think I am guilty of running too fast. In the last two months I have injured myself twice in ways that have prevented me from doing the practice that makes me most happy. Fishing.
At the end of June, I sliced my thumb wide open taking the lid off a cracked jar. The jar imploded and I nicked a tendon in the process. This required a surgery and put me out of function for work and of course fishing too for several weeks. I was devastated by the injury and angry that I had made such a silly mistake of not paying attention to what I was doing. The physics of the situation were right there in front of me and I ignored it. The injury cost me more than a little income to say the least and put me in a pretty foul mood for weeks on end. To a bittersweet salvation, my wife pulled me up into the quiet of the mountains where I could console myself that the rivers were all mostly blown out anyhow. I eventually settled into the situation and was able to spend some quality time with my wife and son.
"It is what we do after we fall that counts."
I used the down time to do a little journal writing and, in what seems like a short time now, healed up fast through the month of July. Soon I was back on the water in enough time to catch the post run-off season. I explored some new areas and visited some old holes that welcomed me back with great fish and great moments. I also had a great time at the Tenkara Summit in Boulder. Spent time with community and friends. It was nice. My thumb still hurts a tiny bit to the touch and I am working on physical therapy exercises. I might have lost only a minor amount of flexibility in that thumb joint. I was feeling pretty good about being back in the swing of things again.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago…
Well, I hit another physical setback. It is difficult to explain what happened so I will just say it as simply as possible. I stood up too quickly, got a head rush and my legs buckled out from under me. I fell hard in a twisted ankle sort of way and slapped my left foot onto the hardwood floor of my office. The force was enough to give me a bad ankle sprain but worse, a broken left foot. I now am in a “boot” and needing to be very careful with the injury.
Yes, this is depressing. Today though I had a little moment of clarity as I sat drinking a cup of coffee on the back-porch sky chair. I looked out and saw a sunflower and found the quiet cool morning to be soothing. I caught myself slowing down and just being in the moment. I also saw recognized that I was running down the path too fast again and as a result was tripping and falling.
We can become distracted in our lives by the supposedly “important stuff” that seems to pile itself upon us. If you run with too much stuff, you will in time take a spill. What is important is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and think a bit about the path again, decide what we are doing and where we want to be going. I am hoping that I don’t have to do injuries in threes this summer and that I will be back to fishing before the prime fall season is over.
Standing outside of our issues is sometimes the best way to get direction. We can also learn by looking at others on their respective paths. People close to us sometimes find themselves walking that dark forest corridor. We know that sometimes they must go this path alone so that they can come out on the other side. What I think is important is that we should shed light for them and give them tools when we can so they can also make it though those times of darkness.
For each of us it is important to have our feet planted firmly on our path. It can be laid out much like a map. This can be figurative or as a tangible written plan. Writing your life plan and perspective is a good way to understand not just where you or where you want to be but may also show you the best route to get there. Using the practice of following a compass and checking in on ourselves will keep you heading in the right direction and may help you from straying from the path. My final bit of advice that I have learned is that it is important not to run or go too fast. Often we will fall and sometimes we will run right off the path altogether. Getting up and getting back on the path takes time, effort and makes us lose even more time that we thought we were saving by trying to rush.
Last week I took a trip up to Summit County for a family gathering along the Blue River. We spread some ashes of my dear mother in law at the family cabin next to the river. It was ceremoniously nice and simple. Once all reverence was made we were on our own.
I always look at how high "the Blue" is flowing using some references to unscientifically estimate the flows. It was certainly higher, faster and wider than it was the last time I was up. Not what I would quite call “blown out” but, getting there? I have waded this river in this condition in the past and it's not my cup of tea when it gets like this. Something about slipping and being carried downstream for yards at a time doesn’t sound like fun. To each his own. I leave those waters to the western fly fishermen and the guide rafters.
Instead, I took a ride up the road (actually, the interstate) and dropped into a favorite exit. The stream there was what I would define as “SERIOUSLY BLOWN OUT!” (photo above for reference) I know many anglers who would not even consider stopping here "until things calmed the hell down." But I knew something they didn’t or hadn’t considered.
ATTENTION EXPERIENCED RUNOFF ANGLERS:
Please note that you probably already know some of these options already. I write for the novice and beginner as well so please be patient. I do not wish to belabor information you already know. So.. Skim ahead if you need to or refresh your memory as needed. I promise there are some potential insights you may not have considered near the end of this post.
Here are the most common places suggested for fishing during runoff season.
Fishing the banks
Everyone will tell you to fish the banks. This may or may not be possible or easy to do for some. To fish the banks well enough I feel you need to shift your mind to thinking about the river as turning into three channels. One big fast raging channel in the middle and two smaller streams running on either side. Fish those imaginary side streams. When you see the banks as being the skinny streams next to the raging water, you will quickly see the spots and pockets along the banks where fish will settle in and wait out the surge.
