nfinite fishing wisdom, keepers of our rivers, protectors of trophy fish, rulers of all anglers—The Fishing Gods. Who are they exactly, and what do they do? “They” are not necessarily beings or of any religious significance, but they’re a powerful force that exists eternally. Therefore, the Fishing Gods have, and always will, provide balance to the universe of fishing—a karma in a sense that keeps us in check and holds us to a high standard of respect and humility upon their waters. Even those who don’t necessarily believe still make references and call upon them in jest. A particular birch tree, decorated with two brand new posted signs, steers us to a death-defying descent down a sleek feeder stream with an unexpected twelve-foot waterfall, leaving us gazing at the river below and wondering how we could possibly get down. Three 200-pound men gracefully float through the air, falling ever so gently down to the river rocks below, compliments of four small trees that thankfully bend like fifteen-weight mooching rods. The bolts of lightning that prevented us from floating to this location stalked us, converged, and pushed us back into the tree-line. Dark, tenacious clouds threw missile-like raindrops at a forty-five degree angle, just enough to avoid the brim of our hats. With heads down and rod tips level, we trek upriver only to find two anglers up to their armpits in our pool. We reluctantly fish the stretch below them as we notice the river visibly thickening with every passing moment—possibly the final culprit to send us on a two-mile hoof back to the truck. “The Fishing Gods are punishing us today,” I say to Erik, a good friend and seasoned angler. The realization of the reason why struck us simultaneously as we both turn to Mark. “It’s your fault!” hollers Erik. The tall Irishmen, straight off of Wall Street, stands there dripping wet, not only from the rain, but from the spill he had already taken in the river. It’s his first time river fishing, unless you count that one day casting for snappers in the Hudson when he was ten.
With a mix of sweat and mud on his face, his hat unintentionally off to the side, and a pair of steamed-up eyeglasses, he replies in a high-pitched voice, “My fault? How’s this my fault?” The answer is something that avid anglers know all too well—it’s the Fishing Gods! Getting to the river late, half-hungover, during his first time fly fishing, Mark is a prime target for the Fishing Gods to smack down some unpaid dues. Erik and I, who are regularly blessed by their grace, are being held responsible for bringing such a rookie to the big show. Although Erik ended up landing a nice steelhead, we had to suffer alongside Mark, and nothing we could do would change his fate that day. Navy green rubber hip-boots and a yellow plastic raincoat lead to quarter-size blisters and soaked cotton garments. The tough hike, a scary drop off a waterfall, bolts of lightning, and a nasty spill that left him floundering in a foot of water like a beached salmon in the chocolate river from hell were all a part of Mark paying his dues. The Fishing Gods can be cruel at times, borderline vicious, but we must understand that it is all part of a balance. Mark’s lambasting was necessary so that other anglers can reap the rewards of its counterpart, the days of sore arms and shredded flies. Many anglers are tuned-in to this triumphant frequency, especially those who entrench themselves in the sport, those who have made fishing their lives. The fly fishing guides chosen for this project came by way of a network of referrals from the top professionals in the sport, making these anglers the best of the best in fly fishing. The Fishing Gods now welcome you so that you may know the anglers that have been chosen by them: their paths, techniques, patterns, concepts, and philosophies that have made them who they are as today’s leaders in fly fishing.