And St. Valentine’s Day is nigh
by Teresa Mull
St. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and if this fact fills your romantically inept imagination with panic, have no fear: Fly fishing is the answer.
I have been on several fly-fishing dates over the years, and as I’m currently (safely) single, I can tell you exactly why this activity is perfect for partners—both potential and committed.
If you’re just starting out on your amorous journey with a person of interest (who has, of course, been vetted safe to be alone with in a remote setting), fly fishing will instantly defuse a lot of first-impression jitters. There’s no need, you see, to fuss much about presentation—what outfit to wear, how to style your hair, and so forth—when frumpy waders and a distracting vest with too many pockets, a disguising hat and, heck, let’s throw in a neck gaiter for some real peace of mind, obscure much of your face and figure (as well as your species).
So, a lot less to worry about right off the bat. With fly fishing’s goofy-as-heck get-ups, you can be absolutely assured neither you nor your date will be lured in by something as shallow as looks.
Fly fishing is also great for testing the waters of love because it offers near-endless options for romantic interaction, escapes from awkwardness, or something in between, depending on how things are going. If the guy or gal is a real snoozer, for instance, you can swear you saw a fish rising just around the bend…and the next bend…and the next…until you’re out of sight and have clambered up the bank and into your friend’s waiting car.
Or, if things are going swimmingly, you can get your line caught in the bushes or lose your fly repeatedly and require assistance. Or better yet, request or offer your date a hand navigating a perilous part of the stream. Physical contact + hero complex = win, win.
A word of caution, though, to early-stage wooers: Avoid boats at all costs. I once agreed to a fly-fishing date with a friend of a friend who owned a drift boat. We didn’t hit it off (I should have known that “You ain’t rowin’, you ain’t goin’!’” barked in the manner of a backwoods drill sergeant, was not an omen of chivalry). And it became painfully apparent we would not be living happily ever after together when we were midway through our float—trapped in a small boat out in the middle of the river, halfway between our launch point and our pickup vehicle. (I never did row, by the way.) It was a long day.
In addition to setting up very romantic situations in intimate and picturesque surrounds, fly fishing can also help weed out a lot of duds. I was fishing a secluded run shaded by amiable old trees that were also covetous of fly line. My handsome companion stood very near to me and patiently untangled my knotted leader while the leaves overhead shook in the breeze and made dapples of shimmering gold sunshine on the musical little mountain stream, and we were all alone and our hands were warm when they touched and I looked up at him with big, tender eyes and batted my lashes and smiled and he…he handed me my rod and said, “There ya go.” And went off to fish. (I wasn’t even wearing my dowdy waders!)
If you’ve been married for decades or are in a comfortable relationship, fly fishing can serve as a sort of couple’s retreat in which the two of you disconnect from the world to reconnect with one another. Whether this exercise results in you growing closer than you’ve ever been or, in the case of some married friends of mine, the husband critiquing his wife’s cast to the point of tears, is your choice. Either way, you’re bound to learn more about the other person’s temperament and communication style and what you may need to work on.
And what couple isn’t thrilled by the prospect of problem-solving, especially when that problem involves figuring out where the heck you crossed the stream, and how the heck to pick your way back to the other side, where the rest of your gear and your car keys and the picnic are waiting, before dark?
Fly fishing provides budding romancers the chance to see their would-be mates in the light of adventure—if, that is, the person agrees to try fly fishing at all. If he or she isn’t even game to tag along and languish on the bank while admiring your graceful casts, well there’s your indicator.
Remember: Catch and release is noble, and there are plenty of fish in the stream.
Teresa Mull will likely spend St. Valentine’s Day watching A River Runs Through It with her dog.