Bobber Wars: Episode 2, Attack Of The Clones

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By now you probably know that Deeter and I are having a little fun.

Yes, Kirk Deeter and I have been up to something. An experiment, a hoax, a stunt even, but not without some basis in fact. The two of us have been talking about this for some time and even though we’ve been playing roles in this debate, the debate itself is all too real. Our idea was that we, as friends, could publicly have the argument that’s been raging at fly shops and bars around the country for some time.

Judging from the comments, it’s an argument many of you have already been part of. It’s way too much fun to stop now, so I will gladly fire another round back at Mr. Deeter, and then we’ll put it to bed.. Just know, as you read the rhetoric from both of us, that it’s a mix of our true feelings and some of what we hear at the fly shop, but mostly it’s just us being inflammatory and playing devils advocate. It’s all in fun. Kirk and I are blood brothers and the bobber isn’t going to change that. If you see us together, we’ll be laughing, drinking and probably fishing and Kirk will likely be wearing a dress. That’s just Deeter, there’s only so much you can do with him.

If you have not read Deter’s Article, “The Bobber Wars Go On,” on Angling Trade, take a minute and read it now so this will make sense.

So here’s the next round. I hope you enjoy it, and if you take anything away from this game, let it be how silly this argument really is and how, like Kirk and I, all anglers should be friends.

Mrs. Deeter,

I started this with a Star Wars reference, so let me put a finer point on it. You have fired off another sortie, and just like an Imperial Storm Trooper, hit nothing! Whether or not you are calling for regulations, a gentleman’s agreement or a constitutional amendment banning bobbers is not the issue. The issue isn’t the regulation, it’s your elitist attitude.

I’m not curious to see what would happen on your bobber-free water. I’ve already seen it and it has nothing to do with the trout. It has everything to do with a flock of egotistical anglers creating a safe space where they can’t be bothered with the uncouth and under-skilled. Perhaps we should give you your bobber-free water just to get you off of ours!

OK, that’s over the top, but seriously, why are you so pissed about the bobber?

Let’s be honest, it has nothing to do with fish mortality. In this argument, fish mortality is the equivalent of “Support the troops.” It’s just a shield for you to hide behind where no one can speak out against you. Well, I’m not afraid to. I’ve been down this road. I went through a phase, in my 20s, where I cut the hooks off of my flies to avoid injuring fish. Trust me, I’m a fish hugger, but the inevitable end to that logic is, the only way to not put fish at risk is not to fish.

Is that where we’re going with this? I hope not. If you’re concerned about fish mortality we should be talking about barbed hooks, not bobbers. You can quote all of the science you like, fish mortality has everything to do with the technique, not the numbers. If you know how to fight and land fish and practice good C&R, fish mortality goes way down. I know of one specific fish that Kent and I caught, and photographed, three times in three years. First when he was 22″ then at 26″ and 28″. That fish not only survived but thrived. I’m sorry, but your argument has nothing to do with protecting fish and everything to do with protecting your fragile ego.

While we’re at it, let’s put this idea of “groomed water” to bed. That metaphor is forced at best. Fishing indicators over trout does not affect their behavior. I’ll say it again, trout do not know what a bobber is! That’s why they so frequently eat them, which, when you think about it, blows both your groomed water idea and your dry fly snobbery completely out of the water. What you’re really complaining about isn’t bobber guys putting the fish down, but rather, someone getting down river before you and catching the fish you might have caught. Maybe you should just set the clock an hour earlier!

So there’s nothing to nymph fishing, you say? Trout just eat anything in front of them?

I think you may have shown your hand. Now that we know you’re carrying a box full of squirmy worms and purple Prince Nymphs, I think I see the problem. Sure trout will eat junk flies. Trout don’t have hands, if they’re curious about something they have to put it in their mouth, and that will get you a bunch of dumb stockers down at that trout club you belong to, but there is another level.

We’ve all seen educated trout slide over to avoid a number twenty nymph on 6X tippet. Fish may not be intelligent but they do learn, and an educated trout is all the challenge you need, nymph or dry. So how is catching that fish something we should be ashamed of? As I understand the game, we find a fish and we change flies and techniques until we fool him. So what if he simply doesn’t want a dry fly? Does he, as you suggest, “deserve to win,” or do you just deserve to lose?

