The ONE Reason Why Fly Fishing Is Seen As Pretentious

The ONE Reason Why Fly Fishing Is Seen As Pretentious

posted in: Fly Fishing, Opinion | 8

I am surprised the term “pretentious” in Webster’s Dictionary isn’t accompanied by a picture of a fly fisherman. Battling this stereotype has become my personal windmill to joust here on Always A Good Day. Unfortunately there are some writers and “old school” anglers who perpetuate this ideal . Fighting the derision of fly fishing that is already held by many spin casters, bait casters, sportsmen and the public in general seems hopeless. However, this should be the goal of us all as fly fishermen and fly fisherwomen.

Dictating how and where or what is the right way or wrong that a person fishes seems to be a current theme in many fly fishing circles and organizations. This snobbery accentuates the image of the cigar chewing old man with his $3000 bamboo Powell rod who spent three days without casting once on the Missouri. It just so happened the

Fly fisherman in a boat holding a fly rod that has a very tangled strike indicator.
Fly fishing means many different things to many different people.

only fly that he wanted to fish did not hatch.  After returning home, his buddies bought him a Scotch at the club and commended him for not succumbing to the temptation of nymph fishing. This example of an overly pretentious angler illustrates how fishing a fly is viewed by many from other angling circles, the public and even the media.

Extreme example? Probably, but I have dealt with people on the water who make this guy look like a guy fishing Power Bait on a spring creek.  “Our way is best” methods for fishing are popular because of personal preference, implied benefits to the fishery and the curtailment of angler numbers on popular waters. The last reason being the one that is probably the impetus for most fly fishermen to get behind a tackle limitation on certain waters. Limiting the methods to catch fish on their favorite water means less anglers and fewer is better-or is it?

Selfish, ego driven initiatives among outdoorsmen and angling groups have always existed. It is important to remember that there is little altruism in the world of fishing. Often initiatives that are put forth under the guise of benefitting fish are actually for the benefit of a select group of anglers. This is not specific just to fly fishermen. However angling initiatives from fly fishermen or fly fishing groups are amplified because of our small numbers. Often the impact of these initiatives on different types of anglers is much more punitive than the direct impact on our chosen fishing method. The tiny segment, that is the fly fishing population, tends to want regulation to limit those who don’t fish the “right” way i.e. everyone else who fishes.

I believe in “Fly Only” restrictions on certain waters. But wouldn’t it fair to have “Spin Fishing Only” or “Bait Only” waters too? I exaggerate this a tad bit just to get my point across. This is why I cringe when derivative, divisive issues are dredged up by factions within the fly angling community itself. Creating factions inside a small group, like that of fly fishermen, does little good other than sell copy or create web traffic about less important issues like habitat restoration, over-fishing and environmental factors that  will impact the future of all recreational fishing.

People fly fish for many different reasons. Some cast flies because of the artistic side, others because of the science and others because of the personal gratification of figuring out how to catch that 22” Brown trout on their ancient Sage Graphite III 490-LL(that angler being me). Sadly, many respected voices are wasting time by talking about whether indicators (yes they are bobbers, I know) should be allowed on certain waters or if certain techniques should only be allowed so the angler appreciates catching a fish more. Some topics are more preposterous than others, but all miss the scope and essence of why we fly fish. The answer is simple: to catch fish.

My preference for swinging flies on my Spey rod should not be forced upon the guy with his 8wt G Loomis broomstick who likes to nymph for steelhead.  When I was guiding I had self-styled “dry fly only” clients who after a few hours of no hatches, no fish and no fun would grudgingly put on an indicator. But even after hooking his or her’s first trout of the day on a Hare’s Ear, often times I would hear them say; “This one doesn’t count.”

Two fly fishermen in Alaska holding large Rainbow trout
Sometimes an indicator makes for a once in a life time moment.

This is the mentality we should all be fighting as fly fishermen. Attitudes like “nymphing isn’t fly fishing” and “my guide only cared about catching fish”(I never got this complaint) are counterproductive. As stewards of the water we should be concerned with making sure that there will always be fish for all anglers. Not just us who chose to cast an angle…

 

Follow Sean Johnson:

Sean was raised in Northeastern Oregon in the Wallowa Valley. It was there that he learned to hunt and fish. After receiving his history degree from the University of Oregon, Sean guided fishermen from Alaska to Chile. There were a few interludes where he sailed as a crew member on a ship and even worked in the craft brewing industry.Eventually he found his love in writing about the outdoors. His articles and fiction stories have a unique style and voice that conveys his love for the natural world. Currently he is the main writer for Always A Good Day, freelances and is working on a book of fiction.

8 Responses

  1. Noel Horne

    I totally agree with you.

  2. That makes me laugh. I have a lot of redneck fly fishin pals, who will always be my brothers. When they come across a pretentious nabobs, claiming to be a direct descendants of Isaac Walton, the just smile…..And chuckle.

  3. Brett Davis

    Many of us grew up casting a worm and bobber and at some point converted to fly fishing. It serves no purpose whatsoever to create a division between anglers. I could see how catch & release, native vs. hatchery and issues like that could be divisive and rightfully so. Some of us believe in conserving, some people like the hatchery system etc. However the technique makes no difference, as long as we’re all respecting the waters we’re fishing. No one wants to find bait containers on the banks of their favorite rivers. Thanks for this article Sean, great work.

  4. Anthony Criscola

    I’m waiting to see a picture of someone holding a trophy while clenching a fly rod with his teeth