Robert Robinson

Word count: 1,177

If you’re new to fly-fishing, the first thing you need to wrap your head around is you need lots of stuff. And to be successful, you need to spend as much money as financially possible on this stuff. A lack of stuff leads to feelings of inadequacy on the stream that extends beyond fly-fishing into your personal life. This will be made clear to you by the proprietor of your local fly shop.

They have lots of stuff at the fly shop, and all of it is essential for fishing success and creating the image that must be projected on the stream, the image you have in your head of what a fly-fisherman is supposed to look like—tweed jacket, floppy hat, wicker creel, bamboo rod, waders, and fishing vest.

The first thing you need to purchase—even before a rod—is the fishing vest. You need the vest because it has lots of pockets for stuff; it has pockets in front, pockets in back, hidden pockets, side pockets, and inside pockets all of which, regardless of the financial pain, must be filled with stuff. Do not concern yourself that  in your ignorance you’ll purchase too much stuff—between the pockets are hooks and tabs from which to hang the stuff that won’t fit in the pockets. Remember, just as there’s no such thing as enough money; there’s no such thing as enough stuff. The owner of the fly shop will gently guide you through the selection process.

The most important thing you will learn from the fly-shop proprietor is if you are not catching fish, if you are not catching big fish, if you are not catching lots of big fish, you either don’t have enough stuff, or you don’t have the right stuff. You’ve heard of the right stuff, they even made a movie about it, but they got it wrong or something because there wasn’t a thing in the movie about fly-fishing. The right stuff is, of course, the stuff you don’t have. At some point, the proprietor of your local fly shop will reveal to you the cosmic law of stuff—the more expensive the stuff, the better the stuff.

You’ll need the stuff you are going to use . . . and backup stuff in case you lose stuff. And all this stuff must be changed out with new stuff periodically. Eventually, your weekly trip to the fly shop on payday will become a sacred ritual, the fly shop your holy of holies, and the guy behind the counter full of stuff your personal holy-man. His declaration, “I’ve got just what you need right over here” will become your mantra, and should you unwisely leave the shop without buying the stuff he suggests, it will burden your soul day and night, haunting your dreams until you go back and do the right thing and buy the right stuff.

You will never be able to have all the stuff you want or need, nor will you be able to explain or justify your thirst for stuff. People will tell you that you can’t take your stuff with you when you tip over. But that’s not true. This will become clear to you when you start thinking about who to leave your stuff to—certainly not your son (the one who finds self-expression through sleeping on his mother’s couch and night-shitting his ex-wife’s porch), and not your grandson (the one with the pink Mohawk, eyebrow ring, and tattoo of Chaz Bono on his butt cheek). You will make arrangements with your holy man to have your stuff cremated with you and scattered in a secret, sacred setting—in the alley behind the fly shop.

Significant others will mumble under their breath against you and your stuff, going so far as to claim you’re spending too much on stuff; this, of course, is nonsense—you must never allow anyone or anything to come between you and your stuff.

One of the coolest things about fly-fishing stuff is it’s seasonal—you’ve got your spring stuff, summer stuff, fall stuff, and winter stuff. Fly-fishing stuff is geographic, as well—there’s your lake stuff, reservoir stuff, tail-water stuff, river stuff, creek stuff, and crick stuff. There’s even stuff to make more stuff (yes, you can make your own stuff, but for that you need the stuff to make stuff with). Then there’s task-specific Stuff.

You’ll need dry-fly stuff and nymphing stuff, stuff for fishing from the bank and stuff for fishing from a boat, and you’ll need stuff for fishing from a float-tube and all the stuff for that. There’s no chance of running out of stuff you need. There are legions of Chinese children laboring away night and day manufacturing more stuff at this very moment.

You’ll need stuff to wear while you’re fishing, as well. The stuff you wear must reflect your status as a fly fisher. And have lots of pockets for you to put stuff in. Fishing apparel is seasonal and geographic as well—there’s really no end to it.

Eventually, you’ll need an extra room for your stuff, a place where you can lay it all out on the floor and look at it, touch it, hold it, admire it, get naked and lay in it. You will lock this room . . . because you don’t want people touching your stuff . . . because it’s yours . . . all yours.

Instead of fishing, you’re prime motivation will become the accumulation of stuff, and you will begin operating in the dark underworld of stuff. You will wind up with so much stuff that you’ll sell stuff on e-bay in order to finance the purchase of more stuff. Your wife will say you don’t need any more stuff. . . . And you’ll hate her for it. You’ll go to the fly-shop and demand to buy stuff. You’ll get catalogs in the mail filled with the newest and best stuff, and you’ll look through them longingly and lovingly. And you will order stuff. (There will be khaki-chick-magnet cargo pants in these catalogs, with lots of pockets . . . for stuff.) The stuff you order from this catalog will be obsolete by the time the next catalog comes out, but you must purchase stuff from this catalog in order to stay on the current mailing list.

When your vest induces hernias, when you can build fly rods out of the back of your truck, when you can set up a fly-tying operation on the bank of a creek . . . you’re almost there.

In an effort to stay up-to-date on equipment, fashionable with attire, and current on catalog mailing lists anglers often find themselves adrift in a back-eddy of slightly used, outdated stuff. Seasoned anglers are able to turn this to their advantage by cycling this inventory through unwary fishing buddies—slightly marked up from cost (a finder’s fee if you will)—generating a self-sustaining revenue that can then be used to purchase more stuff.


© Robert Robinson 2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Robinson and <> with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




I have been honored to have an essay published in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Antioch University’s literary journal Lunch Ticket as their featured creative nonfiction piece. I’ve been told to expect more exciting news about this in the near future. Please go check it out.  You can get your ticket punched here.


We are proud to announce Lunch Ticket‘s Pushcart prize nominees, all featured in this issue: