NIKKI SEGER, FLY FISHERMAN
The following is an excerpt from an interview I did with a truly inspiring woman. I have never quite understood what the lure of fly fishing was really all about until Nikki shared this little gem. Here’s to the magic of reconnecting with the childlike joy of engaging with water.
Can you share one of your fishing stories?
We were in a farmhouse in Iowa, sitting down at the table tying flies. We've decided to have a contest for fishing that day. To my left is Felix. He has his vice there, a cup of coffee and his glasses sort of pushed down on the bridge of his nose. He’s squinting and up very close to his fly. And then there’s Steve. Also glasses on and his materials piled up all around him. We are all huddled around the small kitchen table, enjoying the banter and the camaraderie, getting ready to fish.
A component of this has to do with escape and getting away from everyday life. It’s like sharing a secret together, like a secret life outside the ordinary life. The values that we place on that and the fact that we are all so deeply invested into not only the being in the outdoors and the beauty and whatnot, but taking the time to be with each other to do this. It’s the commitment to doing it and knowing how valuable it is that helps build the love and camaraderie around this special gathering.
What kind of secret are you sharing?
The secret that we share is that there is this beauty and this creation in the world that very few people get to access. You can step into water that looks like a puddle and within it there are these beautiful living creatures. And you can use these little flies that you make to catch them, touch them and then release them. The rest of the world doesn't know about it, and it’s just magical!
Tell me more about this fishing magic.
The magic relates to the sensory experience. It's being outdoors and it's giving yourself permission to step in the water, to actually feel the water, to hear the water, to smell the water, and to be in an outdoor setting in which there's no concrete and no cars. It's water and trees and banks. It's just pure nature.
And when you catch one and see how beautiful they are, it’s just incredible. The beauty of a fish is not just the colors, but also in the feel of it. Everything about fish is beautiful. Now, you can't catch them with your hands because they are too fast and you often can’t see them. The way you're catching fish is by trying to give them a food source that they naturally eat. Most people don't know this, and this is part of the magic. Most fish eat little insects, so in a hook, you tie fur and feather that looks like one of these little insects, and with your fly rod you cast it out there on the water where there are other little bugs that fish are eating. If you are lucky, a fish will take your little imitation insect and then you bring it in and you get to touch it and you release it. Well, that's magical!
Just doing that activity in and of itself is interesting, and then you're doing it with two friends who get it like you do, and want to share that experience. I'd rather fish with those two guys than go by myself anytime, even though I don't get to fish as much, because the sharing of that joy is also part of the magic.
Tell me more about giving yourself permission to step in the water. What's that all about?
I was just walking by the bus stop today and there was a little boy who was licking an icicle and was shuffling a path in the snow. Adults don't do that. Why do we give up grabbing the icicle and licking it and making a cool path through the snow? Because at some point we learn that it is not ok to get wet, that we don’t like to get wet. It's very rare, except like in a swimming pool, that we allow ourselves to step in the water. It's just not natural to go and wade in the water. You might be on a boat, you might be swimming, but that's the only way we engage with water. Fly fishing is a full on engagement with water; you’re stepping in the water, you’re exploring the whole bottom of the stream bed, you’re dipping your hands in the water, you’re looking at rocks in the water, you’re looking at where fish live. Nothing in our adult life says that that's permissible, allowable or enjoyable. And yet fisherman do it because they know it's permissible, allowable and enjoyable. It's like grabbing that icicle and licking it while making a path
in the snow.