Sometimes something gets stuck in my cranium, bouncing around like a super ball. And I can’t get a hold on it till it settles down a little, till it stops bouncing and starts rolling gently and finally settles somewhere where I can reach it. Well an overheard comment has been ricocheting around my brain for a few months, and it finally settled down so that I can pick it up.
A while back I overheard an off-hand comment by a fly fisherman, I don’t remember the exact wording but it was something like: “I’m not one of those stone turners.” It was said in a way that implied that there are two types of fly fisherman, Stone-turners and Not Stone-turners. And maybe those Stone-turners were just a step or two above “tree-huggers” and were just tolerated because they were, after-all, fly fisherman.
Well that comment has been with me ever since. Now that I’ve digested it a bit I think the reason it stuck with me is that it gets to the core of fly fishing for me and it serves as such a metaphor.
Obviously there’s the literal and practical notion of turning over stones to look for those macro-invertebrates that we fly fishers are always trying to imitate; mayfly and stonefly nymphs, caddis and midge larva, sowbugs and scuds. For me this is an essential part of any outing – at the very least it gives me a starting point and it grounds me in the moment. And who knows? It might just make me a better angler someday.
Along with this goes the idea of environmental awareness – not in the large sense but in the small and local sense. The type of awareness and sense of place that poses the question “What is around me now and how do I fit in?” It’s the pure enjoyment of being out in nature and and really seeing it, of seeing the World not just as a backdrop to the movie of Mankind but as something to be a part of.
I don’t want to get political, but turning over stones obviously leads to the larger issues of the health of the ecosystem and impacts on that ecosystem. Regardless of political leanings I’m sure that as fly-fisherman we all want clean and healthy streams. Fly fishing was an eye-opening experience for me with regard to clean and healthy waterways. I had never thought about it all that much before becoming a fly fisherman, but the quest for great hatches and wild trout, inevitably led me down the road to greater awareness of this issue.
And when you’re turning over stones you don’t just stop at one. I turned over stones that led to fly tying, and rod building and writing. And who knows what else I’ll find under those stones. I reckon I’m a Stone Turner and I’m proud of it. I hope I never stop turning those stones over because when I do that means I’ve finally lost that childlike curiosity and amazement that I’m desperately trying to hold on to. What about you? Are you a Stone Turner?