Fly fishing is full of it — full of anglers who take themselves too seriously, and full of others who support it. Everyone knows everything.
We have comp guys who can’t help recruiting others to join their world. Because hey, if you’re really serious about fly fishing then the next step is to join a team and enter a bracket with other fish-counters, right? No, not really.
We have hatch matchers who do nothing but cast to risers and tell you that it’s the only way to fly fish. And while looking sideways at the rest of the pack, the truth is they never put in the time to learn any other tactics.
It’s an industry that can’t stop repackaging an old idea as new, slapping a fresh label on it and charging twice as much as any gear-angler would ever pay.
This is the sport that gave you indoor casting ponds and distance casting trophies, as though that’s something that’s going to put trout in the net anyway. We are an angling bunch who came up with long-arming fish selfies, the buff, rod vaults, the streamer junkie and purists of all sorts. We have musky anglers hash tagging pictures of juvenile fish and fitting four anglers into the frame, all posing like it’s the beast of the year. (The gear guys chuckle at this.)
Fly fishers, all too often, are in fact a little much.
But this is also the industry that developed breathable waders. And dammit, those are wonderful. Likewise, the crazed energies of competition fishermen, streamer junkies and musky guys have spawned the development of more fishing gear and fly tying materials than could ever fit on the walls of our old fly shops. So we now have shops with taller walls and more options. More gear and materials gives rise to even greater ideas. It’s progress. It’s personal growth, and you gotta love it.
But, undoubtedly, this is a sport that breeds arrogance too. Everything I do is the best, and yeah, I’ve been doing that forever. It comes from comparisons, from all the judging, and from our fragile insecurities. None of us knows everything about fly fishing, but we all know someone who catches a lot more fish than we do.
So as fly fishing churns out newish concepts like articulated streamers and euro nymphing, it’s no wonder there’s some resistance to it all. No wonder at every turn we find guys with arms folded, shaking their heads and saying, “Nah, I’ve been doing that forever.”
Stuff like this . . .
That’s not a new loop knot. That’s what I used as a boy. Nobody taught me any fishing knots, so I came up with this knot to tie flies to the leader.
Drop shotting? My old man fished with lead sinkers tied below the bait for lake fishing. The surf fishermen call it a high-low rig. Been doing that for years.
Jig hooks? Yeah I’ve been tying flies on those forever. I bought them at the bait shop, and for the smaller sizes, I just heated up the wire and bent them into a jig with pliers.
Nothing new about your rubber legged flies. We pulled those little strings off spinnerbaits for bass fishing and tied ‘em onto our trout flies way back in the Eighties.
Long leader nymphing? When I was a teenager we strung up minnows or maggots and fished them with monofilament on a fly rod. I’ve been doing that forever.
I think we all say these things sometimes. And it’s not necessarily our arrogance showing through. We say, “Yeah, I already know that,” just to show that we’re not an idiot. In the fly fisher’s case, it’s an effort to communicate our experience, to signal to someone else that we’re no rookie, that we’ve worn out many boot soles, gone through dozens of fly lines, burned out the drag on a couple reels and filed warranty claims on as many fly rods.
But we’ve also fallen into the river a hundred times. So don’t forget that part either.
I’ve been in conversations with fly fishers who need to tell me, at every turn, that they’ve been doing all this for a very long time. And it’s not just from the retired crew. Twenty-somethings often hold up the same conversational roadblock. It’s an attitude that says, Yeah, I already know that. I already do that. Nothing to learn here, so move on.
But a closed mind gains nothing, and old ideas grow stale. The feet-stuck-to-the-ground mentality is stubbornness that stands in the way of progress. It keeps us from opening up to new things and enjoying the fly fishing game with a fresh start.
At his best, the I’ve been doing that forever guy also keeps us grounded. He’s there to remind us that every new thing is connected to the past. He’s there to point out that fishermen like Joe Brooks and Joe Humphreys had some big things figured out too. He bridges fly fishing’s future with its past. And while moving forward at an ever-accelerating pace, it’s important to remember where all of this came from anyway.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N