Neil Travis - Sep 24, 2012

The following are the thoughts of an elderly angler as he reflects on several decades of fly fishing and observing the angling scene.

Fly fishing is a great pastime, and unless you are feeding your family with proceeds that you glean from the sport as a manufacturer, shop owner, outfitter/guide or some similar occupation that's all fly fishing is or should be – just a great pastime and nothing more.

After nearly 50 years of chasing fish with a fly rod, and over 65 years of just chasing fish with anything that was legal, the fact remains that it's just a recreational endeavor. Recently I spent an afternoon on a famous piece of water and I got skunked. I don't mean that I hooked a few fish and they got off before I landed them. I don't mean that I raised some fish and missed the strike. I mean that I got skunked. I didn't move a single fish, although I did spook some real nice fish out of the weeds. I was fishing with acceptable fly patterns for that particular piece of water, the fish were obviously present, I've caught plenty of fish on that water previously using the same techniques, but on this day I was skunked. Did my world come to an end because I got skunked? Did anyone, or should anyone care that I got skunked? The answer is NO, it's just recreation, and if I never catch another fish on a fly the world would be no worse off because of it. In fact, neither would I.

Over time I have hooked and landed some notable fish. Notable at least to me, and perhaps they might even be notable to you. However, I am certain that others have caught fish that were far more notable than any fish that I have ever caught, or likely will ever catch. As I looked over the literature I saw many images of very respectable fish that had fallen victim to some very reputable anglers, many of whom are no longer among us. Did catching those fish enrich their lives? I certainly hope so, but beyond the momentary pleasure that may have been derived from the catch did it change the world as we know it? Not hardly. Unfortunately, when I read some of the literature, and listen to discussions among anglers it would seem that fly fishing, and the beliefs that they hold concerning it are the most important thing in the world.

I've spent the last few months reviewing angling literature, reading posts on fly fishing bulletin boards, listening to the pros and cons of various pieces of fly fishing gear, and all the other chatter that goes on within the fly angling community. Some of it is entertaining, some of it is enlightening, and much of it is just plain drivel.

What is the best fly rod? Back when I was just cutting my teeth on fly fishing the best fly rods were made of bamboo. Those of us that had yet attained to the status of bamboo owned rods that were being made of that new synthetic material, fiberglass. Gradually fiberglass fly rods began to gain a following but bamboo was still the rod any fly fisher worthy of the name aspired to own. Then another new material appeared on the angling scene, graphite. It was light weight and super strong; in short it was the ideal fly rod material. Today it has become the material of choice for all kinds of rods from fly rods to trolling rods. But what is the best fly rod today? It's the one that you own that meets your needs. It's the one that casts your fly; and it's the one that allows you to play any fish that you hook and bring it to your net. It seems that many fly anglers have forgotten that the best fly rod is nothing but a stick unless you know how to use it. In addition, it seems that the difference between fly casting and fly fishing has been lost on many of the members of the new generation of fly fishers. Do you need, or even want, a fly rod that will enable you to cast 60 feet with a size 20 dry fly?

Fly reels have become another area of fly fishing where logic seems to have been replaced by glitz and glitter. Most of my fly reels are at least 20 years old, and several of the ones I use regularly are twice that old. They don't have a drag that will stop a runaway truck but they have allowed me to land hundreds of trout over the years. Most of them have a pawl/click drag, and they make a nice sound when a good fish rips line off. I've never had one of them fail and I don't know what more you could ask of a reel. Compared to most modern reels they were bargain priced. I guess if I ever have to stop a runaway truck with the drag on my fly reel I will wish that I had one of the modern reels, but it hasn't happened yet.

The last time I looked at a spool of tippet material I realized that my wife and I might have to eat lots of left overs if I had to buy one. The young man behind the counter smiled at me when I commented on the price, and he politely explained to me that this was the latest improvement in leader technology. He carefully explained to me that this new fluorocarbon material was virtually invisible to the fish. I asked him if he thought that made a difference, and he indicated that he thought it made a great difference. I asked him how it was possible that I had been catching fish on the "old" technology before his parents were born and how much improvement did he think this new technology would have on my fish-catching ability. He seemed to be convinced that it would, but he wasn't sure how. Fortunately they still had spools of the same old tippet material that I had been using for years. In fact, I purchased 3 spools of the old technology for what one spool of the new stuff would have set me back. Later that day I used some of that old stuff and the fish didn't seem to mind in the least.

One of the problems with progress seems to be that we don't seem to know the difference between progress and just something new.

Cut to the chase - from a journal by..
The old geezer with another trout caught using outdated technology

Now understand, these are just the ramblings of a slightly addled old geezer who has spent too many days out in the sun. You may think that I'm nuts, and you have the right to that opinion. That's the fundamental concept set forth in our Constitution; the freedom of expression. However, if you want to buy the latest and greatest new bit of technology I may not chose to follow your lead, but I will not insult your heritage or your education because you did. It would be nice if you would extend that courtesy to others that hold a different opinion than you do. After all, it' just fishing.

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