I was living in Wyoming and decided I would like to learn to fly fish. I read all the books I could find on the types of flies that would be good lures at different times of the year and in different kinds of streams. I bought a reel, a fly rod, and a variety of dry and wet flies. I began honing my casting skills in my back yard. It was all in the wrist, the book said. After some rather embarrassing moments of digging the hook out of my shirt, my pants, and even my ear, I believed I had mastered the technique.
I had a friend who had been a big game guide for out-of-state hunters. I told him I planned to catch some trophy rainbow trout. He had the slightest hint of a smile and asked, "Mind if I go along?"
Confident, I replied, "Okay."
When the day of the fishing trip arrived, I stepped out my door fully equipped, looking like one of those fishermen on the cover of Field and Stream magazine. I had my lunch packed and had double-checked my gear before dropping by his house to pick him up. When I rang the door bell and he walked out with nothing but a T-shirt and jeans, I said, "Where's your pole, your lunch? What are you going to fish with?"
He pulled a ball of string out of his right front pocket and a sandwich wrapped in waxed paper out of the other. I didn't say anything, but I hoped he knew how much skill and technique was required to fish for trout. I liked Lyndon, and I didn't want to make him look bad, but hey, what could I do?
He said, "Can I borrow a hook?"
I asked, "What kind, a mayfly?"
He said, "No, just a hook. You know, just a plain old hook."
When we arrived at the stream, I was so anxious to get started that I didn't notice that Lyndon had slipped away. I had been fishing (more like fishing my flies out of the surrounding trees and my clothes) when a miracle happened. I hooked one! It was a beauty, only about 7 inches long, but in my mind, it was a trophy. I walked back to the car to see if I could locate Lyndon and show off my catch. There he was standing beside the car and on a log beside him was a beautiful rainbow trout about 18 inches long.
Before I could ask, he said, "Grasshopper."
And there, my friends, is the difference between knowledge and understanding. Knowledge alone can't make you a great fisherman. It is through the trial and error of experience that what you know becomes part of who you are. It's what makes it possible for you to catch a trophy rainbow trout with a string and a grasshopper.