Sweet sound of fly fishing makes for music

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fly fishing may claim endless praises, but one aspect calls for a little more.

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I'm talking about the sound of it. It's a sport with its own music. Go on your own in silence to one of our local creeks, any of our smaller waters, and you can hear what I hear.

The first notes rise from the gurgling and smooth rushing of the water. Add the shush and whispering of breezes through Sitka Spruce, and the flat, soft beat of rain on moss. The creek licks and slaps your boots. The smooth rocks rumble underfoot, underwater.

The rod cuts through the air like a gust of wind, exhaling line that curls and floats above you. That line sings. It goes, sweet, sweep, zip, whiz, fwoosh. And then you hear the fly land on the water: plink.

If this music came with a story line, it would be a comedy about a tragedy. It would be a Springtime dirge for the fish, hooked by the treachery of man. It would be about thousands of years of a pastime as innocent as it is deceptive.

As the fly floats or flows downstream toward temptation, you reach the interlude.

A thrush stays silent in the rain.

Being a beginner, I can only imagine the second act. It starts with a tiny gulping sound as the fish inhales the fly, I'm told. Then the percussion starts at the reel, its beats and rhythms layered with whizzing and buzzing. The line shoots out of the reel as it's tugged toward freedom.

Maybe the fish bursts out of the water with a sound like crashes from a cymbal. Maybe the water breaks and foams with the noises of a chorus gone crazy. The sloshing and splashing and violence of it all get louder and wilder as the fish nears death.

Then what? You let it go? Filet the thing and smother it with garlic and lemon-butter? I don't know what kind of music that would be.

You lug it back to your car? Crank the ignition, and motor those tires over the asphalt and roar back to a busy intersection? Idle next to an over-sized truck at a red light?

Drive past the dust and pounding of some construction site? Return home to the sounds of heaters and refrigerators and television?

Fry it up?

Maybe you never leave the creek. Maybe the fish breaks free, and the silence spreads over you again the way that stirred water becomes still. That would be one fine finale.

Maybe it would be a frustrating one.

I don't know. Either way sounds good to me.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.

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