Of course, tail-waters are always recommended for fishing during the dark days of blow-out season. Tail-waters do not follow the rules of run off even though they are affected by them. I reference again the Blue River. This photo is what it looks like normally when I go up and wade out to fish.
As we look at this second picture for comparison we see that the river is slightly higher than before. Notice the concrete block, mid-river in the first photo is all but covered in the second photo. The water is quite deep and deceptively fast in the foreground. I have fallen several times in this area. Quite fish-able, but deep and swift through there.
With tail-waters we have to see the bigger picture of the river. The reality is that the dam was letting out a lot of water even though the reservoir was actually very low. The authorities that handle water management were emptying out the reservoir to prepare for and make room for the coming runoff that hadn’t hit yet. So, in the process of flood prevention also created a man-made blow out. This is good sometimes and bad others. You have to know and watch your tail-water locations to know what is up and if they are really the best bet.
The small lake outlets
A small lake will usually have a small stream that pours from it. I have several of these places in my mind map of places to go and fish. These streams very often if not most often have fish in them who enjoy the aeration of the water. The same is true of the other end of a lake where the water is flowing into it.
EXPERIENCED RUN-OFF ANGLERS YOU CAN PICK UP FROM HERE.
Now I will disclose some of the places I have not seen written about in the subject in my own limited reading on the topic. I present to you my own observations from that single stop along a very raging and blown out stream.
The "REST AREA" for Fish
On this stream there were a few very large areas where the water came to a rest just at a bend. Out of a combination of geologic and hydraulic design, a pooled area was formed and became what I imagine fish to see as a welcomed "rest stop". These spots also create places that food will accumulate and fish will thrive. fish the seam here and any foam that might have formed.
The overflow stream that creates an Island
I could not find a decent photo in my collection to use as an example here but I think you know the situation. You will see several places along a stream that have a “overflow” route they take once it rises. These stream overflow channels often create islands in the river and a slower stream will flow on one side. Fish will stop and live in these areas. Every river has them and you pay attention, you will know where they are going to be when the big waters come. (When I find a good photo I will update this.)
These alternatives are viable places to fish. They are there if you look for them This one highway exit that most people leave alone this time of year had more than a dozen places I could get a line wet and get enjoyable results.
It only takes a little forethought and noticing of features during the best of fishing to speculate where some good places will potentially be during run off. I really recommend you keep a notebook. I have a pretty good memory for some places like this one, but for sure my memory will change just as the waters do.
Somewhere in the depths of hell, near the same corner where all the unmatched odd socks collect there is a second pile of lost items known exclusively to tenkara anglers around the world. In that pile are small plastic end caps to tenkara rods. We have all lost at least one if not 30 of those handy, but tiny caps that keep our rods from telescoping out of our sling packs on the trail or extending themselves out in the back of our cars. The rod cap is a special item that we all can agree should be easy enough to keep track of yet somehow finds the portal to the netherworld at the bottom of our pockets.
I have explored a few different ways to create a suitable replacement cap and think that I have stumbled on a fairly practical as well as aesthetically pleasing solution. Ladies and gentlemen please be amazed at this wonderful, practical, customizable and charming rod cap made from the humble wine cork.
You don't need a semi-fancy wood-shop to make one of these stylish and useful rod caps. While I make these pretty quick with some power tools in my shop I decided that I would teach here how to make one using just some basic tools that you probably already have in your garage or that can be purchased inexpensively at a hardware store or borrowed from you neighbor next door. The instructions that follow are given with the express warning that any craft project has it's hazards. Please be careful when making your end cap and use common sense so that you still have fingers to tie your flies on with.
Supplies you will need
Sand paper 150 grit and maybe a 220 grit
Drill bits (forstner bits preferably) Should match the size of your rod end
A power drill or drill press (optional)
some cording such as rawhide or paracord
Once the hole is drilled out you can then test fit it onto the rod. If it is too tight to put on the end of the rod DO NOT FORCE IT. You could damage the rod segment. The cork should slide on just snugly enough to stay on. If it is just a slight bit too small to fit, you can run the drill into the hole and move it around just slightly to make the hole just a little bit wider still....OR move on to the next step and make the hole larger during the sanding and finishing. If it is too big and slides off you need to probably start over and try a smaller bit and work up to the size you need for a tighter fit.
Making stuff yourself is so much fun.
I hope that you enjoyed this D.I.Y. project and that you decide to give it a try yourself. The trick with any project is to be ready to start over or to adapt if an element of a project doesn't quite work the way you want it to.
