When does routine become ritual? I love the routine of fly fishing and have come to believe that the routine is part of the beauty of it. And I have come to believe that routine is merely a fine line away from ritual.
“Routine” is defined as a “sequence of actions regularly followed.” My approach to fly fishing certainly has that. It begins the evening before a planned outing. I check my fly boxes. I load my Fishpond Bitch Creek Pack in the back of the truck. Check the rods, net, and extra gear I carry in the truck – a change of socks, an extra jacket, some protein bars. I get lunch and drinks ready. I set out my wallet and keys so I can make a more soundless exit in the dim morning light.
The drive to local fisheries is routine, too. I usually grab a breakfast sandwich or burrito from a little place I know. Maybe an apple fritter from The Donut Mill and an extra blueberry donut to keep in the truck for day’s end. The routine is the same even if the breakfast spot changes. I even have a couple of road trip playlists as my “go to” music for the drive up.
But just after Divide, the routine begins to feel different. Or maybe it is heading north on Highway 67 if I am headed to Deckers or Cheesman. Or it changes just past Parkdale if I am fishing the Arkansas. The routine comes close to ritual.
“Ritual,” similar to “routine,” is defined as a “series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” The definition distinguishes itself from “routine” by adding that it is a “religious or solemn ceremony.” Fly fishing may or may not be a religious ceremony – depending on one’s leanings. There are plenty of folks who have written about this aspect of fly fishing. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Tom Brokaw: “If fishing is a religion, then fly fishing is the high church.” Fly fishing may not even be solemn — unless we consider one definition of “solemn” to be “characterized by deep sincerity.” It certainly taps into that.
All I know is something changes as I get nearer to the river. I feel the change before I even park the truck. A feeling of groundedness. A sense of worries and stresses being discarded.
And when I pull off near the river, when I hear the sound of the water over rocks, like a baptism, hear the chorus of birds and wind in the trees, the crunch of gravel under boots as I prepare for the wade, it isn’t just routine any more.
The day is different now.