Most fly fishing articles online and in print are of the “how to” variety. These are very valuable. Reading them teaches you what fly to use, when to use it, and where it should be used. That is indispensable information.
Of all the instructional content that an angler might come across, there is some that focuses on planning. Gear reviews and trip preparation are important. Tying flies might be the most basic level of preparation, and there are certainly many places where one can find direction regarding that. Setting the hook on the fish, playing the fish, and landing the fish are worth reading about. Possessing that knowledge ensures fish are caught. It also goes a long way to helping them get released alive.
A little bit of searching will yield results on knots, seasons, regulations, guides, rods, hatches, and ichthyology. If you have a question, just ask Google. There is a “how to” for nearly every moment of fly fishing.
At The Fly Fishing Show, you’ll see it all:
Old and young. Male and female. Black and white. Beards and clean-shaven. Flat bills and tweed jackets. Freshwater and saltwater. Liberal and conservative. You’ll even stumble across a handful of face tattoos, tenkara rods, and treble hooks.
With all of that diversity – with all of those differences, everyone is pretty happy. Why? Probably because they’re surrounded by people and stuff that all share fly fishing in common. Our particular flavor of angling is the lingua franca which links a significantly disparate group of individuals.
The past few weeks I have been reminded what a fantastic community the fly fishing culture facilitates. I have interacted with countless individuals who tie, build, guide, host, and fish. Some simply fish, which is normal and perfectly fine. Straddling that line between industry member and consumer, I get a chance to see the customs and mores from both sides.
With the handful of years under my belt, I feel like I can confidently say there are genuinely good people in fly fishing.
Today kicks off The Fly Fishing Show’s biggest stop: Edison, New Jersey. Like many fly fishers in this part of the country and far beyond, I’ve made the journey to this event year after year. This year I’m spending two full days, which entails two full nights. With a long-ish drive from New England, that is the only safe and reasonable way to do it.
Assuming the weather is nice, the drive can be part of the fun. The early morning coffee, a familiar album, some good conversation, or just enjoying the scenery can help the time go by. More than that, they can add to the experience.
If you’re looking to add something else – something fly fishing related – to the experience, give a podcast a listen.
Whether you are driving to The Fly Fishing Show, walking around the grocery store, or sitting in your favorite chair, a podcast can inject a little angling into your time. Here are four good ones that are worth listening to this weekend:
Let’s be clear: It is a proven fact that Al Gore created the internet so that all the smart people could tell all the stupid people how stupid they all are. And boy, is it working!
Since 1998, each major election has been decided based on on shared Facebook posts.
Every day, religious and non-religious people convert back and forth due to pithy one-liners on message boards.
Plus, blogs allow the world to hear all the information that is too real for those corporate publishers to touch.
But there exists a topic at the nexus of all of these eloquent and courageous displays of truth. The most profound debates, arguments, and other manner of reality-checkings occur in the last spots anyone would expect. Want to know where the real knowledge is dispensed?
Fly fishing forums. Tweets about fly rod companies. Comments under Instagram pictures of female anglers. These are the places where things get legit. Absolute authority is on display. Hyperbole is unheard of. Opinions define the in-group/out-group lines
And if I’m going to be honest (which, even in light of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the post thus far, I am) I think it is all hilarious. Maybe that is wrong and indicative of low moral character, but I am drawn to these fly fishing squabbles like a mayfly to a headlamp. It is like watching a toy train crash. The effect is similar to two beta fish charging, gently thumping their respective plastic cups.
Although using journey as a metaphor can be cliché, it seems to be appropriate when describing those for whom fly fishing is more than a hobby. For the men and women who live and breathe angling, much of what transpires off the water reflects the paths that they take when they are seeking fish. In both there are transitions, seasons, and increasing complexity. In both, there is always story.
If you ask Jacob and Jillian of Between Two Banks about their journey, they’ll tell you a story.
