I am often amazed at the timliness of acts and instances in life that seem to appear out of thin air coinciding with memories that pop into your mind by chance.  Although I had been asked similar questions in the past several years, one in particular came in an email a few weeks ago which really triggered some very relatable memories. 

One of my customers had mentioned that he and his wife recently welcomed their first child into this world, and he was overcome by this overwhelming feeling that he simply couldn’t get his flyboxes filled or find the time to get out on the water as often due to his new set of obligations.  Being an admirer of my work and recognizing that I am a dad that flyfishes he felt compelled asking for some guidance on how to find the time to get out on the river or at the vise.  This email hit my inbox shortly after a rather lenghty array of mishaps, challenges and curveballs had recently presented themselves to my family, many of which were involving parenting, so although honored for considering my input on the subject, the question seemed to come at a time in my life where I can supply a decent response. 

I for one do not claim to be an expert on parenting, if any of you reading this happen to know one, by all means forward their contact information as I have a laundry list of questions.  Being a dad is a very rewarding experience, but with the rewards are an equal or greater number of challenges.  Many become milestones in the growth of your kids, but you quickly realize that once one apparent conquered obstacle is only replaced by yet another waiting in the shadows.  This is very synonomous with life in general; albeit just another piece of the puzzle of the giant puzzle we so seemingly take an entire lifetime putting together. 

For some the idea of raising a family is just not something they are interested in, and on some of your most trying days you can understand why.  But like anything in life, things change and shortly after that rather dark idea comes into your mind, it is swiftly replaced by not knowing if you could live your life without those kids as you simply couldn’t love something so much.  And not even flyfishing is a close second, the gap between that feeling between your children and everything else when you stop to compare is far greater than the Grand Canyon; words cannot describe it.  

It seems like just a few days ago we welcomed our two daughters into this world; now both teenagers, staring my wife in the eyes, it is hard to imagine just how quickly that time has passed as we watch them both grow up.   We are far from perfect in the Strolis household, and although perfection is a noble idea, it truly isn’t realistic as life trips us all  up now and then even in ourfinest hours, but I wholeheartedly believe that when it does there is some hidden message there if you are willing and able to make yourself aware. 

So, for those of you out there who have embraced the flyfishing journey, and are struggling with coming to terms with not being numero uno on the priority list of life now that things have changed, here are a few things from the last fifteen years that kept my head in the game while taking care of the most important of things;  that which is in front of me.  

First and foremost, congratulations on the latest addition to your family.  It goes without saying, that your lives are forever changed.  Becoming a dad is, as I am sure you are so obviously now aware; a trial by fire that requires a great deal of your time, effort and devotion.  Life changes;  priorities, responsibilities are front and center, and many things like going fishing will now take a back seat.   One thing that holds true, is flyfishing will always be part of your life if it means something to you, and now is the time when you will recognize just how much. 

Honestly, as our family grew my fishing time was greatly reduced, and at first it was an extreme culture shock.    In the beginning, I managed to maintain a regular connection to the water, guiding on a weekly basis until it simply became too much to juggle with another career.  Kids need you a great deal in their early years, and if you want them to grow up and be self sufficient, intelligent, hard working, productive, kind human beings, then you need to make them your greatest investment. 

In the midst of all this, at first it will feel odd, as you shift your priorities away from yourself, and put your family first.  But in time it will become instinctual, and by then you just might have figured out that fishing less isn’t really all that bad, it is actually ok;  flyfishing will always be there but your kids being young will unfortunately not.  I have a Sophomore and an Eighth grader at home now, and my wife and I still cannot wrap our heads around that statement as it seems like just yesterday we were walking out of the hospital with them.  A wise person once told me, “Enjoy it now while they’re young as time flies and before you know it they’ll be out of the house”.  And looking back now that statement is so true as I recognize in a few short years mine will both be off to College or wherever life takes them as they embark on their own journey of life.

If you need that water fix, then change your mindset from placing the emphasis on catching,  and focus more on the overall experience.  The sport as a whole could take this advice; our fast paced world has made many of us blind to this notion as it often feels as though we’ve become too preoccupied by the need to produce content, instead of just being part of the experience.  A bunch of likes online from people that really do not know you may feel good to your psyche, it truly has very little if any meaning in the reality of life.   Always remember, it is your time, and now it that your time is limited do your best job making the most of it by doing exactly what you want, how you want, with whomover you want. 

Once I became a dad, I soon took the emphasis off of always fishing, always succeeding and doing well, and focused on those things. The scenery, the people(few) I share it with, the location and the sense of adventure, which also maintained in some sense, but also revitalized my passion for the sport as a whole exponentially.  In my twenties and early thirties I was on the water so much that it became blatantly obvious just how much I overlooked and took it all for granted. 

If simplification is the recipe for maximizing the very little time you have or will have now that you’re a dad, figure out what you enjoy the most about the sport.  That one thing could be just about anything; a specific style or technique, a species, a river or location and use that to build the flies you tie around that and be fine with whatever the outcome may be, good bad or indifferent.  But always remember, you were afforded the opportunity to get out there, decompress in nature and have some time to yourself or with whomever you enjoy it with.  You make time whatever you want it to be, same goes for the fishing and flies.  I tie flies for a living, but am a firm believer that fish can be fooled on just about anything so don’t put all your eggs in the “fly basket” so to speak.  And don’t put so much emphasis and pressure on what you “gotta have” in that fly box, tie a few whenever you can, even if it is for ten minutes after you put that little one to bed.  Before you know it, you will have an entire box filled and ready for that day you can get on the water. 

What’s in my bag all the time truly depends on what my mood is on any given day.  If I am just going to fish streamers, the Alter Ego, Dumpster dinner, and the “Banger” are there but that like the seasons change.  When I go out to spotlight a hatch, I tie up 6-18 flies that will cover the prevailing hatch(es), that could be 1-4 patterns.  Some days I do well, others maybe its a struggle but I still got out there, and part of the allure for me is the cerebral part of deducing what the fish will eat.  

No matter what experience or level of skill set you may possess, you aren’t always “on”, even the best will get stumped from time to time.  I am totally fine with that, as I said earlier, its part of the allure.  Embrace it, don’t feel overwhelmed by filling boxes, constantly having to be catching;  its just fishing.  At the end of the day, you probably have more than what you need now to go fishing anyway.  Being a parent forces the notion that it’s now time to put ourselves second even third and not to sound harsh, grow up a little.  Trust me, it was a tough pill to swallow at first, but what I have learned over time is that the time you put into the growth of that child you will get back ten fold later.  Heck you might even have one hell of a fishing partner too.  

I like to look at things in life with the glass half full mindset, and although I have come off a bit harsh to some with some “rants”, in all actuality I am a forever optimist.  If I wasn’t, I would’ve given up on flyfishing a very long time ago.  Do yourself and your family a favor, cut out the unecessary distractions, and make the real world experience, human interaction, and nature a part of every day and you will indeed be rewarded.