PAT NEAL’S WILDLIFE COLUMN: Different way to see red while fly fishing

FISHING HAS ALWAYS been a metaphor for life.

In fishing and in life, you must have a vision of your goal. We cast our offering with a force of will into a hidden world hoping to be rewarded.

Success involves timing, skill and luck.

With timing and skill you can make your own luck.

Bad luck can take your eye off the goal and cause you to blindly pound the same dead water with the same dud gear while hoping something will eventually happen.

Albert Einstein said repeating the same failed experiment while hoping for a different outcome was insanity.

I call it fly fishing.

As a fishing guide, I have experienced that fly fishermen can be the toughest to hook up.

When guiding fly fishermen, I insist they use barbless hooks. It makes for less bleeding when they snag the guide.

Fly fishermen often suffer from performance anxiety. It forces them to wade too far, cast too far and spend way too much money on gear, with predictable results.

They go over their waders. Their line piles up in a tangle around their head. The fish are spooked by too much line ripping across the surface of the water.

This can take the enjoyment out of fly fishing.

If your goal is to enjoy fly fishing, I’ve got a book for you.

I just read The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010) by Charlie Meyers and Kirk Deeter.

They copied the template of Harvey Penick’s hugely successful Little Red Book of Golf and opened up their notebooks to reveal an encyclopedic knowledge of fly fishing.

This Little Red Book is told in a language fishermen can understand.

For example, ever had a sore back after a day’s fishing? That can be the result of poor posture.

The LRB says that foot railings placed in bars allow patrons to stand for long periods of time by getting one leg up a little higher than the other.

That might explain why a lot of folks do their fishing in the bar.

The LRB says it means you should fish with a rock under one foot.

Let’s say you were in that bar and you wanted to throw a glass of beer at someone. You would accelerate as you aim, then stop to let the beer fly.

This is about how tough it is to cast a fly, unless you’re a guy.

Fly fishing is a sexist sport. Ask any guide.

If a man and a woman are fishing together on a guided trip, the woman will catch more fish. There are many reasons for this.

Women are patient. They are not competitive. Women listen to instructions, unless they come from their significant other.

There is no faster way to reveal an infinite chasm of misunderstanding in a relationship than to let a man try to teach his wife or girlfriend how to fly fish.

The LRB states that you can learn the hard way or let a professional handle it.

That’s what guides are for.

As professionals, fishing guides are routinely forced to become relationship counselors just to keep the The Bickersons from ripping each other’s face off — long enough to catch a fish.

I have a secret technique for this. The LRB specifically warns about guides who claim to have secret techniques.

The LRB also deals with the prejudice against outdoor writers because they kiss and tell. For this the authors are unapologetic.

Outdoor writers pass knowledge to the next generation to preserve fish in the future.

That is the goal.


Pat Neal is a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide and humorist whose column appears Wednesdays.

Pat can be reached at 360-683-9867 or [email protected]

Information about The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing is at

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