Like any good story, theirs is multifaceted. Jacob started fishing before he was a teenager. Jillian was outdoorsy, but never fancied herself an angler. Once their relationship began to take form, fly fishing became a topic of conversation. She wanted him to have his thing. Out of equal parts self-preservation and genuine concern, he wanted her to have his thing, too. She took it up, and all was well.
At this point, Jacob had already been a professional fly fishing guide for a while. Western North Carolina contains a wealth of trout streams, with larger rivers and small mountain brook trout streams abounding. In 2013, he took a big step and began building bamboo fly rods. After working with graphite and glass for a bit, cane became his focus. Additionally, he had a blog. Jacob would post stream reports and some musings; but it wasn’t much more than that.
Around the same time, Jillian was fly fishing on the weekends and taking pictures while on the water. Growing increasingly frustrated with corporate life, and desiring to spend more time outdoors, she began to feel restless. Their first trip out to Colorado cemented a new resolve. She found her identity in the water and woods, and decided her life would reflect that passion.
Fridays in January aren’t usually too exciting in New England when it comes to fly fishing. Here is a quick snapshot of the weather: cold, gray, and slushy. Would today be a day where I could find tailwater trout and panfish through the ice? Absolutely. Is today a great day to be at The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Mass? Absolutely x 2.
Needless to say, I’ll be at The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Mass.
My to-do list includes the following:
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.
Being such a tactile activity, taking up fly fishing is served well by a “watch and learn” approach. A father will teach a son. Someone with means can hire a guide or instructor. The ambitious novice will simply approach a fellow angler on the stream, and the fly fisher will gladly consent.
For ages, the mentor relationship has come part and parcel with fly fishing. Even those who often fish alone will often have a person who made a small, yet formative impact somewhere along the line. Like an apprentice to a tradesman, anglers best learn the craft from another. Thus, the main thrust of the sport is passed on. The nuances of pursuing the quarry and the equally important eccentricities within the culture are also handed from generation to generation.
These relationships are special and invaluable. However, not every fly fisher has the benefit of an experienced angling parent, friend, or empathetic onlooker in their life. While online videos can certainly communicate the what and how of fly fishing, they are limited in scope. Viewing the best instructional clips on casting, tying, or reading water will set one up to functionally catch a trout. What is missing is the who and the why.
These intangibles are not essential for hooking, playing, or landing a fish. They are still, without a doubt, an essential part of fly fishing. They are passed on in ways that can hardly be expressed through a how-to. Why we, as a culture, fish, is spoken of on long car rides and during streamside coffee breaks. Who makes up that culture is seen across fly shop counters and around beaten-up bar tables. Without a flesh and blood person making that connection, it is near impossible to ascertain the information. More importantly: to even figure out what any of it has to do with catching a fish.
Most Fridays on Casting Across are devoted to other people’s contributions in the fly fishing community. Articles, pictures, social media accounts, videos, podcasts, products, and more will be featured on The Last Cast of the Week.
Today, I’m sharing items from American Museum of Fly Fishing, Hatch Magazine, & 5280 Angler.
If you’d like to be featured in the Last Cast of the Week, or have seen something that others might be interested in, use my contact form or shoot me an email (matthew[at]castingacross[dot]com). Also, be sure to subscribe to Casting Across to never miss a post.
Check out the links, along with my thoughts, below:
Although the culture has come a long way, fly fishing maintains the well-earned reputation for being a bit elitist. At times, it can seem as if the country club has nothing on the fly shop. There is gear that must be owned. There are labels that have to be worn. And, most importantly, there are flies that are to be fished.
As is the case with most positives in this world, there is a corresponding negative. That is to say: there are some flies that are not to be fished.
These patterns are seen as the mongrel half-breeds that straddle the line between fly fishing and bait fishing. They are flies in name only. Created from synthetic materials and imitating much less sophisticated foodstuffs (if they imitate anything at all), they are second class citizens in a world that fawns over delicate mayflies. In the eyes of some, you aren’t fishing a worm or a clump of Power Bait… but you might as well be.
The problem is that these flies produce. The ugly, the gaudy, the rubber-leggedy all catch fish. So you can’t have your in-crowd cake and eat trout, too.