Stage 1: I want to learn to cast (or just catch a fish)
Stage 2: I want to catch as many fish as possible
Stage 3: I want to catch a big fish,
Stage 4: I want to catch a smart, difficult to catch, fish
Stage 5: Catching fish does not matter, I have entered into Nirvana.
Now that you have read The Stages of a Fly Fisherman one last time, forget it. Its pure crap. You are an individual, not a stage. For Christ's sake, you are a fly fisherman and an artist, not just another cog in the machine. Somewhere between stage 3 and 4.
Still, we need some kind of framework to understand the pedagogy of fly fishing. What it can teach us and where we are along the journey. We must turn to our old, good friend Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Three Metamorphoses
"Three metamorphoses of the spirit do I designate to you: how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child."
Ah, simplicity. We no longer worry about stages, only Three Metamorphoses. These are the Camel, the Lion, and finally a Child.
1) The Camel.
When we first begin fly fishing, we kneel down like a camel and ask that a load be put on us, and we want it to be heavy. We read every book we can get our hands onto that has the name Whitlock, Lefty, or Wulff on it. Videos? You know you watched them so many times that the tape was worn out. Every magazine, devoured, books of essays from Traver and Gierach became dog eared. And Skip Morris taught you how to tie flies. If you had the money you were guided by a master, if not you learned by making mistakes. Didn't matter, just increase the load.
2) The Lion.
When you are well loaded, you enter the desert, the loneliest wilderness to find the Grail, Freedom. The spirit of the lion says "I will" but you will encounter a gold scaled Dragon, and on every scale of the golden dragon there is written a "Thou Shalt", a value that has already been created. Some of these Thou shalts are 2000 years old, some come from the last issue of the Drake, and include:
Thou Shalt fish upstream
Thou Shalt fly fish for trout only, and hopefully in Montana
Thou Shalt fish dries for rising trout
Thou Shalt only fish a floating 5wt line for trout, and the rod better be graphite
The Dragon speaketh:
"All values have already been created, and all created values--do I represent. Verily, there shall be no 'I will' any more"
But the more well loaded the camel, the more powerful the lion he becomes. The lion will kill the dragon and thereby destroy all the "Thou Shalts". Only by killing the Dragon is freedom created.
3) The Child.
The lion can only create freedom, the space to create. But to begin anew, to create a totally new fly fishing idea, fly, presentation, or philosophy, the lion must become a child.
"Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self- rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea."
Where are you in the Metamorphoses? Learn, become well loaded, search for freedom and destroy the conformity that the Dragon represents, and finally become original. The fly fishing community needs you to become a child. To create something that has never been thought. To roll out of Your Own Center.
The 5 Stages of a Fly Fisherman? Give me a break.
Thus spake Zarathustra.