These rod caps are so practical and are a great reuse of wine corks. Much of D.I.Y. is just trying out ideas to see what happens. You learn a lot about improvising and if you are like me you get a lot of "what if" ideas along the way too. With the cork caps I realized you can also use the caps as a place to carry extra flies or to let your flies dry out a bit. The cork caps fit into your pocket nicely and are certainly not going to get lost as easily as the small stock caps that come with rods.
Let your imagination run a little wild. I would love to hear from those of you who give this a try.
#DIY #rodcap #tenkara #tenkarapath
We just finished Thanksgiving dinner here at my house last night and as I think back about the experience it was fun to share the meal with family and friends. It was of course also a meal of gorging ourselves on all the traditional foods. When we gather this way for a feast we often give ourselves permission to indulge in plates flowing over. But as if that wasn’t enough we follow that up with a piece of both apple and pumpkin pie. At the end of the night I pride myself in sending my guests home with leftovers and there are leftovers still in my refrigerator too. This morning it struck a memory for me though, a memory of being mindful about eating and about my early years practicing meditation and going to retreats.
The Korean school of Zen that I used to practice with had some really wonderful retreats. One of my favorite parts of the retreats for me was the meals. The food was always wonderful and I have picked up some great food preferences along the way from those retreats. For instance, I can’t even eat oatmeal any more without a glob of peanut butter on top and I found out how much I love kimchee.
Eating during a retreat was an experience in mindfulness of food for nutrition for the body but also was feast for the mind as you appreciated the actual flavors. More than all of this though was the process of every group meal.
Eating as a group was a ritual experience that required you to bring your bundle of bowls wrapped in a cloth napkin and tied off with the spoon and chopsticks in the top knot and place it in front of your cushion. There was a specific way you were supposed to lay out your four bowls and it was dictated which of the three bowls held different kinds of food. Food was brought to you and you were to take only what you felt you could eat. You also noticed how many other people were ahead of you and so you tried to portion how much you took so there was enough for everyone. But you only put food in three of your bowls. The fourth bowl was for a hot tea that you could sip but that you needed to have enough left over for later as I will soon explain.
We ate in silence and took in the flavors. We took breaths between bites and we ate with mindfulness. The food was really there to nurture us in our practice. It was a small moment of satisfaction and enjoyment during what at times was a very intense expenditure of the mind in sitting for hours each day in meditation.
At the end of the meal we brought our attention to the bowl holding the tea. Remember the tea that wasn’t drank? It was then dumped into one of the food bowls. You then used the tea to rinse the food from that bowl. That bowl was then poured into the next and the same cleaning was done, and then to the final bowl after that. The final bowl was then used as a basin for cleaning your spoon and chopsticks in. At the end that bowl held the dregs of all of the bowls. You then took this bowl and drank it. Nothing was wasted. Some might be gagging about this idea but if you stop and think about it, you have missed the point. All of the food that was served was used, and not wasted.
The ritual wasn’t complete though. The final step in this process was that water was then poured into everyone’s tea bowl and the process of rinsing the bowls was repeated with warm water. At this time someone would come around with a large bowl and collect the water from everyone’s last bowl. If there were any bits of food remaining in your bowl you were to be careful not to pour them into the main collection bowl but leave them and drink them with the remaining water. The mythology behind this practice was that there were “hungry ghosts” who lived in the drains. They had large mouths but only small throats and the smallest of particles would choke them. It was kind of a reinforcement of the whole thing. We then dried off our bowls and utensils, stacked the bowls and tied them into bundles again with the spoon and chopsticks on top.
I want to be sure that I retain this practice in my everyday life. There are still times that I practice something similar to the four bowls from the retreats. Though not as formal a ritual, I use a pared down version of this mindful eating exercise by using a single bowl and a cup for my tea. I try not to take more food than I can eat and instead I keep the idea of focusing on the flavor and enjoyment I get from the food. It is a meditation of eating slowly and breathing with delight in every bite. I still use the tea to clean my bowl and spoon and I still drink the dregs of the meal with the tea. I like this practice and find it a good reminder about being grateful for food and at the same time to be mindful not to be wasteful.
I use this one bowl technique when I go backpacking or when I take solo retreats still. It is not just efficient but becomes a moment of peace and ritual in your life experience. Slowing down to the moment and not just forcing food into your hole. You can also do this every day at home. I highly recommend trying to have at least one meal a day this way. It is a great practice. When we eat slower we actually eat less but are just as satisfied. Our relationship to our meals becomes about fulfilling more than just our physical hunger but also our emotional hunger.
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time where we give thanks for the things we have. I think sometimes the “giving” part of “thanksgiving” gets lost in the gluttony. The holiday should be as much about giving as it is the gratitude for what we have. What good is it to have more than we need? It is important to share our prosperity. Too much of our western society is caught up in consumerism and “getting”. I write this on “Black Friday”. The American celebration of being thankful the day before for all we have, only to spend the next day buying all the things we don’t have.
