Neil Travis - May 2015

Making the cut is a term that one often hears in team sports in connection with players that have demonstrated that they have the talent and skills necessary to make the team. There are often lots of competitors trying to make the team, and many of them may be very talented but only a few actually make the cut. There was something about those that were chosen that was not possessed by those that failed to make the cut. If fly fishing was a team sport and to be able to fish on certain streams would you have the skills necessary to make the cut?

Over my 50+ years of fly fishing experience I have had the honor and the privilege of having personally known and even to have fished with some of the modern luminaries of fly fishing; men like Marinaro, Brooks, Schwiebert, Borger, Wulff, Nemes, Flick, Swisher, Richards and Whitlock. I have read and digested the angling wisdom of all of the great angling authors from Cotton to LaFontaine, and a host of others. The common thread that is woven through the tapestry of their angling experience is their uncommon approach to angling, their ability to see through the problem, and to think outside of conventional wisdom and practice. They were not ham strung by tradition or tunnel vision.

Each of those individuals mentioned above had one thing in common; they were all anglers first and technicians second. When you talk to fly fishing guides, who are the real professionals in the fly fishing community, their universal concern is that many of the individuals that they guide today have the latest equipment but have no idea how to use it. Increasingly modern anglers rely on equipment to provide success when all the old timers that I know, and I know a fair share, look to experience over equipment. They became experienced anglers by spending time fishing but unfortunately many modern anglers seem to believe that they can purchase success. It works but only in the most limited fashion.

I have often commented on the common practice that I see these days of using a large indicator and one or more weighted nymphs to catch trout. Now there is nothing wrong with using an indicator or weighted nymphs to catch fish but when that's the only technique that the angler is able to use to catch trout it brings into question how this really differs from a bobber and a worm.

Recently, in one of the trade journals, the editor wrote an opinion piece directed at this very issue. His comment on fishing with indicators and weighted nymphs was quite pointed. He wrote, "And it probably doesn't help that we've dumbed the sport down so much with strike indicators and dredging nymphs through runs that an angler actually has to switch his or her brain back on when they want to try something cutting edge, like say dry fly fishing with a 15-foot leader." He had other comments about the flawed idea that purchasing a new fly rod can add ten feet to a flawed cast. His comments, although directed to fly shop owners in an attempt to get them to teach people not just how to cast but how to fish, is a point that should be carefully considered not only by fly shop owners but by anglers themself.*

I enjoy reading the back and forth that takes place on the FAOL bulletin board between our readers that have actually taken the time to learn how to fish. They enjoy using good equipment but I suspect that they learned how to use fish before they worried about the equipment.

*Quote from Angling Trade Magazine, Spring 2015, Kirk Deeter, Editor

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