You need to accept that not every angler who fishes nymphs under an indicator is a knuckle-dragging mouth breather. Most of them are damned good anglers, and so what if they aren’t? You were never a beginner? Are you the Donald Trump of fly fishing? “Sure, I’m the son of immigrants but now it’s time to close the borders!” You assert that new anglers fish bobbers and then never fish again, and you base this on the fact that they don’t buy another fishing license in Montana. Did it ever occur to you that they might be fishing at home in Michigan or Ohio or even Georgia?

This brings me to a major point.

I’ve talked to a bunch of guys on both sides of this argument and I’ve seen a clear trend. All the guys I talk to who think the bobber is some kind of heresy are from the west. Specifically Colorado, Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. That’s four out of fifty US states. That means that the other forty-six states, not to mention the rest of the world, know you’re full of shit.

I’ll never forget the first time I fished the South Fork. I floated with some of my Idaho buddies and we went about a half mile down river that morning before we pulled over at the head of a riffle and got out of the boats. I grabbed my rod and started reading the water while everyone else grabbed a beer and sat on the bank.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked them, and they replied, “We’re waiting for the hatch.”

I couldn’t believe it. Where I come from if you wait for the hatch, you’ve got a long wait coming. We have some great trout fishing in the southeast, believe it or not, but we can count the number of fish we catch on a dry fly in a year. I’ll stop just short of calling you a spoiled western angler, I know you guys have some tough fish out there, but if you want to see how tough fly fishing can be, come to the south.

Here’s a case in point. Some years ago there was a TV series called “The Masters of Fly Fishing.” I think that’s right, it’s been a minute. It was a fly fishing competition and in the final round a bunch of hot shot western anglers and one southerner faced off on a trout stream here in Georgia. One of the western teams actually said on camera that they were going to fish dry flies because, “We can nymph up four fish in no time.”

Well, they didn’t do so well on their dry flies. In fact, once they gave up on them, they didn’t nymph up any fish either and the entire field had their asses handed to them by North Carolina’s Kevin Howell. I have it on a home-made VHS. The hubris of those western anglers stands out in stark contrast to Kevin’s quiet and humble nature. I’m not bashing western dry fly anglers. All I’m saying is, before you get too cocky, Kirk, remember you guys have the best trout water in the country. Know the difference between having great fishing and being a great fisherman.

So you’re picturing a dry fly paradise on the Madison, the Colorado and the Delaware?

I’ve had pretty fabulous days on all of those rivers, and the funny thing is, I didn’t fish dry flies on any of those days. I fished streamers, which is my preferred way to fish from a boat. And you know what? I don’t feel cheated at all.

In fact, I think you were there that day on the Delaware when we fished with the guys from Orvis. As I remember, just about everyone was singing the blues after fishless, or nearly fishless days. Seems they all wanted to fish dry flies, because that’s what you do on the Delaware, even though the water was high and stained. My partner and I threw streamers and caught big brown trout all day. Too bad we were such newbies, huh?

The thing is, I just don’t understand this whole thing about dry flies being a superior kind of fishing. How is floating a Chubby down an undercut bank any different from floating a bobber down a seam? Honestly? What superior skill does that take? It’s fun as hell, but it doesn’t make you a rocket scientist. And continuing to do it when it isn’t working is nothing to brag about.

Switching techniques to catch fish is about the “HOW,” not the “HOW MANY.”

It seems like most of the complaining about bobbers is happening among guides. You’ve made a big deal about how guides who have their clients fish bobbers aren’t teaching fly fishing. I don’t see it. To fish an indicator rig you have to learn to build a much more complicated rig. You have to learn to read water and get a good drag-free drift. You have to learn to cast a more difficult setup, and you have to be much more attune to the eat since it’s not happening right in front of you. How is that not teaching fly fishing?