Look at your life with the simplicity of the one bowl. Do you take more than you need? Are you wasting anything unnecessarily just because you can? Are you thinking about others in need? Do you think of others and have a desire to share and make sure that everyone has enough? Are you striving for things and forgetting what you already have?
I am lucky to have this life I do, I am happy to share my surplus, I am grateful for family and friends and I wish you a very happy rest of the year.
When I first started tenkara fishing I did it to have time to myself. It was therapy and still very much is most days that I go out. I have made a point to make sure that I always make time for just myself to be on the water alone more than I am with a fishing companion.
As the years have passed though, I have found some wonderful friends within this community. While I may only get to go fishing occasionally with each of them, I find that those adventures and memories have a special place in my life. When people come together in a common interest there are often unspoken as well as spoken truths they share.
Tenkara continues to give back to me. Not just as therapy but for a sense of community and connection.
Over the years I have made friendships with people who I normally might disagree with in different circumstances. I have connected with people of different religious backgrounds, different world views and different politics. The common thread being our love of tenkara. Maybe there are other commonalities? Perhaps another trait I can identify in these friends is that they are “givers” in life more than they are “takers”. This is an observation I have made outside of tenkara in other people in my life.
Friendships are not always easy and they can be painful and imperfect. At times my different friendships have faced challenges. There have been times where I have found myself wrapped up in the sorrow of watching a friend work through personal demons. I wanted to be supportive but also needed to find a way to set healthy boundaries. Every friend has their unique challenges that they are facing. I try to be the best friend I can be within my limited abilities. These friends remain in my life and I consider them “true friends”. What always seem to happen despite differences and challenges is that I feel compelled to be there for them as much as they would and have shown they would be there for me.
This last year has been a wonderful celebration of friendships for me on the stream. I got to spend time with friends who I had not seen in a long time, I got to watch another friend take some huge steps in recovery return to fishing again, I got to share in the growth of another friend’s guide business and I made new friends though social media. I have also friends that I only got to meet and see at events but will be excited about seeing again.
We create these circles of friends in other parts of our lives I know. The friendships I have within the tenkara community are ones that I truly value. They nurture me and give me a place to be nurturing to others. I learn from these relationships in ways that these friends may never realize.
At the time that I started writing this blogpost it was all about celebrating the friends that I have made along the way. But alas… I have one less “friend” today than when I started writing this. The ending of that connection changed when I saw that tenkara as a commonality was not enough. It was a difference not so much over political point of view but over the issue of integrity to the truth. Through that person’s cognitive dissonance, they revealed that they were not the person who valued some basic human rights or the value of justice. Perhaps this relationship was not as strong as I had hoped it would have become. Maybe it wasn’t there to begin with. I am okay without this person in my life. It’s not my job to correct them or make them see their ethical errors.
With the above stated I want to doubly take a moment here to thank my friends. They are fine people who have made my life better through my kinship with them in Tenkara. For fear of leaving anyone out I will just say that if you are reading this and we have spoken that you are very likely on that list. You probably already know through our interactions either in person or on line. If I follow you on social media, have had a conversation with you or had the privilege of fishing with you then you know. If we have never met I always have room in my life for one more friend. One more kindred spirit.
Thanks you friends!
I took the liberty of pulling some photos from different places including your social media walls. What a great group of people.
The month of June rushed by so fast that I was not able to even find time to write a blog entry for the month. This is not to say that I didn’t have things on mind though. “Water under the bridge” is the term I believe. For here we are in July and I have still been keeping myself very busy. Busy in the best of ways I think. That kind of busy where you feel good about the things that you are creating and accomplishing. Being busy though can create a sense of urgency and can make us rush things better approached with patience.
One of the challenges most every blog author has is to have content that people can learn from. More importantly though is having content that people want to read. I don’t like to wax philosophical for the sake of it and each of the drafts I started for June were frankly a bit too contrived and forced. I like finding inspiration for my writing in my real-life experiences of becoming aware of something or finding something that truly moves me to write. Ideas and thoughts seem to take some time to ferment into clarity.
Speaking of fermentation... a good part of the last several weeks I have been dabbling in the world of microbiology. More specifically yeasts and sourdough starters. My interest was piqued after reading that yeasts can be found in so many places in the wild and that these same yeasts can be used for making sourdough starters. So, I did some backyard microbiology experimenting and made a starter from the yeast I took off an aspen tree in my backyard. If you have ever looked closely enough at an aspen tree, then you might have noticed a fine dust that the tree bark holds on to. This is a wild yeast! I cultivated this with a flour and water “emulsion” and made a bread starter.
