WE NEED NEW BLOOD
Having fly fished for (how long is it now?) over 50 years, the kindness and cruelty of the sport comes back in spurts. The exquisite vistas and the zero fish days vie for recollection. A knowing wife who understands the uncertainty of fishing never doubts that those empty-handed days were really spent on the water.
Bubba and Jake met in a bar where Jake was flushed from the affections of a sweet young thing. Looking on in admiration Bill said: “Where are you going to tell you wife you were?”
“But you don’t have any fish.”
In the Rockies, every child gets a fly rod before they get a bat and glove. Nature is a religion and fly fishing is the sacrament. Spinning and casting equipment are tools of the unlearned and keeping your catch is a damnable sin. Drinking, drugs and sex are something high school boys only do between fishing trips. On the other hand, because many states don’t have trout streams a bike ride away, a fly rod is a novelty, fly fishermen are getting older and high schoolers only go fishing if drinking, parties and sex are not available. More than ever before, youngsters and fly fishing are strangers. Look around at conclaves and you will see, unfortunately, the fly fishing community looks old.
On a local pond, a boy about fifteen was trying to show off for his girlfriend who was sitting on the grass, and a fly fisherman across the pond unhooked one fish after another, glad to be catching, but feeling bad that the boy was getting skunked in front of his girl. The boy had a casting reel and large spinner bait and the fly fisherman had a popper-dropper-dropper. Not a fair contest. The boy yelled across for suggestions and the fly fisherman offered to show him his fly equipment and let him try to cast. The boy declined and the young couple walked away toward other activities that are available. The boy’s lack of interest in learning a fishing technique that requires special skills was not unusual, but reminds us that young people have other priorities.
You say you’re not old. Yea, right. Try coaching a softball team of 13 year olds who were born in 1996. This year’s crop of college freshmen were born in 1990.
They don’t remember the Cold War or the KGB or Mao.
They can only really remember three presidents
They don’t know Wallace, Reagan and the Pope were shot.
They don’t know what the Soviet Union was or what an iron curtain is.
Chappaquidick and Kopeckni are just jibberish to them
They have never feared nuclear war or the hammer and sickle.
CCCP is just a bunch of letters.
They have never had a friend get drafted.
They never hated the Berlin wall.
Black Monday and Bloody Sunday mean nothing to them.
Neither does Tianamen Square.
AIDS has always existed in their lifetime, small pox has not.
They don’t know what 33, 45 and 78 stand for.
They never worried for Lech Walesa and Solidarity.
Bottle caps have always screwed off.
They never tried new Coke.
Nike has always been around but polio has not.
They never broke a nail on a pull top can.
The drinking age has always been 21.
New fly tyers think tying materials have always been available. For many years fly fishermen knew that the teardrop part of pull tabs from soft drink cans were perfect for making redfish or mackerel spoon fly patterns. Using epoxy was a new concept and some tyers actually soldered the tab to the hook. One good fish and the tab was gone, but there was that one good fish. Hackle was pretty iffy and finding dressings for a fly meant getting feathers from poultry farms or local hunters. (Wapsi Fly Company bred roosters, but only for their own flies. Hoffman hackles were available only at limited locations in 1965, Metz’s initial brood stock hatched in 1972 and Whiting’s first hatch was in 1989.) Tying chenille became readily available only after Wapsi expanded operations in the 1970s. Back to college freshmen.
They may never have used a pay phone.
They’ve never owned a record player, 8 track or cassette player.
There have always been more than four colors of M&Ms
There have always been bar codes, cell phones and Federal Express.
They have always had an answering machine and a digital calculator.
You say “ice box” and they look at you funny.
They have never seen a TV set with an analog dial and only 13 channels.
They don’t know about Betamax or Wang, but Nintendo has always existed.
Sidney’s skyline has always had an opera house.
They would believe Jimmy Hoffa disappearing is a magic act.
They never ate at Burger Chef or Woolworth’s counter.
They’ve never heard Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” but always knew about the Internet.
In the 1970s the most common rods were bamboo or fiberglass, some very flexible and none considered adequate for all purpose fishing. Bristol metal telescoping rods were available, but uncommon. In order to get backbone in rods, some were made very heavy and had poor action. Graphite rods first began in the 70s (the first Fenwick graphite rod appeared in 1973 and the first Orvis graphite fly rod was produced in 1974). A couple of years later FlyCraft introduced the first boron rods. What about the freshmen?
Johnny Carson means no more to them than Ed Sullivan who means nothing to them.
They don’t understand why you occasionally call the Baltimore football team the Colts.
They never saw Dr. J, Jordan or Bird play or Ali or Sugar Ray fight.
They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.
They never heard of Bjorn Borg, Nasty Nastasi or Bobby Riggs
Some vehicles have always been called “SUVs”
Ross (1970), Sage (1980) and Loomis (1982) have always made fishing equipment
Hooters has always been a restaurant, too.
Even for older fishermen, it is difficult to conceive of a time when news stands didn’t have a whole shelf of fishing magazines. The first B.A.S.S. newsletter (later to become the magazine) was published in 1968. Bass Pro Shops was incorporated in 1972 shortly before PFDs first used closed cell foam in 1973. A new breed of fishing vehicle emerged. You could buy the last new Bronco II in 1977 and the last new International Harvester Scout in 1980.
Goldwater and Watergate are meaningless to them.
Their classrooms have always had air conditioning.
The Vietnam War is just history to them and Kent State is just a college.
None of their teachers have ever called it the War Between the States
They have no idea that Americans were held hostage in Iran.
They don't know who this is a
Neutron bomb? Legionairre’s disease? Typesetting?
They don’t know what Western Auto was.
MTV, CNN, ESPN and food stamps have always existed
A vagrant has always been “homeless”
They never saw a cigarette ad on TV but there have always been ED commercials.
They have never heard of Peter Gunn or wanted to see 77 Sunset Strip
They never wondered if Paul was dead.
There have always been PC’s and Macintosh but they’ve never seen a punch card.
The FFF started in 1965 and the Wooly Bugger pattern was developed in the late 60s or early 70s in Pennsylvania by Russell Blessing.. The Chernobyl power station blew up in 1986 and two years later the first so named fly pattern appeared. Today Chernobyl is used to describe many flies that have morphed from other patterns and the mutations generally involve several colors of foam. About the same time Bob Clouser developed his minnow for smallmouth fishing.The freshmen?
They have never seen a “White’s Only” sign and never heard of apartheid
Gamagatsu, Dai-Riki and the Space Shuttle have always existed.
They do not care who J.R. is or who shot him
There has always been a Dr. Martin Luthur King, Jr. holiday.
They think we always knew where the Titanic was.
They can’t identify this man.a
They think Star Wars and the Evil Empire only relate to a movie.
They don’t know where they were when they heard Kennedy or Elvis died.
They think medicine bottles have always had triple seals.
They never heard of Walter Mondale, Princess Grace, Len Bias, Gary Hart and Donna Rice, La Dolce Vita or Leon Redbone.
Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America, and Alabama are just places to them.
There has always been rap music.
Everything has always had remote control
This year’s crop of freshmen may never have even considered fly fishing. Somehow we have to fix that before we become part of the “they never heard of” group.