A buddy of mine told me, in response to your first article, that he has a problem with a guide fishing bobbers getting paid the same as him. I think maybe this gets at the issue. Most of my best friends are guides and I have great respect for the knowledge and skill it takes to be a guide, but most guides behave like high school girls. It’s true and you guys know it. If it wasn’t, no one would have made up the term “river drama.” So is this what’s going on? Are the rest of us getting dragged into a bunch of guide’s river drama?

Let’s be honest, this whole argument is about ego. It seems that everyone in fly fishing wants to find someone to look down their nose at. The amount of horse shit shoveled on to fly fishing is choking the life out of the sport. Here’s a suggestion. Next time you get out on the water, assume that there is something you can learn from everyone there. Rather than telling them what they are doing wrong, try to learn what they are doing right. You’ll not only walk away a better angler, but a better person and you might even have a new friend.

Pablo Picasso said it took him his whole life to learn to paint like a child.

micCan’t you see that childlike joy in his work? Well, that’s the way I’d like to fish. With the open mind and joyful heart of a child. Even if it means fishing a bobber. Even if if means fishing a cane pole. Especially if it means learning something new. That’s awfully hard to do when you’re so damned busy being an expert. Let’s face it, trout fishing is not brain surgery, and it shouldn’t be. After all, nobody ever went out for a relaxing day of brain surgery. Let’s all just try to get over ourselves, and the bobber.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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30 thoughts on “Bobber Wars: Episode 2, Attack Of The Clones

    • Absolutely.

      This is a silly family squabble. And i have not heard any serious anglers ” having this conversation in bars and flyshops ” We as anglers have much bigger issues to fight; namely public access loss, and environmental/ habitat/ spawning threats.

      I’m with Louis 100 %. one day on the WB of the Ausable, i met a gear guy and talked to him for an hour about fishing. Almost all these guys are really curious about the Fly thing. When we parted, he said, hey, theres a good wild brown that lives &&&&&&&&&& and i couldn’t catch him. He’s behind that rock looks like a pyramid. It worked out.

  1. And the truth is revealed! I was definitely fooled by your pseudo-argument, but I have to say it was well debated by both of you, even if I didn’t agree with some of it. I agree that this bobber argument, although still heated, is pretty irrelevant and pointless. Good job guys.

    • This was no ” Pseudo argument “. It’s a little wink from Louis to us while he flays more sand into Deeter’s panties. Deeter’s arrogant stance is nothing new. He and his attitude is what’s always been wrong with fly fishing.

  2. Frank Zappa once said, “Shut up and Play Your Guitar.”, so to paraphrase, “Shut up and go fish.”
    I loved the article! Why do we pick, so? I like to use a Stimmy or a Klink for my bobber! It increases my chance of a hit. And, it pleases me.
    I love that it’s fishing and not ALWAYS catching.

    May the fourth be with y’all.

      • Thats f’n ridiculous. You mean” folks who can’t fish” like George Daniels ? Possibly the best angler, and most modest, to ever write a word about fly fishing.
        And uses the bobber when its called for. Google that up and you might actually learn something

        • Chill dude, but maybe you should read Trout Tactics by George’s mentor or Nymphing for Larger Trout (which lists about 8 different ways to nymph fish) by Charlie Brooks, or Art of Tying the Wet Fly by Jim Leisenring. None of which mention a bobber. And the way guys flog the water now with a thingamabobber, it wouldn’t have been anything for those guys to attach a red and white piece of plastic to their leader and flail away. Get Joe’s DVD on Nymphing. There might be something to learn.

          • This whole argument is silly. You guys who hate the bobber and complain about it? you’re in the minority. You are making fools of yourselves. I don’t need to read books about nymphing. I’m 66 and been nymphing for a long time. and dry fly fishing and streamer fishing. You all sound like a bunch of HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS complaining about the girl dating the quarterback. And you are alienating the young passionate fly anglers who could give a rats as about you idea of how everybody should fish

  3. The bobber is still the public school version of fly fishing, which resulted from the law No Fly Fisher Left Behind. I don’t know which president signed it into law, but we’re definitely seeing the effects.

