“Sunrise, open my eyes, no surprise.” The Notorious B.I.G. refers to his time in Belize in the track, “Breaking Old Habits”
I’m about 1 week away from my 20 year high school reunion and it has me reflecting a little bit. There are many strands swimming around the old duder’s head these days – what’s next, how have my peers fared over the years, am I a good father and husband, will I ever be satisfied by my quest to capture fish around the country, etc.? One question that recently started nagging me is, “When did I become a creature of habit?” Over the past 5 years or so, I’ve prided myself on avoiding this trend that is so prominent among my fellow adults and found that most times, when I challenged conventional paradigms, I was profoundly rewarded for doing so.
I hope that nobody takes offense to what I’m about to say but I think both men and women can relate to this. When I was a teenager, I had one goal that I’m willing to bet all teenage guys have shared since the dawn of the human race – to hook up with as many girls as possible. Long-term commitments, although convenient, never appealed/worked for me. I had to have as many experiences as possible. Sure, there were some routines back then: I had to wake up for school and go to my classes but when I got home at the end of the school day and especially over the weekends, anything was on the table – adventure and experimentation was the key. More times than not, this quest (some might have perceived it as self-destructive but I believed what didn’t kill me gave me some great stories to tell) yielded some fond memories. I’m not saying this is true for me but I’ve heard many people say that high school was the best time of their life. Damn – that sucks! Worst-case scenario, that period of your life represented only 1/15th of your time on this planet.
I digress – my drive for experimentation and exploration continued throughout college but slowed down a bit my senior year when I committed to joining the Marine Corps. I guess this is when I officially became an adult. Fast forward a little bit – I blinked my eyes and 2 wars, numerous deployments, my marriage, and my daughter appeared when I opened them. How the hell did that happen? ROUTINES! I’m not bashing all habits and routines as they are essential for survival in today’s society but breaking them from time to time will open your eyes a lot earlier, help you realize balance, and lead to personal growth. Whatever you do, please don’t take this as another older guy (hell, I’m only 38) trying to pass on a BIG life lesson. Give me a second; let me tie this in to fishing.
How many of you routinely fish the same beats/float the same water every time you go out? How many of you always go to those holes you know have fish? How many of you do the same fishing trip every year? How many times have you driven past a body of water and asked yourself if it fished well but pushed forward to your planned destination? I’m willing to bet most of you will answer in the affirmative – YOU ALWAYS DO? Why? Because your time is limited and you want to do what you know will work – to have that convenient feeling of escape. What are you missing? Are you really escaping when you trade one set of habits for another?
Breaking habits is a lot harder than it sounds. I received specialized military training for 2 years that taught me to identify habits and understand how they influence decision making in an organization and I still have problems breaking them. Nevertheless, it’s somewhat unsettling to think that at one point in our lives, we were completely comfortable with change – we thrived in the chaos of our youth. Yet, as adults with means and goals, we fear chaos and fall back to our comfort zone. Yeah, many of us have families and we have certain habits and/or routines that we believe will keep drama at bay. However, how many of them ACTUALLY do? Carrying this question forward to our passion for fly fishing: if fly fishing is our escape (or our career – for all the guides out there), should it follow the same patterns we follow in daily life?
I’m not bringing this up to brag, merely to make a point: I just chalked up my 25th state and 180th River. What I’ve realized in all my travels is that every place has its own nuances, patterns, and beauty. All require some sort of adaptation and demand experimentation until you figure it out. You also meet new people and pick up new techniques. In doing so, you try flies you normally wouldn’t try. You tie many knots. You cover a lot of water. You see, hear, and smell new things. You become good at adapting to your surroundings. Moreover, when you get in your car to drive home or you arrive at the airport for your flight back – you are a better angler. Another benefit is that you’d be surprised how easy it is to get away from the indigenous/local anglers as they are typically creatures of habit.
The biggest edge we anglers have over the vast majority of the rest of the world is that we have a passion we dedicate a significant portion of our life to – we have a way to escape our daily routines. Yet, for some reason, so many of us just pick up a new set of routines during these escapes. I’m not proposing you throw all your habits in the trash – just that you become aware of them and how some may be holding you back. Maybe I’ll never be satisfied by my pursuits, my longing to explore, and my desire to experience new things but that’s a gamble I’m willing to take. Are you? Surprise yourself once in awhile!
This review of the TFO Impact is the first in what will be a series of semi-weekly gear reviews. The target audience for most of these posts will be the anglers that are just getting into fly fishing or are at least fly curious. Although tailored for the beginner, there is a place for more experienced anglers, fly fishing outfitters, and outdoor equipment companies to post gear reviews as well (see the left side of the screen on desktop or the bottom on mobile) – we invite any and all to do so. Here it goes…
The Temple Fork Outfitters “Impact” Series Fly Rods: In my early years of fly fishing, I poured ridiculous sums of money into gear – especially rods and reels. That was a mistake – I had a bad habit of purchasing items of perceived high quality in the hopes that they would make me a better angler. What I learned over time is that price isn’t always an adequate measurement of quality. I also learned that the definition of “quality” is almost purely in the eye of the beholder. My definition of the word combines craftsmanship, functionality/performance, and price combined with the responsiveness of the supply chain and the character of the company producing the item. The TFO Impact receives the highest grade on all counts.
Over the years, I have casted rods from all the big rod companies. I wouldn’t say I am the best caster out there but I can get the fly where it needs to go and I’ve never casted a production rod that didn’t enable me to do just that. Sure – glass and bamboo rods are better suited than their graphite counterparts for feeling every headshake a fish makes in a fight or for making delicate presentations (flip the script when you start talking about fishing the flats or bombing lots of line and huge flies for musky) BUT in the end, it still comes down to preference. I considered all this when purchasing the rods for our guide service and quickly found that TFO had the best line-up (remember the definition of quality) for our clients. So, I made my initial purchase of rods going up from 4WT – 12WT (and 450 grain ESOX). Regrettably, the Impact series debuted AFTER I made my initial purchase.
I had the pleasure of casting the Impact Series rods (6WT and 8WT specifically) for the first time at the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival back in April. After making my rounds from booth to booth, casting everything I could get my hands on, I can say with confidence that it is the best tool for the job in my neck of the woods and beyond for carp, bass, steelhead, and more (I’ll save a review of the TFO Esox for a later date – that’s our go to for muskies). Although I have more than enough rods to run the business (and then some), within a week of the festival I purchased a 6WT and an 8WT – I just had to have them in my quiver. Visit the TFO site for more details – they can tell it better than me (http://www.tforods.com/fly-fishing/rods/impact-series.html)