Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jan 2, 2017

If one wants truly to rile the fly fishing community, OR….as a good friend of mine likes to say "kick that pig". Than all one really needs to do is step into a discussion online or in person, and declare "their" world defines our sport. Try it once and watch what happens. Folks will step back into corners, square off, claim ultimate knowledge or name drop until folks either accept their view ending the argument, or just walk away shaking their heads. Unfortunately for us, we are a sport of "thinkers"....just ask us. Evolved far above the primordial Hills Brothers can of worms we crawled out of, placing ourselves firmly in the same room as Latin theologians and the greatest artists spanning time. Only to be out-fished by a 12 year old kid with a Mitchell 300 combo and a jar of salmon eggs. However, we will then declare that as "thinkers" we have attained a level of knowledge that it is more about the pursuit than the catch and dismiss that young boy as meaningless. It's is quite the world we have created. Yet, I digress…...back on topic.

Thirty year ago folks grew within the fly fishing community in which they dwelled and, unbeknownst to them, much the same was happening in thousands of other communities across the country from coast to coast. Often a particular person would step forward to write a book, or gain an article based on local water, and become "known". Prior to the internet that was all there was, a few books and outdoor magazines. That's not to say the community was small. It simply wasn't what it is now, since our current online explosion. And then came the movie. You know the one. Great movie, great story that touched many, bringing scores of fisherman to the art of fly fishing, while simultaneously declaring Montana as the center of our universe. Or did it? Well, let's just say that for many it did. Or at very least it became the Mecca of all things "Troutish". Soon it became evident that unless it was a pattern birthed directly from the banks of the Henry's Fork it was amateurish at best. If not born of a box fished over native cutthroat it was unworthy or thought other than being a replica of an original. Folks will, in fact, go to war over these issues. And all the while declaring their waters are the toughest, the most "technical", the purest or even the best water to fish.

Now, in reality, we all live in our own worlds. Many have opportunities to travel across many waters, often controlled or dictated by available funds, while others never venture far from home waters. Yet a given fisherman's favorite hatch on their local water is no less than another fisherman's favorite hatch on the other coast. A west coast trout is no harder to fool than an east coast trout. We all have our gullible fish. While a native Brookie is about as aggressive and forgiving of drift as they come, they are no more the pushover than a wild Cutthroat which is about the easiest pocket water trout to fish for; in my humble opinion; a fact that is the joy of any who have the good fortune to fish for them, including this fisherman. But aside from individual settings they are all trout.

In most places where trout are found, there is enough water for a lifetime of study, exploration and fun to be had. Why travel? Many stay put, learn their home waters and develop their own patterns. Others travel more and settle on favorites in far reaching areas. But an argument can be made for a good many areas where one can cast a line for trout. Tell a fly fisherman from the Au Sable, Catskill, Letort, and Shenandoah, Yellowstone or Columbia River drainage that history in any one of them is more important or valid than the other and the speaker is missing much of what the sport brings us. Same with the histories of companies like Orvis, Sage or Winston, whom are named only due to their strong regional homes, yet are another example for the point's sake. Conflicts however due arise occasionally, in attempts to determine which fly tyer or fisherman "discovered or designed" a pattern first, termed a phrase first, tried a technique first...etc, etc. All in the attempt to place ourselves in the center of the fly fishing universe, when in fact "like minds", in "like effort", casting over "like fish" which are feeding in "like waters"…..are all bound to come up with the same conclusions over time. Unless I am in fact missing something that links a particular water to the single source of wisdom and truth among all things piscatorial?

The center of our universe has nothing to do with a single person, stream, pro shop, fly tyer or rod maker. None carries the sole banner of fly fishing knowledge and truth. Occasionally when a fish decides to take our fly, we fool ourselves into thinking it is one of us, the originator of the pattern we used or the water we are wading…..but in fact, the center of our universe is the trout, regardless of where it swims.

Sorry, the pig was in my way…..Happy New Year!

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