Is There a Place for Electronics in Fly Fishing?

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Photo by Tom Cahill

This is really a poll. I’d like to know what you think.

I don’t often ask a straight question of my readers but I think this is a really good one. I’ll give you a little context. I recently went fishing for redfish with my brother. As often happens this time of year, we got dealt a tough hand by the weather. We had high wind, mostly poor light, and muddy water. A tough day for even a veteran flats angler but especially for my brother Tom as this was his first redfish trip. 

Tom is a bass guy and with all the difficulty we had spotting fish he was surprised that neither the guide or myself had every employed electronic sonar fish finders. A piece of equipment ubiquitous in bass fishing. I have bass fished with guys who use them, not that I can make heads or tails of it. I’ve never had the experience of seeing a fish on the graph and catching it.

I know how I feel about it and, if you’ve been a G&G reader for a while, you probably do too but I’m not going to get into my opinions here. I want to hear yours.

 Is there a place for electronics in fly fishing?

Do you personally use them?

Do you see any benefit or risk, beyond catching more fish?

Let me know what you think in the comments. Please keep the discussion civil and respectful. I will not approve any comments which attack other commenters or are simply intended to be hateful. Other than that, have at it.


Justin Pickett

Gink & Gasoline 

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9 thoughts on “Is There a Place for Electronics in Fly Fishing?

  1. When you say electronics do you just mean fish finder or do you mean something else? For saltwater, fish finders are common. I don’t see anything wrong with it. If I had a center console boat or a big fishing kayak that could accept a transducer I would have one.

  2. It’s all about levels of sport we impose on ourselves. Our enjoyment of a sport comes from how we measure our abilities against the chances of success. Some only fish for trout with dry flies, some hunters only use primitive weapons, etc.
    Last I checked, there was nothing that said we had to decide how to approach any sport and draw a line in the sand for life. That decision can occur on a daily basis, therefore, if so inclined, give yourself a bit of an advantage.

  3. I see no reason why electronics are incompatible with fly fishing, especially when you leave the stream. Compared to stream fishing with the highly predictable locations where trout will consistently hang, fishing in stillwaters or the ocean is an entirely different game. In the average lake less than 90% of the fish the angler is seeking. Unless you can identify the high probability structure you are just taking casting practice. Given how much less water a fly fisherman can cover, compared to other methods, trial and error searching is not a viable option for anyone with limited fishing time.

    I have electronics I use in my float tube for chasing mostly stillwater trout, and a small powered boat I use for chasing Pike/Tiger Musky/Chained Pickerel and Smallmouth Bass.

    The benefits to being able to locate fish holding structures and to a lesser extent individual fish are real but the determining factor of catching fish still is in the competency of the fisherman. Liveview sonar technologies have the potential to change the balance further, but the costs complexity has limited the adoption of this advance to the upper ranks of bass fishermen…

    Even if electronics lets a fly fisherman catch more fish, with the catch & release ethics that (should!) accompany the discipline, I really don’t see downside compared to the other much more dramatic factors that threaten the sport we love.

    • A bit of my text got lost… The third sentence should read:

      “In the average lake less than 5% of the water contains 90% of the fish the angler is seeking.”

  4. The world is changing. 100 years ago you’d be hard pressed to find a magazine dedicated to fishing. 50 years ago, there were multiple places to find articles or books about hunting and fishing. 30 years ago the Internet (the biggest electronic device out there) was just a baby..

    Today, your lucky to go fishing and not see someone with a camera strapped to their head because everyone wants to be an Internet hero.

    Weather people are using fish finders or cameras or Internet forums or social media to find out where all the fishing spots are, electronics are everywhere.

    The Internet has ruined more hunting and fishing spots than anything in history. It used to be that people had “secret” spots to find some solitude and enjoy a day of fly fishing just being out on the water. If you took a friend, they would be sworn to secrecy.

    Now you can turn on your phone and look at a satellite image of the creek you saw a video of with so and so catching whatever fish it was, on whatever fly is in season right now.

    What difference does it make if you use a fish finder to see if there are any fish nearby? Maybe one day, we’ll be able to watch live images of the creek we are fishing with a handheld satellite device and zoom in close enough to see the fish in the water before you even get out of the truck.

    Where to draw the line? I don’t use fish finders or go pros or slather all my fishing pictures all over Facebook and me-tube. Why can’t people just enjoy a quiet day out on the water without all the electronic interference?

    I wish there wasn’t room for electronics in fly fishing, but I’m sure in another 100 years they are going to be so integrated in our lives that people will feel like they can’t do ANYTHING without electronics.

  5. No to electronics for flyfishing.

    Obviously I don’t use one

    There is too much opportunity for abuse of the fish and fishery

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