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.
There are so many men and women who work the backsides of their waders off to make a living in fly fishing. For them, the joy of exploration and expression outweigh the relative difficulty of material accomplishment. Expo shows are a grind, and those who succeed have to be “on” all the time. The exuberance has to be the same on the hundredth sales pitch as it was on the first. Money can’t be the only driving force. There has to be an underlying passion for people to persevere.
Who those folks are speaking to don’t live fishing. Most fly fishers not in the industry aren’t the “thousand dollar rod” and “week in Kamchatka” type. They fish when they can, where they can. Fly fishing might be stocked rainbows in town or just a few yearly trips to chase the big hatches. None of that is meant to be disparaging, either. They do what they can and enjoy every minute of it.
Standing in convention halls in New Jersey and Massachusetts, I’ve had great conversations with all stripes of fly anglers. There is a lot of smiling. There are a lot of hellos. There are plenty of hugs. Most of said hugs are “bro hugs.” There is even the perfect amount of curmudgeonly grumbling to ensure that it is, indeed, a legitimate fly fishing event.
To be honest, there are some comments that go past grumbling. For whatever reason, be they legitimate or not, some people aren’t happy. But this is certainly the exception and not the rule. At this point in life I’m willing to give most folks the benefit of the doubt; chalk it up to a bad day or a rough patch of personal life. I even got to see some scowls turn to smiles after a few lighthearted pleasantries. Most folks just need that kind of thing to be reminded that this is about fly fishing, after all.
I suppose this is my thank you. I am not going to try to list everyone who I have spoken to in the last few weeks. Inevitably leaving many off that list who I know personally is only half of the problem. Especially in Edison, working at a booth with some amazing people, I spent time with hundreds who I don’t know. Whether you’re a friend, social media connection, or someone who I shared a few words with in the context of a sales pitch – thank you. Thank you for being the culture around the simple quarry of fish.
Casting Across focuses on the people, places, and things of fly fishing. Co-opting that idiom was easy enough, but for me the primacy of people was essential.