I don’t think you really “arrive” as a fly fisherman these days until you reach the point where you respect and admire the art of David Allen Sibley and David Allan Coe in equal measure.
The naturalists among us will immediately recognize Sibley as the author and illustrator of some of the National Audubon Society’s greatest works on bird species throughout North America. His attention to detail is uncanny. His art is impeccable. He is perhaps the greatest living ornithologist in America. Understanding and admiring the works of Sibley demonstrates a connection with one’s natural surroundings—especially on the river. If you don’t know Sibley, you aren’t looking hard enough when you fish on any river.
David Allan Coe, on the other hand, is a country music troubadour, whose personal story reflects a road hard-traveled. He brought us “Take This Job and Shove It,” and “If That Ain’t Country I’ll Kiss Your…” After the IRS seized his home in Key West, he lived in a cave in Tennessee, only to resurface years later as a cult icon among self-professed rednecks and country music aficionados. He’s the one who told Steve Goodman that his song “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” was not, in fact, the perfect country and western song, because it didn’t include anything about mama, trains, trucks, prisons or getting drunk.
The revision landed on the perfect country and western song: “I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison… and I went to pick her up in the rain… but before I could get to the station in my pickup truck… she got runned-over by a damned old train.”
Now, my point in all of this is that fly fishing is indeed a culture. And much of that culture revolves around the naturalist ideal… being in tune with one’s surroundings, in the river and otherwise. When I see a kingfisher perched on a branch of a downed tree that forms the run I target to catch a trout, well, I really don’t care if I see a rise or not. Does that make me “stuffy?”
On the other hand, fly fishing, to me is also about rolling the hard miles through the Wyoming dry wash, landing at the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson in the black of night, and watching a cover band with a 70-year-old lap steel guitarist cycle through its best country repertoire as a handful of cougars from Austin, Texas, shake their goods on the dance floor.
I guess you need to see all of these things to really understand. But when you do, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.
When David Allen meets David Allan in your head, you’re finally there.