    • Funny, but its elitists BS. Bobbers are a useful tool to use in some cases. I prefer dry, and 90% of the time I fish nymphs I do it without a bobber. But just because its not my (or your) preferred method, doesn’t mean its bad.

      • Exactly. These elitist are dying echoes of all those proper english Dudes who screamed when Sawyer invented the Pheasant Tail and fished SUBSURFACE OMG.!!!!!! totally pathetic.

  4. Louis,
    By the logic of your argument, all “fly fishing only” waters should be “artificial only” and open to spin fishermen with single hooks, correct? You would support that?
    For that matter, if it is catch and release, single hook only, it should be open to bait as well. Otherwise, you’re a member of the “flock of egotistical anglers creating a safe space where they can’t be bothered with the uncouth and under-skilled”.
    What do you think? Don’t you see the hypocrisy?
    I’m for regulations if the majority of the community wants it. There is no other way, or we’d all be able to go and string a net across the stream… though I don’t think the majority of the community would want a no-bobber zone.

  5. Hahaha! Kirk Deeter carries on in the hallowed tradition of Halford, and Cahill is the evil Skues! This debate is entering its second century! So, while I admit to being a snobby DFO guy, and love the streamer strike, and only nymph when IT’S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, I gladly accept the logic of Mr. Cahill. Fly fishing is about doing what you like to do. There IS indeed a process of “evolution” for many people, but it’s beside the point. And I agree that for experienced fly fishers, it’s the how and not the how many. Why else change the dry fly that has caught ten fish in an hour just to see if you can fool ’em on something goofy? You’ve caught more fish than you needed to, why not found out what they WON’T eat? And Western fly fishers are indeed “spoiled”. Really fine nymph “bobber” floaters have fish catching skills that definitely exceed mine. And I don’t mind if they’ve plowed through a run before me….they have every right to fish their way. And if it’s a guide turning on novices to the sport with weight and bobbers….GREAT! Maybe they’ll love being out there and vote to protect the access and the habitat and the water. If that happens, my chance to fish protected waters increases. When I follow that boat through the run, I’ll get my fish, or not. It’s OK. No one needs to make the water safe for dry flies. I’d rather see legislation keeping the goddam guides of the redds.

  6. Wikipedia: Halford vs Skues, dry fly vs nymph[edit]
    Halford, along with Marryatt, perfected upstream dry-fly fishing in late 19th-century England and treated other forms of fly presentation, such as wet flies and nymphs on English chalk streams, with disdain. By the early 20th century, the Halford dry-fly doctrine had become cultish and to some extent dogmatic. The following passage by Halford epitomises his dogmatic views:
    Those of us who will not in any circumstances cast except over rising fish are sometimes called ultra purists and those who occasionally will try to tempt a fish in position but not actually rising are termed purists… and I would urge every dry fly fisher to follow the example of these purists and ultra purists.
    — From A History of Flyfishing, Bark, 1992[10]
    When G. E. M. Skues began promoting upstream nymphing techniques on English chalk streams at the turn of the 20th century, there was immediate tension between those who favoured and followed the Halford school of dry-fly fishing and those who chose to use other techniques. There is no evidence that there was ever any personal animosity between the two anglers, only verbal wrangling in the sporting press about the pros and cons of the two techniques. Indeed, Skues’s second work The Way of a Trout with the Fly, which codified the upstream nymphing technique, was not published until 1921, well after Halford’s death.
    The debates continued into the 1930s. The Halfordian school claimed that upstream nymphing, although effective, was unethical and bad for the chalk streams, even to the point of banning the use of nymph on some fisheries, while Skues’s proponents claimed that the dogmatic dry-fly approach limited opportunities when nymphing was a more appropriate technique. A culmination of sorts took place in February 1938 at the Flyfishers’ Club when the so-called “Nymph Debate” took place. Skues was present to defend nymphing techniques, while many others, chiefly Sir Joseph Ball, defended the Halfordian doctrine. The result was decidedly in favour of Halford’s dry-fly techniques to the exclusion of all others, but no one denied the effectiveness of Skues’s nymphing methodology. The debate helped cement both Halford’s and Skues’s seminal roles in the development of modern-day fly fishing.

