Another garden-variety obsession

Well, it's come pathetically down to this: I have started to tie my own flies.  This can only mean one thing.  I am no longer dabbling.  I'm obsessed with fly fishing and can now add it to the long line of things that have formerly obsessed me (Russian dramatic theory, ancient literature, Northern Irish Protestant poetry and medieval architecture...). Why can't I ever become obsessed with developing highly-profitable and addictive cell phone apps? 

Perhaps the common denominator to all the things I get interested in is that they are completely useless and almost willfully inefficient.  It is, after all,  ridiculous to spend a full year rehearsing a play (as Stanislavski might have wished), and one can lead a very productive life without ever wading through Sallust's "The Jurganthine War" or knowing what a rood loft is.  And poetry? 


I hate to admit it, but fly fishing is just as needlessly inefficient and useless as my other obsessions.  After all, the guy down the bank with a ten-dollar Zebco is catching just as many (if not more) trout.  Moreover you can buy flies off the Internet for 59 cents apiece.  So why would anyone start tying?  Why buy a vise, bobbins and a whip finisher?  I have no answer. 

When I first began fly fishing, I would leaf through catalogs of fly patterns.  There were pages and pages of bewilderingly complex patterns, each with variations in size and color.  There were maybe 50 variations of a mayfly and at each stage of its life (pupa, nymph, emerger, adult, imago...).  I felt as if I had somehow wandered into a Kabbalistic discussion.  It's only recently that I've realized all this needless complexity has nothing to do with catching fish. I mean, really.  Does anyone believe a creature with a pea-sized brain focused only on eating and not being eaten makes finely-honed discriminations about hackle feathers and peacock herl? 

Needless complexity is perhaps the essence of any obsession.  Occam's razor just doesn't apply.  As with poetry, you really don't have to concern yourself with meter, assonance and metaphor to put an idea into words.  It's just gets interesting when you do.


Anti-Dada said…
Yes! Tying your own flies... Makes me smile. You're a braver man than I.

On the fish brain issue, though, you're not giving diversity enough credit. Maybe it depends on where you're fishing, but those darn trout can get fairly persnickity about their flies. Is it late spring or early summer? Is it early or late morning? Has it been two weeks of rain, warmth, and humidity or a week of sunshine, cool breezes, and dry air? The complexities are endless.

And probably useless. It's the pretending that those things matter as much or more than anything else that makes the game an adventure. Makes you feel like Alexander the Great or Napoleon planning with generals how to best approach the enemy and ensnare them into your trap.

So maybe playing a board game is just as good. But there's no weather, no elements to conquer in a board game! You can't stand in cold water up to your thighs freezing and cursing yourself for not patching up those holes in your waders!

Have fun fishing, Doc.

Professor Quest said…
I suppose the underlying theme that interests me is the needless complexity that accompanies passionate obsessions. There's something inherently human at work here. What other creature obsesses about the non-functional aspects of an activity, the aesthetic sound of words, the shape and form of an earthenware pitcher?

At some point my interest in fly fishing zoomed right by catching a fish, which now seems an almost incidental aspect of a greater whole.

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