There is a lot to be learned when creating a good loaf of bread. It is not as easy as just throwing ingredients into a jar. It is a slow and attentive nurturing process. Like caring for a garden, keeping a yeast alive and thriving required a connection to the process. It is a very visceral effect for me. The key tenant of making sourdough is patience. Each step required patience and an attention to detail. At times there is a desire to rush the process, or to “do something” when you are best to just let things be. I have made this mistake a few times now in different ways. It is still the same mistake of rushing to fulfill my goal and have gratification. Do you do this when you are fishing? I know I do sometimes.
Much like developing a good starter for making good bread we need to develop our attention to and practice of patience. We need to have focus and we need to be connected to the process. We also need to remember not to rush things and not to try an add anything that isn’t needed and allow ourselves to just be a part of the experience. There is process we each need to find for how we approach a stream.
Learn to go slow and do not forget or skip steps in our process. When we allow ourselves the discipline to just watch and let things process we often have better outcomes. Don’t rush the water and start casting. Read the water and understand the flow. Position yourself so that you aren't scaring away fish and are presenting the best way possible for the steam. Don’t get your feet wet if you don't need to. Stay out of the water unless you need to and if you do want to get closer, cast to the area you are going to stand before going in. Sometimes that is exactly where a fish might be feeding.
By being patient and focused we condition our minds to be more present and we hone our technique for fishing tenkara. Our minds may still push and nag at us. We might hear our minds telling us to change out our fly, we may retrieve our line too quickly or we may forget our ceiling or back cast and find our flies catching trees. The more we are awake to these irritating inclinations to speed up or make changes too quickly the more we can be connected to our fishing moments.
We all have those days on the water where we just can’t seem to cast or maybe even set a hook. When this happens, we need to stop and do nothing for a minute. Give ourselves as much time as we need to get back to our center of focus. I have found though that by doing nothing sometimes my mind comes back to the present moment and I can carry on forward from there. Slowing down actually allows our brain to switch over and process less from a reactionary approach but rather from an active and mindfully assertive way.
So what have I been busy with?
A lot of time these last few weeks has been spent in my shop. I have had several sales on spools and have begun working on creating upgraded tenkara rod handles. The work has been satisfying creatively and I enjoy the challenge. I think it is important to keep on growing and to keep on learning. Sometimes problems are best approached as if they were puzzles. I had to figure out how to remove a cork handle from a rod without damaging the rod. Then I had to figure out the design process and how to make those designs ideas happen. Along the way I had a few false starts but eventually I found my way to a practical process. Each challenge I met though required me to slow down and let my brain nurture an idea.
So far, I am happy with the rod handles that I have made, and my imagination has become ignited. Only through nurturing our processes and allowing ideas to ferment can we start to see the answers we need to the questions that arise. I really love getting lost in my work and I can get over excited about ideas. Each step of creating anything has starts, stops and restarts.
While I have now applied this idea of nurturing to sourdough starter, tenkara fishing and woodworking, it is obvious that it applies to our lives overall as well. Too often we get lost in our day to day work and responsibilities. Stress takes over and our minds can slip into a mode of “fight or flight”. The answer again is to stop everything and center ourselves. Put things on pause and just allow time to pass. You may also find that your situation is calling out loudly for you to do something in the way of nurturing yourself.
Our lives are bombarded with to-do lists and expectations for what life is supposed to look like. If we become imprisoned by those things we may notice that life isn’t fun or happy. We all can find happiness. It does take patience, practice and attention to detail.
If you have a rod that is in need of a new handle let me know and we can talk about keeping that favorite rod in use with a whole new look that is personalized.
In this month's post I hope to talk again about putting what you "need" ahead of the things you "think you need or want." For this though it is important for me to preface and establish that I am in no way telling you not to buy those things that bring you happiness. It is okay to want things and it is okay to own things. I am however suggesting a mindfulness and caution not to get caught up in consumerism of things you don’t need or that don’t fulfill your personal happiness.
< I carry all I really need in a single Mountain Hardware bag that I picked up at a garage sale. The bag has room in it for water bottle, stove and more. I keep my waders, shoes and other essentials like snacks, lunch stove pots and coffee for tailgate brewing.
Make no mistake, this isn't just for tenkara gear.
This post while written for your tenkara gear also applies to the rest of your life and possessions too. Having a relationship with our things and seeing if those are rewarding relationships or burdens is what it all boils down to. Then there is also an element of vanity ownership and consumption that we also should check ourselves on. The more we practice this, the more money we will actually have to spend on experiences rather than stuff.
I'm guilty and you are guilty.