  7. I’ve been known to fish a streamer (with a rattle in it)…under a bobber…to Bass. I’ve got that knuckle dragging/mouth breathing shit down cold.

    I’m from the midwest. I can’t afford to be a purist. Streamers and nymphs are pretty much all I got going.

  8. As a guide from the northeast I’ve been trying to understand these western guides who want to “ban” the bobber. A recent conversation with a friend who moved out west let me understand.

    We were talking about targeting trophy trout and I explained that I wanted to try some new tricks with nymphs and streamers to target some large tailwater fish in my area.

    My friend explained that he no longer cared much about nymphing because he could catch big trout on dry flies any day of the week. “Why would I nymph when I can just as many trout on dry flies?” was his response.

    When we fished together in New England we would often float with three rods per angler, one for dries, one for streamers and one for nymphs. It was and is a constant experiment here. The day might start early with streamers in deep water, then progress to fishing nymphs in faster water during the day and hopefully end with a dry fly flurry at in the evening.

    Maybe the weather dictates that we throw streamers all day long, or nymphs or hopefully dries. The truth of the matter is…if we were to go out with the idea that we would use only one technique we would get skunked much more often.

    So I am forced to think back to a summer I spent in Montana ten years ago. At the time I was a curious intermediate. I would have tried any technique to consistently catch fish. Although I threw some nymphs and streamers during that summer I probably caught over 90% of my fish on dry flies. Not because I was a purist but because the opportunity to catch fish on dry flies so often presented itself.

    So why are these western guides so up in arms about “The bobber?” My guess? They are dealing with a large number of inexperienced fishing guides who are better at guiding with nymphs than streamers or dries. When guiding from a boat the nymph cast is the easiest to teach. If there are fish rising trout will often still eat a nymph.

    I’ve guided anglers who refuse to fish any other way than with a nymph, even if the fish start rising simply because they know they are catching fish. I’ve also guided clients who refuse to nymph or only want to fish streamers.

    A good fishing guide is one who can determine which technique will be most effective for each particular client. They take into consideration not only the fishing conditions but also the abilities and preferences of those wH

    • Sorry posted too early. Meant to say.

      Those who they are guiding.

      These western guides who are pissed at other guides for only using bobbers are right in the respect that guides should be able to teach all techniques. They are ignorant in thinking that never using an indicator is even an option for some fishing guides. If I never allowed my clients to fish nymphs under a dry or bobber I would be cheating them out off too many fish to stay in business.

  9. I wise old outfitter once told me, “if you can’t sling lead, you ain’t shit.” There’s plenty of skill in tucking nymphs into a seem and getting it all correct. Not to mention the art of mending, most folks never get that right without spending hundreds of hours on the water nymphing.

  10. The only thing we should be concerned with as anglers is attitude. This bunked debate is no more than a childish argument and is doing nothing for anyone. So you fish without a bobber? Okay, hotshit. This is exactly the kind of attitude that kills our community and our reputations as being elitist assholes. I say enough of this, where’s the attitude change and respect?

    • I’ll give you what you want. Sometimes, I fish with a Stimmy or a Klink, over a dink, and I catch some fish! Sometimes, I fish with a streamer (classic), or not so much, and I catch fish. Sometimes, I feel every Eastern European, but I still, catch some fish. I have a good time.

    • Exactly. Well put. Those pushing this silly argument remind me of those high school girls who got together to complain about the popular girl dating the Quarterback.

  11. “it’s that there are too many production guides who really don’t know how to fish on the water.”

    This comment by KD is hilarious. This would be like saying Bill Belichick
    or Bill Walsh are production coaches who don’t really know how to coach on the field. Production is the only true measurement of success in 99% of most career fields, sports, etc.

    It’s called fishing fellas, we go fishing to ultimately catch fish. Where I come from we call attitudes like this “douchebaggery”. Also, as a parent I tell my children to worry about their own “three-foot bubble” and not to be concerned with what others are doing. Think that advice is warranted in this instance.

    Well played fellas!

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