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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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What's Really Important To You?

Posted by Mark Sunday, April 10, 2011

 Steamboat Falls

I have been thinking the last few days about some fishing and equipment related things. An interesting post on a popular fishing site got me thinking even more. The post was talking about which fly equipment you would never part with. I thought about it awhile and couldn't come up with anything that I could not easily give up or do without.Now I do have some Hardy reels that I love and a quiver of rods that I have grown fond of, but nothing that I couldn't part with if it came down to it.

However the memories of times spent learning,exploring and gaining the river and fish knowledge that I now have is irreplaceable. The time spent with other like minded people and friends I have met on the river over the years is something I cherish above any equipment I possess.I could easily go back to one single hand rod and a half dozen flies stuck on my hat as long as I had the company of a good friend or two to share it with. I would probably catch just as many fish too. As I grow older I am learning ways to challenge myself more and to fish in a way that pleases me. That may mean fishing a dry fly on a single handed rod almost exclusively for steelhead in the summer and fall. Swinging a soft hackle,streamers or leech for trout when everyone is catching way more on nymphs or dries. Basically, being in control of the method I want to fish instead of letting the fish numbers and others ideas of "success"control how I fish. It took me a while to get here believe me.

I had a great lesson in it recently when I guided a couple of guys who were all about doing it their way with methods that were definitely not mainstream in approach. What transpired was a great day on the water and more lessons learned. Lessons that had very little to do with the actual act of fishing and more with the way they chose to live their lives on and off the water.Words like character,tradition, integrity, humility come to mind when I think of those guys. To these guys, fishing was a way of life, a life choice, something that can't be separated from who you are at your very core, a lifestyle, something so much deeper than just "sport". As I fished with these guys I realized that we were brothers from different mothers and all cared deeply about what we do on the river.We were kindred spirits in our approach to these amazing fish. As we fished, the things left unsaid in the silence of the river were things that we all heard clearly in that same small voice. It was the things we just knew. They could not be voiced, only experienced in the setting we were in, at that particular time.

Now I had only a day with these boys but it could have been a week. The conversations flowed as if we had known each other for years. We had common ground, unmistakable common ground and that was and will be a lasting connection.That's a connection you don't find every day. Sometimes those connections take years with some people,sometimes they never happen.Those are the days that I remember. Those are the days I look to repeat every time I go out.
 The river knows what you can't say

It's not about me. When I make it about me I cheat myself of opportunities to learn from others. Others that may have insight that I don't have. Others that may have far more to offer me than fishing tips, they may have life tips so be listening.

The older I get the more fishing has become about so much  more than catching fish. It is about relationships, perseverance, tradition, history and giving credit to those that came before you,learning from mentors and becoming a mentor, passing down values and ideas that your Daddy gave you.....being a man. Being confident in your skills and not wavered by what the other guy is doing or catching. Not having numbers of fish be the judge of a successful day on the water.

 Teach your children well

Equipment is nice and is necessary to fish, but I don't ever want to have the success or failure of a day be measured because I didn't have the perfect rod/line combination or the latest reel. We need to get away fro the "Oh, if I would have had my other 7136 with the custom short belly line and that trick poly leader with the latest rock star fly I would have caught every fish in the ditch" mentality and just go fishing!  We have too many choices and in many ways we have made fishing  too complicated.We all have too much equipment, no one reading this could possibly tell me I am wrong,and I think it can take away from the experience of fishing.

Skagit, Scandi, short, mid and long belly, switch, indicator and nymph lines. Floating, intermediate and sinking shooting heads. Regressive, progressive, fast recovery,slow recovery,full flexing, quick tip rods in every length know to man for every situation imaginable. Click pawl, disk drag reels, palming rim etc.A marketing goldmine and we all bought into it, myself included. It will never stop.This equipment whirlwind, and always having the latest and greatest should not be what defines our reality of a great day on the water. We can do very well with so much our daily life as well as in the fishing world.

So try it sometime this summer,leave all your fancy gear at home, put your shorts on, grab an old single hand rod and a handful of flies and a good friend and go fishing! You will be guaranteed to have a ball. It's very liberating as well. The fish could care less if you have a $100 rod in your hand or a $1000 rod. We should care a little less as well.

The old single-hander works just fine(yeah that's a Bougle mark IV...guilty as charged,the nicest reel I own)

Remember, the best things in life aren't things!

A good buddy up on the rail,spotting fish in winter, this is what its about!

So................are you building friendships out there or getting ready to start a fly shop?


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. One of your best posts...

  3. Ken Campbell Says:
  4. Exceptional writing Mark. My feelings about that day echo yours. Glad to finally have met you brother....

  5. Mark Says:
  6. Ken,


    Great day on the river.

    It left an indelible impression on me that I can't really explain......

    I saw things in a whole new way that day.I also realized that I was farther along on a lot of things then I had given myself credit for.

    Thanks to you and Jonathan for coming along at the perfect time.


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