Every one of us is susceptible to adding things when we don’t need to. There is a feeling of requirement when we get something new that it is almost like permission to expand our possessions even further. When we get new waders we think about our old boots. “Do these boots look shoddy on the new waders?” This is just one small example. It also applies to rods and packs, cars, boats, camping gear, etc, etc. I am a sucker for garage sales, camping gear, bags and boxes.
We want things that we don't need.
There is a very real phenomenon that plagues us as a consumer society. It is called the “Diderot Effect”. The basic premise is that when we get something nice it seems to overwhelm or make the less nice things we own seem shoddy. This idea then enforces the idea that we need an upgrade across the board. Diderot is an interesting story that I found very familiar and could see in many parts of my own consumerism.
Avoiding Status Image Purchasing
We all have seen how Western fly fishing can be a “status” sport. I could only chuckle to myself at a recent Orvis fly fishing 101 event that I dropped in on the other day. The instructor was giving a solid presentation on keeping things simple. He then killed it for me by pointing out the vests and other accoutrements that they could later aspire to purchase and fill with things he openly stated they would never need. I restrained myself but wanted to shout out “....OR YOU COULD LOOK AT TENKARA AND SAVE YOURSELF A HELL OF A LOT OF MONEY!”
Tenkara runs a risk of slipping into this realm as well as commercialism hits it. My fingers are crossed this doesn’t happen. However, recently there have been some incredibly expensive tenkara rods released… I am of the mindset of spending my money more on experiences than on things, so these rods will likely never be in my possession for use.
Use Cautionary Consumerism
Consumerism is so normalized here in the U.S.A. and other developed countries. Consumption and purchasing of things we don’t need is now almost expected at times. If there is a buck to be made someone will make that thing and try and convince you that you can’t live without it.
There are people who make a living as creative marketers who are working hard to convince us that we need even more still. Certainly we have products that actually do help or that are innovations and improvements. I would suggest though that we should examine cautiously to avoid the fads and impulse purchases of “the next greatest thing”. There is nothing wrong with waiting out and purchasing something later once it has been developed and to see firsthand if that item is right for you.
Our money goes out of our bank accounts fast enough without us spontaneously and addictively spending it on things that will just be put in a closet, drawer, box or garage.
The Exercise of Enough
One of the best exercises you can do to keep yourself from falling into Diderot effect is to just take stock and value what we do have. Look at your current equipment and assess its condition. Go ahead and lay it all out. How leaky are those waders? Can they be patched or resealed? How many rods do you own but never use? Why are you keeping them? How many more years do you think you can get out of your pack or boots? How many packs and boots do you own? Can you justify owning two of the same kind of item that serves the same purpose?
Once we can look at our gear this way, we can start to appreciate what we already have and begin to realistically assess what we really have compared to what we NEED instead of WANT and we can identify what we really need to replace.
Why do I own this and what does it add to my comfort or experience?
Are you a fashionista? How important are name brands to you? Why? Much of this boil down to the investment of your hard-earned money on equipment that may not actually be any better than the less expensive products available. Certainly, there are product that do outperform others. Does their quality outweigh their cost of investment? What hidden costs do they have? I used to purchase wading boots that had interchangeable soles. Then as I matured (in my fishing and outlook?) I decided that I was happier with less expensive water shoes with good tread that could fit over my waders instead.
This comes down I suppose to your own wants for your experience. I love keeping things simple and utility in nature. We can find that balance when we slow down to look at the stuff we are buying and why we are buying it.
Get yourself to where you don’t need to add anything.
To simplify everything above, look at your stuff and decide if you own it or it owns you. Is your relationship with your things one that you don’t have to feel embarrassed about or that you can look at without regrets for spending money on? Keep what you really need, decide what if those things you are keeping as a luxury are the kinds of things that add to or improve your experience or if they are just weight and stuff you feel compelled to carry. I will admit that I am not 100% on this process myself but it is a big part of my mindset. I ask myself regularly if things that I have with me are needs or wants? I ask myself if items are practical to have to the point that they make my life easier than carrying them along in the first place? You can always test yourself by leaving the item behind once and seeing how much you really do “need” it or just “want” it. Just remind yourself once you are at a comfortable place and zone for yourself to not add anything.
"One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that."
~ Joseph Campbell
As humans we have watched the patterns of the seasons and marked them systematically on our calendars. However, the reality of them is something more gradual. Spring can come early or late. It is seldom something that physically arrives like a train. Instead it morphs from one condition to another in subtle ways. While we can see the changes happening they seem to happen in small moments of presence and realization. Every location on the planet gets to experience the season in time with the collaboration of Earth tilt, geography, weather patterns and more.
