Over the past year, our cozy little website has conjured up over 20K unique visitors to its fun-filled pages. It's no surprise that so many people dig the FlyLife. Who can deny the allure of great music, cold beer, wild fish, and above all else, staying fly? Not many. But then again, some people do (those sick bastards). We're not huge yet. Not rolling in the dough by any means. But then again, it was never really about the dough. I guess that's why we can't quit... there are more people out there to brainwash. More masses that could use a friendly reminder to take a deep breath when times get hard, breathe, and take their next cast. No matter how impossible it may seem. Seriously though, when considering the humble origins of this cyber publication - it's amazing to think how far we've come in the past year. It's like I've said before, truly losing yourself in this sport will help you find yourself outside of it.
FlyTimesDC started in a Latin American studies course at Rhodes College in the fall of my junior year as a doodle. That’s right. A doodle. An original logo that hath since been revamped, the hammerhead/flytimesdc hybrid logo was dumb (albeit drawn on just about every single beer pong table at Rhodes College from 2011-2012). A confused and mangled assortment of lines that if you glanced upon it at the right angle, somewhat resembled a shark with FlyTimesDC crudely scribbled on its back. However, that silly logo stood for the pursuit of a dream and the commitment to a lifelong passion that grabbed me by the reins at 3 years old and steered me to places I honestly never thought I’d be. I’m sure Brogan, Tony, Tom, Hunter, Trent, and Kenny would agree that they’ve experienced a similar pull to the sport.
At the time of said doodle, I was a relative novice to fly fishing. I owned a fly rod. Sure, I could cast and catch a fish. But there was no rhyme or reason to it. I was a semi-pro bass fisherman, more accustomed to ripping lips and fishing fast and recklessly on 65lb braid - not 7x tippet. I didn’t understand the nuances of the game. Yet, it fascinated me. So naturally, I urged myself to get better with the wand. I fly fished every single day while in school for two years straight until I graduated….and kept on fishing.
I ventured out to the Little Red and Spring Rivers in Arkansas to chase trout on free weekends and organized small expeditions to harass urban bass in the dead of the Memphis night with friends. Carp, bass, catfish, and sunfish were all constantly messed when not in classes or baseball practice in the ponds behind my apartment. The tug was and still is the drug. It’s what prompts one to hit the outgoing tide at Gravelly Point at odd hours of the night or makes it a goal to learn every fishy hole in Rock Creek Park on your own. Those first few milestones (first carp, big trout, bass, bonefish) were the budding chapters in a story that hopefully isn’t even close to being entirely written. Yet, as the milestones get bigger and my quarries more elusive (f*ck you, snakeheads) the further down this road I go, I will always remember those precious first few steps.
Two years later, FlyTimesDC.com emerged from the ether of the Internet as a crudely pasted together compilation of HTML, poor grammar, and random fish pictures in an attempt to convince my parents I didn’t need a real job coming out of school. As you can expect, that lasted for all of one month before threats of disownment starting coming down the line from the higher ups. Eventually I got a “corporate job” to get them off my back but all the while, FlyTimesDC kept evolving.
As my passion for fly fishing continues to grow and I become more adept/experienced on the water with the wand in my hand, it has became harder to imagine myself doing anything else the rest of my life. No passion will rival that I already have for this sport. The places this sport takes you both physically and emotionally change you…in a good way though….
Fly fishing forces you to at least reconsider those things which you first thought were “priorities”. Beers, girls, work, etc all fall to the back burner when there is a prolific hatch, fantastic weather, or run of fish. I’ll be the first to admit that my life usually unravels when the fishing is on fire. No shave shad run was a testament to that. But if you’ve ever seen bonefish tailing on the gin clear flats of the Bahamas, a Smoky Mountain star show out performing a night at ULTRA, or witnessed the wild par markings of a native brook trout swimming in the same place it’s been since the dinosaurs – you probably get it. If you haven’t –you should probably fish more.
So as we hopefully continue to get weird with some fish words and instagrammed glory shots for some time down the road - I'd like to extend a big thank you to not only the fly fishing community at large, but to all the friends, family, and followers who have had to deal with me speaking in tongues about tippet, tying flies, the wonders of trout, my snakehead tormention, and ultimately made FlyTimesDC a part of their life for the past year - thank you. We're not done by any means.
When you tell your friends that you’re coming down for a long weekend of revelry and catching up on good times – the last thing on their minds is a world record grass carp. But then again, there is no such thing as a “normal” trip to Memphis.
