This post is a response to Kirk Deeter’s recent Is It Time for Bobber-Free Water? published on Field & Stream’s Fly Talk. I suggest reading that post before continuing with this one.
Here goes . . .
I want to start by saying that everyone should be encouraged to share their ideas. We need wild ideas, we need discussion, and we need debate. Sometimes these ideas provide the foundations for fundamental shifts in the way we do things. Catch and Release regulations? I bet the first guy to propose that idea was laughed out of the room. Sometimes, though, these ideas need to be called out for what they are.
My initial reaction upon reading Kirk’s piece was to roll my eyes and think, “Here we go again.” He wouldn’t be the first blogger to stir up controversy to pump page views, and it wouldn’t even be his first foray into that area. (See his not-so-recent post Guides Who Cross the Line). It seems we’re still stuck on an approach that tells us we need to regulate the shit out of everyone because of a bad experience had by someone in a position of authority.
Look, I get it. To some extent, indicators are training wheels. I’m not interested in arguing that point, however. To me, this boils down to an issue that needs to be put to bed.
I don’t like the idea that fly fishing needs a concrete definition. It is, and has always been, a sport marked by progress and change. Grass to glass, silk to modern fly lines, soft hackles to articulated streamers – the list goes on. In most instances, these changes have made anglers more effective and fish easier to catch. Becoming an expert angler is hard work, and many anglers simply aren’t interested in attaining that level of proficiency. That’s okay with me. Fly fishing is what each of us wants it to be, and that’s how it should be.
When twenty-somethings with beards and trucker hats are thought of as a nuisance, this twenty-something can’t help but remove his trucker hat and scratch his beard in amusement. We are such a small group in the broad category of outdoorsmen that we need to stick together any way we can. Divisions within our sport make conservation harder than it already is, and that’s the last thing we need.
And who do we want as the face of our game? If you ask me, its a young guy with a beat up drift boat and more hours spent on the water than just about anyone. It is the young guides who pull tires out of the South Holston and volunteer their time with conservation and youth organizations. There are bad apples in every group, but there are hell of a lot of good ones in ours. These young guys are driving the direction of the industry, and I like the direction we are headed. We are forward-thinking but respectful toward history. We are open to new ideas and approaches, and we are the first to get in line when a call to action is made.
As for lazy guides, I’m sure we all know one or two. To me, though, guiding should look lazy. Guides should exhibit the apparent calm and ease that only comes with thousands of hours on a river. A frantic guide that constantly changes tactics is a guide who doesn’t fully know the water that he fishes. Conditions change every day, but a good guide doesn’t work through a checklist. He chooses the best tactics for the conditions at the time and puts his clients on fish. That’s the job, and some of the best guides I’ve fished with made it look effortless. That doesn’t come with a bobber; that comes with hard work and experience. Have you ever watched an expert shooter work his way through a clays course? It looks easy, but that’s only because he’s looked down the barrel as he sent hundreds of thousands of rounds downrange.
This post hasn’t taken the direction I intended, but there will be plenty of time for arguments about indicators later. Right now, I want a united front that faces the immense challenges ahead. I want a group that helps a novice angler struggling on the stream, that packs out more than he packs in, and that continues to push the boundaries in terms of new gear and techniques.
I fish because it makes me happy. Most of the time, at least. I don’t need anyone else to tell me how to enjoy fly fishing. As long as I’m being respectful to my fellow anglers and following the rules, that’s good enough. There will always be regulations that need changing and idiots on the water that need to be called out for being idiots. What we don’t need are petty squabbles that divide us. Whether you fish only dry flies, throw trout speys in places where they haven’t been seen before, or chuck indicator rigs to fishy looking runs, you’re fly fishing. It all boils down to a pretty simple thing: don’t be a dick. That’s what the Golden Rule says after all.
Stay tuned for my next post on how we need to ban drift boat anchors for the habitat damage they cause. The horror!!!