Fishing streams flow with the seasons too. Streams slow down in the winter, gather ice and go to sleep. Then comes the spring and everything that comes with it. The streams slowly begin to melt out, build up current and start to sneak against the banks. The temperatures of the melt off keep the water just cool enough that the fish stay deep and stay sluggish for a while longer, conserving their energy for just a little longer and letting the food come to them instead of wasting energy on pursuit. Of course, the warmer seasons bring ideal feeding and thriving conditions that we connect to as our happiest days on the water.
The cycling spectrum of the seasons, when you pay attention and look at them closely, can act often as a compass for us in our lives. How many of us hunker in for the winter and tie flies, dream of the spring and summer months? Winter is a season of biding my time, resting, reflecting and sitting in preparation and planning for the oncoming year. It is not surprising that I get prematurely enthusiastic every year by the melting of the snow and watching the renewal date for fishing licenses approach. Colorado has a way of kicking me with beautiful clear spring like days that get dashed by slush storms and stubborn, stasis minded fish.
As I walked out into my yard today I noticed that once again I was watching the slushy spring snow storms blanketing everything in white, weighing down tree limbs and would melt away by noon. This process of the season has had the effect of watering areas of grass and garden sparking patches of chlorophyll greened grass, sprouts of plant matter and foolish blooms on trees.
The signs of the season are there for us if we slow down to their speed and recognize ourselves in them. Nature and the seasons have a way of reminding us that we must be present with what is in front of us and not lost in the illusion of what we imagine we want. We fool ourselves and are like the blooms of the aforementioned trees. We can't get ahead of the seasons without being hit by them. When we do, nature will surely remind us.
We all get that spring fever I think and we all jump the gun in life in other things too. Rather than waiting for the season to come. We push our lives and projects forward and sometimes in foolish directions to get there. The season has its own plans and way. Just a few weeks after renewing our licenses here in Colorado, we get to watch the streams wash out almost overnight into raging muddy slop that washes through and away the stream bottom and channels that we thought we were committing to memory for a sure thing hole in the spring.
By later spring we are better though and maybe find ourselves on track and our biggest challenge is trying to decide where to fish or how to sidestep a patch of poison ivy. Our vehicles are loaded and ready. We are prepared for any free moment that presents itself to bolt and be lost in the settled new runs. We start to see fish rising again and we reaffirm our needs to keep to the techniques we seem to have forgotten slightly as we remove our flies and lines from surrounding trees or toss a sloppy cast that scares fish to the depths.
When we overlap and compare the seasons to our lives we see ourselves clearly and form a better relationship to nature and how our lives fit into that bigger picture. There is a synchronicity that we need to find and match to the reality before us. And it is not so difficult to do. We need only stop what we are doing and become present to the reality of experience before us. We can listen to what our intuition is telling us. We become better at this through practice in listening to ourselves and respecting that inner wisdom that rises.
I believe strongly in looking to metaphor as way to understand the world we are in and where I am in relation to it. We must respect the seasons of the year and recognize the seasons of our inner lives. Our minds function very easily with metaphors and can use the abstract of them to process relative patterns to help us understand our place, role and what we need to do and when.
Recently I found myself out of sync with the seasons of my own life and making quick decisions that would have pulled me in way over my head. While my intentions were good they were not in time with the season of where I was personally and as a result I ignored the conditions and took steps in directions I didn't really want to go. We all do this at some point in our lives and it is important to remember that it is okay to step backwards and wait or to take a different path.
It is fortunate that we are not alone. We have friends and can build a community that works together to help each other. It is important to keep coming back to our center again and again. We can step back quickly as needed with frustration and without shame.
I suppose if there is one thing we can do other than to watch and sync ourselves with the seasons is to listen also to the people around us. Make real time to get together face to face if you can and listen to their thoughts, ideas and perspective. When we rely too much on our own minds, ideas and agendas we can head in the wrong direction People in our community are an integral part of our world. Like the trees, grass and other plant life they can help us recognize the season.
Fishing teaches us patience, attention and perseverance. I will be renewing my license soon and preparing for the spring fishing all in good time but also “on time”. I know that I am going to continue to practice tuning into and listening to the wisdom the seasons are communicating to me. I am going to let the seasons be my guide and make my changes and steps slowly. Life isn't a race but a series of transitions.
The Want or Need Test
I find great satisfaction in not owning more than I need and even more satisfaction from making some of the things I need. The question I ask is always “Do I WANT it or do I NEED it?”
“Need items” always get preferential priority. They are easily identified as necessities to accomplish a job or to fulfill a need. (that is why they are called "needs" right?)
“Want items” get tucked away in my head until they disappear or maybe, on rare occasion, wander into the “Need list" again by accident or perseverance. Yes, we can want things but I always come back to the question of "Why?"
The "why" is going to tell you a lot about your relationship to the things you own.
"Final filter" are the questions “Can I get it affordably?” followed by “Could I make one?” and finally “Do I really want to make one?”
