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Purism - or the Lack Thereof


By Gene Murray (HideHunter)

I am a "fly-fisherman".

Fly-fishermen are often referred to as "purists" and more often accused of "elitism".

Purism is simply the strict observance of "correctness", usually in the "traditional" sense. Simply, "do it right, with the right equipment". I'm guessing no one much cares if someone else chooses to "observe correctness".

The "elite" are those who have reached the top of their field, usually by hard work and sacrifice. I'm guessing no one has a problem with hard work and sacrifice. (Okay, I might have a little problem with hard work.)

The problems begin when the "elite" and the "purist" insist on "purism" by everyone else.

By this definition that is called "elitism" and it's a derogatory term.

I'm not particularly proud of the fact I fly-fish. On the other hand, I'm certainly not ashamed of it. In fact, the reason I might feel proud, or ashamed, seems to escape me. I cannot see that fly-fishing has made me a better person. I've not seen it has improved the quality of the whisky I drink, the women with whom I'm seen, the cigars I smoke or the people I associate with. It certainly hasn't made me any money.

We might better be able to break the whole problem down to eating. I know a few "vegetarians". They simply have chosen to eat primarily, or wholly, plants. Most do this because they believe it to be healthier. I have no problem with that at all.

Then, there is the "vegan". Vegans tend to eat only plants and choose to use no animal products such as leather, milk or fur; again, a choice with which I don't have a problem. On the other hand, Vegans often tend to be much more vocal about their choices. Vegans think I should follow their beliefs and/or choices. With this, I do have problem. It's when they try to remove the fourteen-ounce ribeye from my plate that they are likely to get a fork in the back of their hand.

Being a bit of a barbarian and what my wife and mother describe as "a man you can lead forever but can't push a step", a few people attempting to practice elitism have discovered my figurative "fork in the back of their hand".

Okay, time for the second half of my admission. I am a "warm-water fly-fisherman". Now you might better understand why purism escapes me. I am from among the "unwashed".

Warm-water fly-fishing is the red-headed step child of fly-fishing. I see very little elitism practiced among warm-water fly-fishermen. Let's be honest, it's a little hard to feel too elite when you are sliding into the water, one foot ankle deep in the mud and the other balanced precariously, dead-center in a cow pie. Purism goes out the window when the fly, on your back cast, is picked off by a thousand pounds, or so, of prime beef. Best to point the rod directly at the offending cow and hope the tippet parts easily. Believe me, she is not any happier about it than you are.

You don't exactly qualify for the cover of the Orvis catalog when your waders are cut-off blue jeans and a pair of old tennis shoes. Or your fanny pack is the same faded camo one that holds turkey calls in the spring and muzzleloading supplies in the fall.

You have lost any lofty status fly-fishing may have brought when you choose to use your 4 weight to fend off a 25 pound snapping turtle that has decided he wants the bluegills hanging from your float tube. Being thrashed with a skinny fishing pole does little to deter a determined snapping turtle, by the way. I recommend a hasty retreat. Note: Snapping turtles can swim really fast even when being thrashed with a 4 weight.

A quick sprint, belly-slide and bull snot on the back of your legs is somewhat humbling. Not much fun, but like old age, it's better than the alternative.

Warm-water fly-fishing is not totally about the fish. It's about the sunrises and sunsets and the time alone on the water. It's not all about catching fish. In most cases you could catch more on lures, or jigs, on a spinning rod or baitcaster, or even a bobber and bait. And most warm-water fly-fishermen know they could because they probably have done so extensively. Fly tackle is seldom the very best tool for the job. It's not about high-dollar equipment and perfect flies or perfect casts. It's not about cane, or fiberglass or IM16 graphite. It's not about being superior to anyone and it's certainly not about something you saw in a movie.

It's not about entomology and knowing the name of every insect that flies, swims or crawls. The guys I fish with have developed descriptions of insects that far eclipse the Latin names. "So, what are they feeding on?"

"BBBs". (big black bugs)

There are also "LBBs" (little) and "LTBBs" (little tiny) and "NADT" (not a .. well you get the idea).

So, why fly-fishing? Sure, there are some differences but mostly, fish are still fish. Locations may change but water mostly has the same depth and clarity no matter your choice of tackle. The sunrises and sunsets are the same. The birds still sing, the frogs still croak and the mosquitoes still buzz around your ears.

So, it's not all about the fish. But, enough about what warm water fly-fishing is "not" about. What is about? No matter how you pretty it up, or strive for the perfect rod or perfect fly or perfect cast it is mostly about the fish. We don't, so much, make it about the quality of the equipment, the perfect cast or the prefect presentation. It's not about the "experience". It's mostly about catching fish.

There is a lot of enjoyment in fishing with fly tackle. It does take some skills and some practice. Everyone would like to be a better caster, but, for many warm-water fly fishermen there comes a point when agonizing over perfect form and perfect loops becomes "fly casting" and not "fly fishing". You could "fly cast" in a parking lot. It's mostly about catching fish.

Most warm water fly-fishermen have followed a progression here. Many are accomplished with spinning and bait tackle and many still use both. Most enjoy the time spent fishing no matter the tackle and many (Heaven forbid) often enjoy a meal of fish. I've seen warm-water fly-fishermen with the cheapest "Wally World special" to rod and reel combos that cost more than my truck.

Many come for the challenge. Some come for the simplicity and may be "progressing backwards" from patchwork shirts and sparkly boats and tackle boxes the size of footlockers. Philosophically, some perhaps, are searching for something they feel they may have lost.

In spite of the fact our choice of tackle may confuse our hard-driving, "run and gun" brethren and we may even be looked down on by some of our "upstream and dry" brethren, most of us have one major all-encompassing reason we fly-fish in warm water. We do it because it is fun. ~ Gene Murray, (HideHunter)

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