Neil Travis - Feb 03, 2016

When was the last time that you could actually say that you just went fishing for fun? As a consummate observer of people's behavior I have noticed that I see more and more people that appear to find fishing especially fly fishing, anything but fun. A typical scene at an access site is a bunch of determined people that appear to be setting out on a mission that is a matter of life and death. Once the boat is in the water the race is on to see which angler can catch the first fish, the most fish and the biggest fish. The casting is methodical, machine like with a stoic determination without any apparent concept of what they are doing or why they are doing it. Is this the future of fly fishing?

I grew up in an era when learning how to use a fly rod, hunt ducks over decoys, and similar outdoor sports were a part of growing up. You learned by doing, and you learned what worked and why. There was the excitement of discovery and you developed a sense of wonder. When you went fishing or hunting it was not because it was the in thing to do and it wasn't something that you added on to a vacation trip.

Recently I came across the following article that expresses this idea in very graphic terms:

"Show me more "three-knot" anglers. By that, I mean, one can spend an entire lifetime enjoying fly fishing if they simply invest the time and effort it takes to learn how to tie three simple knots—a cinch knot, a double-surgeon's knot, and a nail knot. You can substitute any number of knots for those… blood knots, loop knots, whatever. That's not the point. But if you learn how to tie a leader to a fly line on your own… extend your tippet when you have to… and tie on a fly by yourself, then the fly-fishing world becomes your proverbial oyster.

If a person doesn't care enough to learn three knots, and they only want the guide to tie them for them, they aren't serious about fly fishing. And, frankly, I don't know if we need them. I don't know if I want them.

After all, like many of you, I'm tired of working around crowds of no-knot anglers on the best trout rivers in America. I'm enamored with the flats and saltwater now, because almost everyone who fishes those waters is at least a three-knot angler. But we have to remember that at least 70 percent of the rods sold in this market are 9-foot, 5-weights… for trout.

To wit, everyone who walks in the door of a shop willing to take an "Orvis 101" class already has shown at least cursory interest. And that's why that program is successful and important. Give me 20,000 Orvis 101 grads over 200,000 day-floaters, and I'll give you a sport that's on a positive trajectory.

And the guides—the great guides—are the ones who have more power than anyone to make that happen. By the same token, nobody stands in the way of that more than the guides who ignore that opportunity and responsibility.

The "media" also owns part of this responsibility, as does the trade organization, and the conservation organizations… heck, even the individual angler who cares about the sport and the resources has some level of responsibility to foster the interests of any other angler who has shown at least some modicum of investment in learning to fly fish. It is irresponsible, even neglectful, to not do that.

But in the end, the onus is always on the individual. We'll show you the world, we'll cheer for you and help you every step of the way. But ultimately, you're either an angler or you're not. If not, no harm, no foul. Good luck and we hope you come back. But we're not going to sell our souls, and something we care about so deeply to a culture of dabblers. And we shouldn't let those who cater only to dabblers for personal profit dictate the future of fly fishing.

It's okay to shoot for the stars, and cast a wide net, and so on. I understand that. But what I am saying is that we, as anglers, and we, as an industry, need to take a very hard look at exactly how we go about "growing the sport," and that should begin with solidifying the base, then picking the lowest-hanging fruit, and doing our ready best to nurture all of that.

Do that, and the money, the growth, the base, the conservation effect, and everything else will happen naturally. Neglect that, and this sport will be crippled for decades."*

While this article was written as an editorial comment in a fly fishing trade magazine it makes a powerful point. Think about it the next time you hit your local trout stream or spend a day casting for bonefish on the flats.

Article by Kirk Deeter, Angling Trade Magazine

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