May 24th, 1999
By Saving Fly fishing,
Have We Lost Something?
I think perhaps we have two kinds of fly fishing these days.
Years ago there was only one. It consisted of purchasing a fly rod, line, reel,
and flies. If you went fly fishing you were on a 'one-to-one' contest with the
fish, probably a trout. When you broke the tip of your fly rod, you replaced
it with the spare that came with it; most rods were sold that way. No
guarantees, you were on your own.
The fish was likely to become lunch, or maybe dinner. So the idea was to catch
it, lay it carefully in a fern lined wicker creel to stay cool and attempt to catch
another fish. That's the way things were then; you were not bad, not looked
down upon, not 'politically-incorrect,' you were just another guy who fly fished.
Most who did so only kept what they needed for the day. The idea was to be
able to go back another day and do it all over again; not much point in loading a
freezer with daily limits, although some surely did just that. But I think they were
not in the majority by any means.
Fly fishermen were sportsmen, conservationists, stewards of their pet waters,
responsible for their own actions. If a fish got off; it was a big deal. He had every
intent to land it. Back then it was fishing; using flies.
Not so today. I think it has become a new thing now. It has become a pastime,
a recreation, a diversion, a thing to do, an accepted form of something to do on
a weekend. If you kill a trout you are now bad! To eat one is considered by
some heretical. And so now the game has been changed into one of relatively
no value. If the rod breaks, so what? IF the fish gets off, no big deal; you were
going to release it anyway. The fish was just a 'hatchery' one. Plenty more
where that came from, they dump thousands in every year.
The respect and value of fly fishing has changed; and I don't think I like it. I
have fished some still-water for football shaped rainbow and found it not very
interesting. Some part of the real essence of fly fishing was not there. It never is
with that kind of fishery. It is not real; it is imitation. I have in fact, sold my float
The memories I have of fly fishing back in the 'good old days' when I had to dry
and dress my silk line, be very careful with the leader, and valued the fish; those
are the things I would like to go back to. Not an easy thing to do in todays society.
We will enjoy the trip to South Dakota this summer;
but, it would be nice to be able to keep a couple of 'brookies' for a
meal if we wanted to. That option has been removed from far too
many waters and we are not allowed to be sportsmen, stewards,
conservationists,and good-guys who fished for trout with a fly; and I
resent it. Releasing a fish when you have the option to keep it and releasing one
when the law says you must are not the same thing.
Remember that the next time you vote in favor of making some stream 'catch
and release' only. You are removing the opportunity to ever again experience
real fly fishing. ~ JC
Till next week, remember ...