Fishing with flies, as I have come to call it, is really not an activity for those who truly seek relaxation and comfort. If you just want to fish, find a tree, a worm, grab a beer and there you go.
For me, part of the magic of flyfishing lies in its preponderance of mystery. Lots of riddles to solve; lots and lots of questions that, while begging for answers, very often appear to have none. At least none that are readily available and/or acceptable at the time. And, as my years of experiences unfold, I like to think that through all of this, through all of the 'on-the-job-training', I'm 'making progress'.
Progress towards exactly what?
Ahh. Good question.
In what direction am I 'progressing'? Am I progressing?
There. Now that's a more relevant question.
Where do I wish to go with this so-called, maybe illusory 'progression'? In the past, I would have settled for a simple answer, something elemental, along the lines of, "I want to tie better flies...", or, if asked the same question after a particularly frustrating stretch of days on the water, my response might well edge toward the controlled rage of, "I want to catch a fish, damnit! Why can't I tempt even one stupid trout to eat my fly!?"
And, I guess those are, for the good majority of us, a couple of very good yardsticks with which to measure our 'progress' toward, well, becoming better flyfishermen.
Me? I guess I need something more. For sure, bringing fish to my hand with exquisitely tied flies is always a pretty good indicator that I'm doing something right. And if that type of activity repeated itself day after day no matter what, I might be tempted to feel like I was getting somewhere. I'd finally, really be that legend in my mind I've always dreamed I might be. Like we all dream we might be. And we have some days that are like that, don't we? We sure do, just often enough to temporarily forestall any contemplations concerning the scope of larger pictures. I think great days, even semi-great ones, can make us lazy.
So, one of the ways I think I wish to measure my 'progress' is to be aware of, develop, and refine my intuitive prowess. To continue to educate myself. To not let success stagnate my methodry. To add to my toolbox of whatever skills necessary so that at any given moment I have options. It seems easy to sit here and type it, but on the water, I will consider it progress if I remember these words and utilize what skills I have to that point honed. Having answers, or options, is key to some of those 'questions' I spoke of earlier.
Experience is the best teacher, or so 'they' say. I believe that to be true, but only if you really learn from it.