Delicacy has its place. 6x tippet, pinpoint presentations and perfectly passive drifts are often what it takes to get a wary trout to eat. Given the degree of learning, precision, judgment and tactful execution required – just imagine the skill set it would take to make you voluntarily swallow a handcrafted dummy meal, made from non-food items, attached to a rope – catching selective feeders this way can be hugely gratifying.

But sometimes I fish for an entirely different form of satisfaction. Forget the finesse and finery. Delicate dining be damned. Some days I tie the meatiest thing in the box to a short hank of heavy test mono, set my jaw, square my shoulders, and go looking to pick a fight. 15 years of contact sports refined in me an appreciation for the fundamental contest. On leaving college and hanging up my helmet though, I found myself suddenly lacking an ethically acceptable way to play “Get off my turf!” There are, it turns out, surprisingly few situations in modern office life, where it’s appropriate to lower one’s shoulder and run through people. So I go streamer fishing.

Our collective penchant for, and fascination with, violence is a topic worth more discussion. At the moment though, I’ll offer only that football doesn’t owe its status as America’s favorite sport to the tactical heritage it shares with chess. Likewise, fishing isn’t always about academic exercise. When a burly brown surges from the bank in hot pursuit of a stripped length of animal hide, that’s an act of raw animal aggression, not analysis. Maybe food is a factor, perhaps territorialism or even self-defense, but the intention is unmistakable, even across species. As surely as a heavy weight knock-out artist, or an NHL enforcer, that fish is out to bring the thunder. And when he follows through… oh man does that ever take me back!

A coach once told me that “In any collision someone is the hammer, and someone the nail. Be the hammer.” His advice served me well for many years. Now those days are behind me. I’ve matured to more nuanced forms of interaction. It sure is nice to enjoy the simple things every now and again though. If playing nail is what it takes to get back in the game, well, bring it on.


Photos by Steven Brutger

5 Comments on “Aggression

  1. Nice… I agree with the analogy having pursued both ends of your sporting spectrum myself.

    And sometimes even when I am amply geared up for the fight, I still get my butt kicked on the water, in which case the fight leaves me exhilarated, slightly disappointed (but not enough that it spoils the fun), and respectful of the quarry. Just last week the best rainbow of the day took my rig about 10 yards upstream and under a submerged branch, leaving only my indicator fly stuck in the wood and the dropper fly gone along with the 4x tippet. I tip my hat. But now that I read your article, it sort of felt like the drill we did with RB’s and linebackers where the RB had 5 yards to the goal line and had to get there through two dummies with me waiting between the 5 yard line and goal. Sometimes with that running start and determination, the RB makes it in. If so, give him his due and line up for another shot to stop him.

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