When I travel, I’m about as close as it gets to being narcoleptic. The minute I step on a plane, I find my seat and promptly pass out until landing, dreaming of fish all along the way. It’s a fairly sweet system I’ve developed. Yet, on the flight back to Memphis to visit my alma mater and see the old friends, favorite bars, and eateries I left behind en route to the “real world”– I couldn’t sleep. The amalgamation of memories – Stauffer Field, frat row, tailgates, the “Barnett Library”, Zinnies, finals anxiety, fried chicken friday, Alex’s Tavern, the sight of long lost faces, and the return to my fly origins - encouraging my mind to race faster than if it were on Adderall . But I think the real reason I couldn’t sleep was a much simpler one - I brought my fly rod with me.
Most people know Memphis for its music and food. Whether it’s munching down Rendezvous dry ribs, Huey’s burgers, or Gus’s Fried Chicken while listening to the Sun Studios crooning of B.B. King or Elvis Presley along Beale Street or bumping bass to 107.1 (where hip hop lives) along Summer Avenue – Memphis is defined by its willingness to please your senses. Unfortunately, it will never be confused with a world class fly fishery. But what Memphis is – is a city defined by its opportunities and those individuals who seek them.
I like to think that I sought out my opportunities in college. I came to the Bluff City an obnoxious undergrad bent on dominating beer pong tables and the baseball diamond and left a relatively sane, rational-minded fly fisherman with a bum elbow and a healthy perspective on life. The person I was on my first day of college radically differed from the man I was on my last. Memphis forced me to blaze my own path to happiness - every cast into the unknown teaching me something new about life. Every dumb golf course bass a cure for the pangs of home sickness. I can only hope to repay this good fortune down the road - to inspire those around me to find true happiness in whatever they do.
I guess fishing will always be what I want to do. It will be the first thing on my mind whenever I see water or travel to a new place. It drove me to wonder onto an empty golf course on a cold night in the pursuit of largemouth bass and happiness my freshman year. I know for a fact it is the reason I convinced my best friend to move to Mudd Island instead of living closer to campus my junior year (there are neighborhood ponds). And despite an incredibly supportive group, is how I kept my sanity in Memphis despite all the obstacles that school, baseball, and life threw my way. Simply put, fishing has never asked me for anything more than a chance. I will always give it one….
The return trip to Rhodes College and Memphis was one of mixed emotions. I knew I would be walking into a situation where time had visibly passed me by. I would feel old and unwanted. There would be new buildings, new faces, and the inevitable first introductions to people I would probably never see again. Yet, I also knew that the faces and places that I came to love in Memphis would be there - that my friends, surrogate family, and most importantly - my fish would be there.
I won’t bore you with tales of how infuriatingly close I came to triumph or how several potential world record grass carp gave me the fin. I won’t tell you about how silly I looked hiding behind a tree and roll casting to a fish from someone’s backyard. I sure as hell won’t tell you what happened Saturday night. But I will tell you this, there are opportunities everywhere. All you have to do is look.
Over drinks one evening, my older sister Catherine brought up an interesting question: "Would your 7 year old self like who you are now?"Probably, I thought to myself.Right?
The discussion began with us talking about how much had changed over the years. How our different life experiences and paths taken - like a trout somehow surviving the volatile, constant flow of a cold mountain stream - had forged our still maturing identities and led us to our current whereabouts in life. In short, we were lamenting our youth's ill-fashioned dreams and time's ability to make you forget them. In shorter - we were having the "we're grown up" talk.
A seemingly harmless question that's more complicated than a simple yes or no (evidenced by some profound head scratching from those involved in the discussion), Catherine's inquisition brought about some serious soul searching. But being the youngest, I remembered our aspirations. Embarrassing as it may seem now - Catherine wanted to be the star of Grease*, our brother Andrew yearned to be physically "unbreakable," and our sister Sarah chomped at the bit to become the NFL's first woman linebacker - I'm sad that we lost ourselves and grew up. But the more I thought about it, I was pretty sure that we all had done right by our little selves in one way or another. We were all healthy, content, and employed. All great things for this day in age. But would my 7 year old self approve of where I am now?
As a youth, school was secondary, nap-time unnecessary, and broccoli the most sinister of foes (all themes that continue in my life to this day). A curly headed hellion whose post-preschool snack consisted of Skittles and ice cold Surge Cola (gotta love the 90s), I typically passed those useless days I didn't go fishing by either fishing in the house for furniture against my mother's wishes (pillows fought the hardest), drawing fish in the corner of our living room, or daydreaming about that next time on the water. I was obsessed and on those glorious afternoons where I marched down the hill to my godfather's farm pond armed with a cane pole and worms - you couldn't find anyone happier or more excited to be there (sound familiar anyone?).
