A FLY-FISHING ESSAY - DEALING WITH THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT
I recognize and fully agree that I am consumed by the art of fishing with an artificial fly and this passion extends into all facets of the sport. If I am not fishing, then I am constructing artificial flies or writing about my experiences on the water. When I am not involved in the above mentioned pursuits, I am reading and being a speed reader who is blessed with a very good memory, I can digest a lot of material.
When I select a book on fly fishing I read it from cover to cover and then go back and read it a second time where I underline passages and make notes in the margins and often there may be notes made on separate sheets of paper which are later placed inside the volume. I know that my comments on underlining passages and notes in the margins have caused many book collectors to shudder and I am often told that I have destroyed the value of the book with these actions. But seriously, I don't care; I collect books for the knowledge and insight they contain and others will judge the value after I have left this world for the trout streams in the sky.
Then I normally take time to digest the message and information contained in the book, sometime this process takes weeks depending on my schedule and the time of the year. I am also told that my process is somewhat old fashion in view of the modern computer age, yet much of my research and rough ideas are recorded with pen in hand and once I gain a reasonable understanding of what I wish to share, then and only then, will I move to the computer to write about whatever current project that I am working on.
I thought that some of you would be interested in the process I use and others will get a good laugh over the actions of a techno-dinosaur. Now I often use the computer to research and access books and articles and other information not contained in my personal hard copy library.
By now, you are wondering where all this rambling is leading? Why it's leading to the history of fly fishing of course, however when we speak of history we are often thinking of the past whereas this selection will focus on the present time where history is currently being made.
I will begin by saying that you do not have to believe everything written in any particular volume to have learned something and furthermore some of the disagreement my lead you off on your own experiments on the waters you fish and lead you to different conclusions.
Last year I reviewed for FAOL; Fly Fishing Outside the Box, Emerging Heresies, published in 2013 by Coch-y-Bonddu Books in Great Britain and authored by Peter Hayes. This volume falls into the wonderful category of books that make you think and if you are open-minded it may make you re-examine your beliefs and/or understanding of a particular subject dealing with the sport.
Let me share a passage from the book in question: "The dry fly revolution was initially a technical one, but became a moral and ethical one when Halford took it over. With his harsh judgmental light shining on the sport, facts as well as perceptions became twisted in favour of fishing "perfectly dry" at the peril of not being a gentleman. The sporting, intuitive, and imitative development of fly fishing was kidnapped and we still need to escape from the box we got put in. Worse still, dry flies fished upstream face the wrong way when the wind is in our face." Now, as you can see, this statement will make you think and of course the purist will still be outraged even in today's fly fishing world.
The entire book is filled with passages that will make you think and if you do and experiment on your home waters your approach to dry fly fishing under certain conditions may change to something more effective. Furthermore it may give you a whole new understanding of the hatching process used by various species of insects that the trout feeds upon.
I will also share a passage that deals with the ancient history of fly fishing and I do so because his views basically mirror those that I have and have written about in the pages published by FAOL.
"A fresh look at the history of fly fishing before we got put in the box. From Berners to Halford they all fished floating flies, and fished them as dry as they could. The past does inform the present."
They also fished wet flies and from a historical point of view, the individuals who set out to write the history of Fly Fishing should do so without an agenda allowing the facts to speak the truth.
Personally, I would like to see a committee comprised of Andrew Herd, Roger Fogg, Peter Hayes, Charles Jardine, Paul Schullary, Darrell Martin, Marvin Nolte and myself (however this would indeed be heady company for me.) set down and examine and collaborate on writing the best and complete accurate history of the sport of fly fishing that is possible. Of course that is a dream and the volume itself would be massive and would probably receive scant attention from most of the fly fishing world, however dreaming is something we fly anglers often indulge ourselves in.
However, for those who have an interest in the history of Fly Fishing would it not be a grand project which would far expand our knowledge base and understanding of the art of fly fishing for trout?
Down through the ages books that were beyond the normal accepted traditions are often ignored. Look at the works of G.E.M. Skues. He introduced Minor Tactics in 1910 which mostly dealt with fishing wet flies upstream to feeding trout. Then in 1921 he introduced and codified his theory of nymphing with The Way of the Trout however by the publication of Nymph Fishing for Chalk Stream Trout in 1938, nymphing was yet to be widely accepted. Today we realize the nymphing is a viable method and that is it widely used, but due to harsh pronouncements of the early 20th century it took much longer than necessary.
In 1990 Gary LaFontaine published The Dry Fly—New Angles and yes many anglers have this volume on their bookshelves which I believe in part is due to his untimely passing from Lou Gehrig's disease in January of 2002. But have you read it; Gary wrote to make you think and some of his theories were beyond the normal accepted theories of the day and the angler in the box didn't embrace his theories.
How many new fly fishing book did you read last year and did you learn anything from them? They are the new history of fly fishing and in time they will be judged on their individual merits.
Besides reading fly fishing books from the past, seize the moment and read the modern history of the fly fishing theories and fly patterns as it is published for you might the right phrase of fly pattern which will excite you and send you off on your own voyage of discovery which will empower your fly fishing and perhaps embolden you to share your discoveries in the pages of Fly Angler's On Line. Fear no rejection as I could paper my bedroom with rejection slips, but that has never stopped or intimidated me as I believed I had something to share with others who loved the wonderful sport of fly fishing.
Enjoy & Good Fishin' & Readin'