As a writer, I am blessed to have a passion as deeply inspiring as fishing and the outdoors. There is no doubt the best pieces of writing come from authors who write about what they are passionate about, not what will earn them the highest dollar. Fishing, and more specifically fly fishing, has inspired some of the most powerful and intricate pieces of our time, largely due to its sheer artistry. From the rhythm of the cast to the patterns of the fish, and even the simple beauty of the outdoors, fly fishing truly is an artform.
When I read the prompt for this year’s Trout Unlimited/Orvis Youth Essay Contest, I noticed immediately it focused primarily on one aspect of fly fishing’s allure, the natural world. It read, “Public lands and green spaces are those places where we can go to walk a greenway and listen to the birds, sit in the shade of a tree to escape the summer heat, camp, fish, hike, and explore. Why are these places an important part of your life?”
I was struck by the fact that this prompt, from a leading fisheries conservation organization and a prominent fly fishing company mind you, did not challenge, “Tell us about your biggest trout,” or “Describe which aspect of fly fishing you love the most”. No, instead they chose to focus on an aspect of fishing that is often forgotten, but one that is far more important than flies we use or the fish we catch.
Had the prompt been more fishing oriented, I likely would have penned a story about my time spent on the tumbling rivers and vast lakes of Maine. Many of my most vivid fishing memories occurred in Maine, and it would only make sense to recount a few. However, the prompt wasn’t solely fishing oriented. It asked us to describe the places we go just to be outside and enjoy the activities that come with it. Though Maine and the outdoors form a strong connection in my heart and mind, it isn’t the “green space” which has truly been the most impactful in my life. For that, I looked a little closer to home, to a state forest which has been a playground for my imagination over the past decade.
In the end, my story about my angling evolution within the park and the time I spent there during the coronavirus lockdown earned me first place in the eighth-through-tenth grade category. You can read my article here, and it will also be found in the winter edition of TROUT (Trout Unlimited’s quarterly publication).
Congratulations to all the other entrants, and I can’t wait to see what next year’s young writers come up with! Hopefully they too remember that fly fishing presents its beauty in many facets, not just the ones you see at face value.