Home » To Gear or Not to Gear: That is the Fly Fishing Question

To Gear or Not to Gear: That is the Fly Fishing Question

You don’t have to look to hard to find a fly fishing rant. Somewhere, right now, someone is posting to a blog or a message board or a comments section. They’re calling out the local fish commission. They’re  venting about the guys down at the fly shop. They’re berating a fellow Instagram user. They’re angry about tagging companies, product placement, and “pro staffs”.

That last series catches quite a bit of e-vitriol.

There are plenty of reasons why a good number of fly fishers don’t like the “gear-forward” approach that can exist in the culture.  Understandably, many have an aversion to materialism or how a lot of it could be perceived as shilling. For some, but not all, there is probably even a bit of jealousy.

Like a discussion about fly rod actions or hardest fighting fish, there are plenty of opinions on what is best. Here, at Casting Across, I write about gear. A lot. I’ve never been one to defend a position. However, I would like to offer up a perspective on why someone might be very much into rods, packs, leaders, and hats. Coincidentally, it happens to be my perspective.

As I’ve mentioned before, my first real job was working in fly fishing retail. I got a sales job at an Orvis store and immediately took to memorizing tippet diameters, rod specs, and dog bed densities. If it was listed in the inventory, I digested it. This wasn’t too much of a chore, as I had been poring over Cabela’s Fly Fishing and Murray’s Fly Shop catalogs ever since I took up the sport.  Part of the task was about being the best salesman I could be, and part of it had to do with the fact that I enjoyed it.

I’ve always liked gear. As a child, I would go into my grandfather’s den and just marvel at what surrounded me. He was a firearms dealer, and had rifles of every generation and caliber all over the walls. He would take one down, tell me what was unique about it, and let me shoulder the gun.  The first time I saw a tackle box was a similar experience. That magical, expanding Plano contained old Jitterbugs, rusty hooks, and melted worms that captivated me. Each was unique, but each had a purpose.

I like the story behind gear. More than almost anything at an outdoor show I love talking to exhibitors. I truly enjoy having them walk me through the products that they have designed, produced, and marketed. More than just seeing a new type of line or reel model, I want to know why. What prompted them to take things in the direction that they did? How did they choose the color? Who influenced them? Where have they gone fly fishing to make the decisions that they have made? Some people haven’t thought this deep about what they do, but most have. It seems like those folks appreciate it when someone else does, too.

I like how good gear can enrich the experience. Unless your awful fly rod is constructed of high-modulus sentimentality, bad gear is no fun. Good gear makes fishing better, because you don’t think about good gear: you get to think about fishing. A sling pack that is comfortable is a great thing. A reel that doesn’t backlash or stutter as the drag engages will play fish better. While it isn’t necessary, gear that looks cool while being functional is a lot more fun than gear that works but isn’t aesthetically appealing.

There are people at either end of the gear spectrum. Some go a little overboard and have stickers on their stickers on their name brand everything… and they’ll tell you all about it on social media. On the other hand, some equate spending any amount of time thinking about consumerism with playing capitalism for the man instead of fishing.

Admittedly, I list towards the pro-gear side of the ledger. Like I said, I enjoy the stuff. Since this happens to be my website, I write about the people, places, and things that are interesting to me. Of course it will appeal to the like-minded. Hopefully those who are less inclined to pay attention to gear goings-on will appreciate the holistic approach that I take when I discuss a product or company. It is part of the culture of fly fishing, and the best of it will go a long way in pursuing your quarry.


    • Matthew says:

      Excellent point. The funny thing is, we are at a point where the low rent people can be critical of the upper class and vice versa! Rod, line, fly… That is all that matters.

  1. My name is Howard and I’m a recovering gear junkie. I love the feeling of fishing old tackle and imagining what it would have been like on the water 50 years ago and enjoying that experience. After that, nothing else matters to me.

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