I’ve been rolling around a personal progression of fly fishing for a couple years and as of late it has been haunting me daily.
I believe that we, as an industry, are educating our anglers in an improper way.
We are giving the perception that if you do not want to dry fly fish, that you as a person and sportsman are inferior and follow an incorrect path.
One of the ways we stray is not understanding what fly fishing anglers want from this sport.
Group Think is always bad!
Most dry fly anglers assume that all anglers want to be dry fly anglers and that there is only one way to get there. By only using dry flies. From day 1. That all anglers want to be dry fly anglers. And that if you use any other method, you are copping out, and a loser.
Well that is flat wrong. We have to stop impressing our industry group think mind set on all anglers. It just does not make sense.
Don’t some anglers just want to fish on vacation. Occasional anglers that enjoy many facets of the sport. Like catching fish? That some anglers may enjoy streamer fishing, indicator angling, watching the day go by, or just blind fishing a grasshopper.
Isn’t this wonderful fly fishing sport about the pursuit of happiness? Why does it have to be all about the dry fly?
The ski industry used to operate this way too. They assumed that every skier wanted to be an Olympian. The skis were designed from the top down. Race technology dictated beginner ski design.
Fly rod design, today, is dictated by the consumer. Finally. Rod companies make rods that we all can cast. Not just the dry fly pro. Fly fishing is enjoyed by many, by all, by those who do not want to achieve perfection and only catch fish using one solitary method.
That would be like assuming that every 16 year old that sits in the drivers seat of his mothers Toyota Corolla wants to be a Formula 1 driver. Wait, bad analogy.
But do you think that everybody that rests the cork in his hand wants to be a Headhunter? A dyed in the wool DFO? I would disagree with that theory.
But that is how we approach most novice anglers. We just assume that they do not want to nymph. That they want to throw their other passions aside and focus only on dry fly angling. That they will be consumed by it and see the sport as you, we, me, or the dry fly angler sees it. That the only way to be good, to validate themselves, is by following the most difficult path. That all anglers are striving to awards only fishing with the dry fly.
Well, I ‘m here to tell you that that theory is wrong!
Fly Fishing is for everybody
Isn’t fly fishing about bird watching? The learning process. Fellowship. Experiencing the outdoors. Roaming the banks looking for a good place to toss your fly? It is about some many other things than just stalking finicky spinner feeding prick fish.
The Missouri River is a dry fly mecca. Amazing hatches, a strong dry fly season lasting 8+ months, a biomass of insects that demolishes most other Montana rivers…we get that. A bunch of anglers come here seeking only the best in dry fly fishing. That is OK too! It is not a coincidence that our shop is aptly named Headhunters. It is a way of life for us and we love it while appreciating that many come here for differing reasons.
Like the high populations and large average sized trout!
If you want to go the dry fly way from the get go, then I advocate that too. But why does every angler have to take the same path? Is fly fishing based on making the process as difficult as possible? Does not catching fish for a period of time make the angler better in the long run? Is first day total failure the right way to teach?
I have read a bundle of articles in the last 5 years from guides, industry folks, fly fishing writers that bobber fishing is evil and we are teaching the wrong aspects of fishing.
These articles were truly concerned that we were teaching a culture of fish counters. That all was lost because we were not stressing the dry fly angle enough. I disagree. It is a natural progression that anglers follow. Catching fish is OK. And what is wrong with catching a bundle. Is it wrong to have a bundle of money? Is it wrong to outscore your opponent in football? Is it wrong to order the Super Size Big Mac Meal? Does that in itself make you a bad person? Don’t humans qualify success with numbers? What are salary is, how much we weigh, what are children’s GPA is?
Are we really teaching the angler to become an elitist? That everyday you are not doing it the way we think you should be is a bad day? A bad route? Is catching fish on the first day evil. Can fly fishing with a bobber be a means to the end? I believe it can.
We don’t teach babies to run before they crawl. We do not tongue lash them for crawling first. Why would we do this to potential participants of fly fishing.
Isn’t fly fishing about staying young and laughing? Does it always have to be so damn serious and unidirectional? Is there only one path to follow?
No, those folks drive me bananas. Fly fishing is a sport for everybody. Not for those dry fly fanatics that believe that those who do not dry fly fish only are bad people.
Unhealthy for the Fly Fishing Industry
Those thoughts are not healthy for the industry. They are not healthy for those who choose to enjoy the sport on a platform that is all inclusive. That sometimes does not include only fishing towards fish with a single dry fly.
It is OK to only want to dry fly fish. That is your prerogative. You can skin the cat however you want too. Knock yourself out.
I have recently been fond of proposing this idea to dry fly anglers…
If every angler that DFO’s likes to rip on all those indicator anglers that you like to make fun of…what if all of them were fishing along side of you on your favorite dry fly flat? I figure that less than 10% of anglers follow the DFO path. What if the other 90% of anglers were up early creeping around holding a spot (your spot) for the Trico spinner fall?
How would that make you feel? Let that thought roll around in your head for a minute, or two.
I kinda believe it would make you angry. If dry fly anglers were successful in making every other angler a dry fly angler…there would not be many rising fish. Negative reinforcement is a very real occurrence in most nature circles…
So, why would we assume that all anglers want to follow the path to the most difficult aspect of trout fishing?
Should we assume that all anglers want to pursue the most difficult game fish, the Permit? Shouldn’t all anglers move this direction? How about the Steelhead gang. That is a crowd that believes fewer anglers is better!
Chew on these examples and analogies…
Should all cooks, like those who like to cook for their families, take classes and learn the mother sauces? Should all college students naturally move to need and want a doctorate degree? Should everybody in the medical field want to be a doctor? Should all actors want to win an Oscar? Should all recreational horsemen desire to win the Belmont? Should all wine drinkers be sommeliers? Can’t we just enjoy the $8 bottle once in a while. A nice inexpensive bottle of table wine?
Can’t we be recreational anglers and be happy with that? Boy, I really think we can. It is OK.
Not all anglers want to be ascend to the dry fly only stage. I can tell you that the non-DFO bunch does not rip on the DFO gang. Why would they. They recognize that there are many facets and skill sets in this outdoor sport and follow more of a live and let live mantra.
It’s true, and it’s OK.
So, I believe we as an industry, as guides, as a community of fly shops need to shed that higher than mighty attitude and embrace all anglers. Recognizing that angling is a sport for all and amongst the participants include a plethora of reasons for fly fishing.
We believe in that concept strongly here at Headhunters and while we are big fans of dry fly fishing…we also love the bobber, the streamer junkie, the recreationalists, the floaters, the dry fly angler, the back of the boat reader, the birder, the light tackle angler, and the sunbather.
Not all anglers want to be dry fly anglers.
And that is OK.