Once it has cleared all of these, I get started with the brainstorming process which really is the beginning of the fun for me. From here I will either buy the item if available affordably or I will look at how I can make my own suitable version of the thing. Some things are better just to buy and other things are really fun to make.
To Buy or To D.I.Y.?
There is something very nice about making something unique and not always feeling that you must spend a lot of money. I find that I value things that I have made myself differently than those things that I have purchased. The items that I have made are a part of me. They came into being from my brain and hands using the materials that I gathered or discovered.
The D.I.Y. approach many not be your thing and I do understand how easy it is often to just buy the thing you want. I believe that when we do make those purchases we should do so with thoughtfulness. Evaluate the practicality of an item that is already made and compare it to the quality you think you can do on your own design. "Can you make one as good or better?" Maybe you are like me though and just want to see if you can just do it?
My latest D.I.Y. Projects...Fly Tying Stations
The last few months I have been playing around with different ideas for fly tying stations. Along the way I made a new one for myself plus one for a friend. These D.I.Y. fly tying stations were both very affordable, practical and most of all functional. The materials kind of presented themselves to me. Taking my time along the way I was able to really think about unique features and what I wanted the esthetic of my finished products to look like.
There was no fancy or complicated joinery needed beyond attaching the clamp piece to the end of the base. Just some long wood screws worked wonderfully. It is important to pre-drill your screw holes to prevent splitting.
I took a few more steps and added some tool holes. Using my drill press and a Forster bit I created round sections where some small plastic containers I own could be inserted snugly. Two of these hold my hooks and one of them is for putting my finished flies into. I tacked on some simple cork footings on the underside to keep the base safe on all surfaces. I have a small Japanese tea box that I use to hold my spools, tools and small packet of feathers. The whole thing broken down takes up an amazingly small amount of space and is easy to travel with.
The Chips and Dip Fly Tying Station
My most recent fly tying station out of my workshop I found at a thrift store. I frequently browse the “wood” item section a thrift stores looking for cutting boards, bowls and discarded Eastern red cedar plaques with quaint passages decoupaged on them, etc. This chips and dip dish stood out to me. It was sturdy, and I could immediately see a vise attached to it; a place for thread spools and tools.
With a little planning and measuring I was able to lay out the different sized holes that I would drill for the tools and the spool posts. As I mentioned this one is for a friend who said she wanted a set up that would hold her vise, tools and threads. I think it turned out wonderfully and I will be keeping my eyes open for this and other similar wooden serving bowls.
In closing, I want to say thanks to all my readers and all of the great feedback you give me. I am very interested in seeing your ideas and D.I.Y. projects too. I can feel the spring coming and see new snow in the mountain weather forecast which is good news for our Colorado streams...(Knock on wood!) Should you think now that you might be interested in diving into D.I.Y. I have added some additional thoughts below.
Exploring D.I.Y. for Yourself
D.I.Y. is a process of learning.
In just a little amount of time and thinking you will figure out the nuances of making a potential “conversion pieces.” Your D.I.Y. skill set improves over time and you will learn much as you go. Building this skill-set is intellectually stimulating and at the same time self-esteem building. It is also fun to experiment and try things out. Some will work and some won’t. Keep track of both results.
See the items in our world differently.
When I go into a hardware thrift store I am constantly looking at things differently. I think about what an item or piece of hardware could be used for that it wasn’t probably intended for. Think about what the item is in its most basic definition.
Mock-ups and drawings.
A mock-ups and drawings allow you to see problems with your design. Sketches of your item will help you imagine how everything fits together and how parts are proportional to each other. When making a mock-up use less expensive materials and look for best answers to the mechanics and design as needed.
Start with a simple project and simple tools.
Don't frustrate yourself with a project outside of your comfort zone. The idea is to enjoy the project, learn something along the way and end up with something that you can be proud of having made yourself. Many D.I.Y. projects really only need the simplest of tools. Don't spend a ton of money on tools you will only use once. Look at what you do have and borrow those things that you may not have. Over time you will have a reliable set of tools. No need to buy a drill press if you can do the same work with a hand drill.
Projects fail. Get back to the drawing board
Starting projects all over again and doing them again differently is all part of the process of learning and also part of the adventure. Fixing problems and solving challenges along the way is something even the most experienced "tinkerers" do.
Who says a material has to be used conventionally?
Many times with my projects I find working materials in everyday objects. You must stop and see products differently. Look at the shape, features and finally at the materials they are made of.Plastic milk jugs have a lot of uses, used food cans, aluminum soda cans, paperclips, bamboo skews, mouse traps and more can all be used to solve problems. You don’t have to be a hoarder of these things but look around at what you are throwing away and decide instead if you could have some fun up-cycling it into something.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.