Over time, something has had to change. I've grown taller (I'm 6'2, as opposed to 4'5), filled out (215 lbs compared to 60), overcome my fear of the baseball (four-year varsity pitcher in college) and instilled just enough discipline to pay attention in school (graduated college). Hell, I even learned to fly fish (big hands, small flies, and light line are not mutually exclusive entities). But physical growth is superficial, most people eventually gain literacy, and more often than not, you'll pick up a fly rod without breaking it. The bottom line here is that life forces us to change whether we like it or not. No one can stay the same forever. But maybe a small part of them can. Let's see if little Rem and I still see eye-to-eye over some of life's more important details.
Over time, you'll recognize that a rare shot at perfection exists each time on the water. That at any given moment, your cast and retrieve can come together in a brilliantly violent explosion of predatory instinct, primal fury, and indescribable beauty. More importantly though, you'll learn to take things away from your experiences - each catch and failure a lesson in life's grand scheme of things. These lessons will almost certainly make you a better fisherman. But the fish are only part of the equation. You will probably become a better person from all of this, too. You'll learn patience and an appreciation for the little things, the importance of savoring each second in life and inherent beauty in all that surrounds us. You'll come to know the definition of preparedness and the conditions necessary for something to be properly called "working hard." People will initially think you're weird for finding sunrises more appealing than sunsets, full moons giving you vehement mixed feelings (full moons are the best for tarpon and the worst for stripers), or having a pep in your step on a rainy day because the fishing will be badass at a local golf course - but you're fine. Don't worry about them. They're the weird ones. What do they know? THEY (non-fishers) know that our sport bottoms down to a brutal combination of physical skill, technical precision, and luck. Unfortunately, this is somewhat true. But as YOU know by now, it's more than that.
This sport helps defines your identity. You'll have to adapt, go beyond your comfort zone and get good at something new very quickly in order to succeed. But isn't that the same as life? If you want to succeed, you can't be afraid to take that cast. Because when everything works - that sweet moment of predatory malcontent, where the subtle thump and hookset become the culmination of your life's achievements to that point in time - time seems to stand still. But for every great day of fishing, you'll have days that you'll want to forget. Remember that karma works both ways.
There will be excursions where your physical and mental limits are pushed, sometimes even broken. Trips where it seems that some mysterious, dark force is ruining your life. Days where you are without a doubt cursed, your heart and rod breaking almost simultaneously. Hell, there will be some fish you will never, ever catch. But that is life. That is fishing. You can never give up the chase. One cast can change your life. I guess we're getting away from the original question though, so I should finish up.
A wise man once told me, "The only ways to get better at fishing are to fish with someone better than you or to fish water you've never fished before." I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment. But there is something bittersweet in that notion. With that logic, the greatest fisherman in the world must be someone who has seen and accomplished everything. And while I'd love to fish with that individual (their process sounds fun), the end result doesn't. Because when it's all said and done, it's the mystery of this sport that keeps bringing me back to the water's edge.
I know that every day is a clean slate with a new accomplishment or milestone to achieve. There is the beautiful possibility that on any given cast, my life can change. That at any second, I can see something completely original and genuine. Once that surprise is gone, the elation of my shaky hands and butterflies replaced with dull content and smug expectation, there will be no thrill or joy for me in this sport. That, my friend, is the person my 7 year old self would not like to be around or, more importantly, fish with. Safely, I can say that I'm not there yet. I still get excited whenever I feel the thump of a hungry game fish. I still have time.
When life is all said and done, it's about the relationships made and roads traveled - the people met and waters explored. Fishing, although a staple of my life, is about putting things in perspective. Whether it's spooking that giant redfish on a quiet flat by making the slightest noise with your feet and having the coolness to laugh it off, seeing a big rainbow trout aggressively attack your strike indicator when you've seemingly thrown every fly in your box at it and not breaking your rod, or having a sailboat sail over your pod of tarpon on an otherwise empty flat and not engaging in homicidal behavior - this sport has undeniably left its mark on me. When something breaks or doesn't go my way, it's okay. Things will get better. The fish will bite again.
Last Cast: So would my 7 year old self like who I am now? I can't be entirely sure. I'm sure we'd get along on certain things and we wouldn't understand each other on others. But I do know one thing - we'd like fishing together.
*For the Record, Catherine states that she "never wanted to star inGrease," but "just really really really loved the movie", which even she admits, "might be weirder."
Remick Smothers is a native son of the District of Columbia and the founder of FlyTimesDC. A self taught fly fisherman and fly tier, Rem graduated from Rhodes College with a double major in fly fishing and English in 2012. He has been celebrating the fly life ever since. Just remember, if it's dark out, there's a shark out. Above all else, stay fly. #flytimesdc