I’m fascinated by the arbitrary lines people create for themselves. Nowhere in life do I see the tendency to define and delineate so strongly as it’s seen in fishermen. Anglers constantly draw lines about how they fish, about what kind of fisherman they are, and more emphatically, what kind of fisherman they are not.
One person fishes only dry flies, but the next fishes dries to rising trout only inside perfectly circular rings. Anything less is simply unsporting, you see. One subgroup fishes nymphs on a tight line only, while the next insists indicators are superior — as long as they aren’t called bobbers, right? The streamer purist is something I never expected to see, and yet here we are. There’s a distinct faction of fishers who insists the only way they get their thrills is by watching a fish eat the fly. Nymphing is too lazy and passive; fishing dries could be fun too, but it’s just so easy …
These extreme opinions aren’t all that common, but I tend to believe there’s a bit of it in all of us.
Thankfully, most of the people I run into these days are the type who say, “I don’t care how other guys fish, but this is what I like, and it’s all cool.” There’s a growing diversity of angler styles and an acceptance of other methods that parallels it. That’s important because the world is getting smaller, and we’re all going to need each other’s cooperation pretty soon.
I’m glad we’re at this point, really. Fly fishing needs to lose the grumpy elitism that hangs around its neck. Shed the weight. Open up and breath a little.
Yet, the irreproachable lines of some anglers that I still encounter defy logic. Last fall I met a guy who rigidly and relentlessly opposed the fishing of nymphs. “It’s no better than fishing bait,” he sneered. He was quite certain his lines were drawn correctly. Everyone else was missing the target. He defiantly told me he fished only dry flies and — get this — streamers. Really??
I rarely poke the bear in moments like these because it accomplishes nothing, but I just couldn’t help myself. After all, my new friend clearly wanted to tell me more, so I asked the question. “Aren’t your streamers pretty much like baitfish imitations?”
“No,” he insisted. “Who knows what they take a streamer for. And nymphing is just like fishing worms.”
“What if I dead drift a streamer then?” I prodded. “Is that OK, or is that just bait fishing too?”
“Same thing,” he said, and walked away.
I’m not so sure the guy had actually thought things through before drawing hard lines and judgments around the labels of bait fishing, nymphing and streamer fishing.
About once a month, someone becomes angry with me for fishing with the Mono Rig and writing about it. That’s not fly fishing, you see, because you’re not using a fly line. Ahhhh, so if I put a bobber and some split shot on a shorter leader and use fly line, then it’s fly fishing again, huh? And if I put an ultra thin plastic coating around some thick monofilament and print “Competition Fly Line” on the box, then am I fly fishing again if I spool that up? (I think comp lines are great, by the way). Where’s the reasonable line to be drawn then? Is it fly fishing because of the specific thickness in the taper of a fly line? Or is it the length of the leader itself? So 19 feet is not fly fishing, but a 17 foot leader is fly fishing? That makes no sense.
People are eager to defend their own fishing positions, so much in fact, they often preemptively shield themselves without being attacked. When it comes up in conversation that I’m an avid fly fisher, some guys quickly tell me they “just fish conventional gear and don’t know how to fly fish.” They often seem shy to admit that they fish bait. My usual reply is that I fished minnows for two decades of my life, and I’ll probably fish minnows again soon. The term fly fisher carries too much baggage, and I often feel I must apologize for that.
There’s constant comparison among some anglers — too much competition. And life could probably be a little happier, easier and freer without it.
I guess all these lines and delineations come from human nature to defend the choices we make. Something about a fishing rod in hand seems to amplify this character trait, and some anglers will defend their choices as if they’re unarguably the best.
I suggest to draw your own lines, decide why and how you’ll fish, and figure out what makes you happy out there. But keep an understanding that the lines, the delineations, are yours alone.
Be happy. Be fishy. Have fun.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N