Lessons From the Fly-Fishermen

A river flows behind our house.  There is a fishing hole there that attracts dozens of anglers nearly every day during fishing season. Those fly-fishermen (sorry – I’m not being politically incorrect, I just haven’t seen any fisher-women) are a joy to watch.

I have learned much about dedication, risk, and tenacity, all aspects of creativity, from them.   

They start arriving before full daylight.  Sure, there will still be fish in the river mid-morning, but enthusiasm for their sport makes these hearty anglers roll out of bed before dawn, drive miles through the early morning darkness, and wade out into the cold water at first light.

Some of the lessons they have silently imparted to me, an unseen observer, have helped me in both the artistic, and business aspects of my journey.

First, these dedicated anglers go where the fish are.  They don’t expect a salmon or steel-head to swim up their driveway, & knock on their door! They know they must be out among the fish to hook one, just as I know I must immerse myself in creative ideas for one to take hold in my mind.

Books, magazines, videos, certain TV shows, arts & crafts fairs, quilt shows, art galleries, classes, and the company of other artists all help spark creative ideas for me.
Lesson Two; Thigh-high to chest-deep in the current, anglers in the river behind our house often spend hours perfecting their casting technique.  It is not uncommon to see a fisherman who hardly leaves his hook in the water long enough to attract a fish, he is just working on his casting.

How often might my time be better spent perfecting a difficult technique on scraps of cloth before attempting to use it on a finished product.   

Lesson Three;  Seeing fishermen catch & release fish puzzled me at first.  My husband explained that some of the fish in the river were not legal to keep.The fish must meet certain size requirements, and some, the ‘Natives’ must always be released.  The Catch & Release requirement doesn’t seem to deter our fishermen.  They don’t go stomping away from the river, and drive off in a huff, when a fish they caught isn’t right.  They simply release it and try again.

I think of them when it takes me days, or weeks, to design and create a new item so it matches up perfectly with my vision. 

I think of fishermen when a hot idea, one that really sparked my enthusiasm, fizzles.  There have been hundreds of ideas that didn’t work out; they weren’t practical, they looked awful, the equipment I have wasn’t right to construct them, etc…. The list goes on…..

So, the net is cast again.  Using creativity does not use it up, it merely fine tunes it.

 Sometime a simple tweak, or adjustment makes the idea work.  Sometime an idea must be released, at least for the moment.  Maybe like the ‘too small’ fish, it will grow somewhere out of my awareness, only to come back again when the time is right.

Lesson Four;  Fishing, like most artistic endeavors, is something each fisherman must do for himself.  He may be surrounded by others, and their catches may inspire him, but he must catch his own fish.  No one else can do that for him.

The lesson here is clear.  Others may inspire, but each of us can bring to life only that which is ours to create.


  1. "Using creativity does not use it up, it merely fine tunes it."

    So true! I'd like to add that using creativity also usually increases the amount available. What else can you use, use, use and come out with more than you started with?

  2. Wonderful analogy - thanks!


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