Neil Travis - April 11, 2011

I don’t spend lots of time on the FAOL bulletin board and I have not spent any time on other bulletin boards, fly fishing or otherwise. I scan the posts and occasionally make a comment when it seems appropriate, but generally I leave the posting to others that seem to care about such things. As a scan the posts I notice that some are inquiries concerning fly fishing, fly tying questions, some are comments on certain types of equipment, and some are conversation starters about a certain topic. Unfortunately, I have noted that some of the posts turn personal and sometimes the administrators have to step in and separate the verbal combatants. I feel that it is sad when grown men and women have to have a referee to keep things civil. A recent thread about whether the rainbow trout that run out of the Great Lakes are really ‘steelhead’ or not is an all too unfortunate case in point; good grief what does it really matter? Certainly it is not of such great importance that grown people have to exchange nasty comments.

I’m a fly fisher, and I have been a fly fisher for nearly 50 years. [I dabbled with fly fishing for several years before I became a confirmed addict] In the course of those 50 years I have been a published writer, a co-owner and editor of a nationally circulated fly fishing magazine [not FAOL], taught fly casting and fly tying classes, tested fly fishing tackle for national manufacturers, been a member, board member and State chairman in Trout Unlimited, worked for Dan Bailey as a guide and in-store sales clerk, in short I have been there and done that. What does all that mean? With all those ‘credentials’ and a paid up cell phone account I can make a phone call! YAHOO!!

The point is I’m just a fly fisher. I have more experience than some and less experience than others. I have opinions, some of which may be right and some of which may be wrong. Here are just a few:

I believe that fish are pea-brained creatures that can be very frustrating to catch but that they are essentially creatures of habit.

Big fish, no matter what species, got to be big because they were more cautious than other fish and not because they are ‘smarter.’

I believe that fish see color based on the physical structure of their eye, however I don’t know if they see color like we do. Since fish don’t talk I have no way of knowing for certain and, quite frankly, I don’t know how much difference it makes, but it makes for interesting speculation.

Steelhead trout are rainbow trout. I don’t care if they spend their life in the ocean or in a large lake, when they return to spawn in their native streams they are big and full of fight. To quote the Bard, ‘Who cares what you call them, rainbow or steelhead, they’re just fun to catch.’ [A rose by any other name will smell as sweet]

I don’t care much for using an indicator when fishing nymphs. For my taste it’s too much like fishing with a bobber.

I think dry fly fishing is the pinnacle of the sport of fly fishing. I do fish with nymphs, emergers, and streamers, but I think that catching fish on a dry fly, whenever possible, is the most rewarding and challenging way to do it.

I like to know the names of the insects and other things that fish eat, but I don’t think the fish have a clue what they are called nor do they care. It adds to my enjoyment of the sport but it does not make me a better person than the guy who doesn’t know a midge from a mosquito.

I own a whole bunch of fly rods, reels, and more misc. fly fishing gear than one man deserves. I own very expensive bamboo rods, moderately expensive graphite and fiberglass rods, and even a few inexpensive [cheap] rods constructed of various materials. They are tools, nothing more and nothing less. The same can be said for the rest of my fly fishing equipment.

Considering the price difference, I don’t believe that Fluorocarbon leaders or tippets are better than quality nylon leaders and tippets. I have used quality nylon material for years and I don’t believe that it has ever prevented me from catching fish, even under the most demanding of angling situations.

Speaking of leaders and tippet material I don’t use furled leaders or braided butt models either. If you enjoy using them or making them enjoy, but I don’t believe they do anything that can’t be accomplished with a standard one strand leader.

I believe that the ability to double haul is a wonderful technique, but basically unnecessary for most fly fishers. Most fly fishers would be far better served if they spent their time learning to cast 40 or 50 feet accurately and consistently. You don’t need to be able to double haul to do that.

Now I’m certain that in the foregoing list there are several things that you may disagree with, and to that I say, “Good for you.” You have an opinion and that’s good. Do I care if you think I am as nutty as a fruit cake because I believe these things? The answer is no. Do I believe that because you think I am nutty as a fruit cake for believing these things that you have a right to berate me, call me rude and ugly names? Once again the answer is no. These are personal opinions involving nothing more than a recreational pastime. My opinions and yours will not change the course of world history. They will not determine the destiny of my eternal soul or yours. They will not upset the world economy, cause someone to lose their retirement savings, or create any other problem of world-wide or even personal significance. In the big scheme of things they don’t even make a blip.

The bottom line is that I’m a fly fisher, which is not exactly rocket science. You may agree with my opinions or you may think I’m nuts. You certainly may try to educate me by putting forth an opposing opinion, and I will respect your right to do so, but don’t get all bent out of shape if I don’t see the wisdom of your opinion and continue to cling to my own misguided ideas. It’s fun to discuss whether fish see color like we do, the advantage of one type of equipment over another, and all the other things that make fly fishing the interesting sport that it is, but we need to remember it’s fly fishing, nothing more.

There are many people that have caught more and bigger fish than I have, they have traveled to more exotic places to fish than I have, they can cast further, have more expensive fly rods, but frankly I don’t give a damn! It’s just fly fishing and I’m just a fly fisher.

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