Fly Fishing Jazz: The Flow and the Fight

The beautiful thing about playing jazz, is that you never really know where things will end up.  You have a tempo and a key, which afford general guidelines as to where things should trend after the first downbeat.  But high art only happens when you let it unfold from the heart and improvise along the way.  It’s almost impossible to predict exactly how things will transpire, and rarely will the same song be played exactly the same way twice.

It’s exactly the same with fly fishing, at least in the moments after the fish has taken the fly, because that’s when the music really starts.

So often, we find ourselves consumed with the mechanics of the cast.  We focus on bubble seams and dark current swirls.  And we do our best to be in the right place at the right time.

But what really matters—what keeps all of us coming back for more—are those instants after the take.  When order turns to chaos.  Those scant moments when we lose control, and are left with no choice but to go with the flow.  That’s when theory abates, and instinct takes over.  It’s primal.  Natural.

Sometimes it happens by accident.  Sometimes it is the reward for patience and planning.

Either way, there is no substitute for the pounding in the chest when you feel that tug of thunder on the other end of the line.  What happens next?  First you wish.  Then you react. And then, as things start to settle, you find yourself engaged in the moment.  You sense your best emotions and actions merge in harmony.  And you go with it.  You want it to last forever.

Of course, it never does.  Sometimes, you lose the fish.  That’s what the blues are all about.  But that’s another story.  With heartbreak comes experience, and the missed note or wasted phrase eventually comes back in another time and place in a way that makes you stronger, smarter, and more savvy with your actions and emotions.

Even when you bring the fish to hand, satisfaction is soon replaced with a sense of calm—almost melancholy—having realized that the chase, the tug and the fight are memories, like sweet notes of a soulful saxophone solo left hanging in the air.

But the honest angler and the true artist wouldn’t have it any other way.  There is nothing without the flow.  Because the flow is about living in the moment.  And that’s why musicians play music, and fly fishers go fishing in the first place.