Fly fishing is one of those things that can completely change the course of your life. That might sound over blown or like an exaggeration but I assure you, it is not. That is because fly fishing is itself a journey.
Fly fishing changes how you look at things. It changes how you interact with the world around you. It changes your acceptance of the reality of each situation that you're faced with. You cannot make the conditions and the fish be anything but what they are.
To be a great fly angler, you're forced to pay attention to the world around you, to much smaller details. You gain an appreciation for not only your successes, but also your failures. You appreciate the takes as well as the refusals.
Becoming a great fly angler means that you must choose to constantly improve yourself and your technique. Your cast becomes as much a part of your experience as the fish. You develop your own style, with it's own eccentricities. You first begin by just hoping that you can get your fly out far enough to actually catch a fish. Eventually you look to each cast to perfect your loop. You find joy in just the act of casting, in that constant pursuit of improvement, you elevate the pursuit to an art form.
In fly tying we can find an outlet for creativity that is driven by first a single purpose, to catch a fish. Next that outlet takes on personal touches, each fly an pattern is unique to the tier. Each pattern is unique to the fishery. Each pattern becomes a memory of the water. They become a memory of days and nights in those same waters.
More than anything else fly fishing is a departure from our daily life, an escape from cell phones and emails, from traffic and rush. Fly fishing allows for the childlike joy that is often gone from our daily lives. It's our chance to lose ourselves in the moment, if only for a moment. To listen to the waters of the river running by, the waves crashing in the surf, or the gentle breeze of a flat while we pole along.
The journey of a fly angler, to becoming a great fly angler is not something that can be defined for you. No one can tell you if you have reached that pedestal, that's because fly fishing is at it's core an exercise in humility. This road does not have a map or road signs because it is unique to the angler.
I think one of the signs of a great fly angler is in how giving they are. How much they teach and share. How much they listen, and how much they allow for others to experience the same joys that they have found in their journey. The learn to teach without speaking and to have without possessing.
I think that a great fly angler eventually comes to the understanding that their journey never had a final destination but instead it is a river that never reaches the sea.