Is Fly-Fishing a Cult?

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

I’m starting to wonder if I have joined a cult.

I picked up a copy of “The Mission” magazine at IFTD. It’s a nice looking book. Good printing, nicely bound, free, everything I like in a magazine. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read it past the cover but that’s what got my attention. The subtitle of the book is “The Cult of Fly Fishing.”

IMG_7268I was intrigued by that. I instinctively felt like that was a fair assessment. As I flipped through the pages I noticed the grandiose way the images portrayed anglers and their quarry. It did look suspicious. In a lot of ways fly fishers act kind of cultish, and the deeper you get into it the more cultish it becomes. I think I may have fallen into this, and even contributed to it.

Let’s be honest, we are an odd lot. There is an awful lot of dogma surrounding fly fishing that has very little to do with catching fish. I tried a test. When I found myself in a group of avid fly anglers, I tried listening to the conversation as if I were an outsider, knowing nothing about the subject. I determined that we sound bat shit crazy to the uninitiated.

I became concerned, so I did a google search for “Identifying a cult.” I found this check list.

6 tips for spotting a cult.


There is always some kind of pressure to join. This often involves the idea that your belief system in invalid and that you are missing out on some kind of enlightenment or deeper spiritual experience.  “CHECK.”


Once recruited, members are subject to an organized program of thought reform, or what most people refer to as brainwashing.  “CHECK.”

Divine Leaders

Cults usually have charismatic leaders who proclaim themselves as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity.  “DOUBLE CHECK.”

Closed Groups

There is usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy.”  “CHECK.”


Typically cults exploit their members, mostly financially, but often  psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually.  “CHECK.”

Enforced Loyalty

A very important aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you.  “CHECK.”


I think that pretty much seals it. I’m in a cult. And if you are reading this, chances are you are in it with me. Should we be concerned? Of course not! I mean, we’re right, aren’t we? I know the outsiders don’t understand but they’ll come around. We’ll make them. Then we’ll live in paradise. Maybe I’ll subscribe to that magazine. There was a profile in it of Oliver White. I never noticed how much he looks like Jesus.


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “Is Fly-Fishing a Cult?

  1. I would say that cults were born out of religious groups, even Satanism, but there are philosophical beliefs that could include fly fishing. There is another category you could have added to the list, money contribution, and you could have checked that one as well.

  2. Hi Louis,

    When I saw that magazine for the first time the same phrase got my attention too; I am not a cult-follower and hate the thought of it and did not like the negative connotation of a cult linked to fly fishing. But it could in fact be interpreted in many ways; for instance, there are fly fishing bloggers claiming to be part of the fly fishing ‘brotherhood’, i.e., #thebrotherhood, and pretend to be naive about differences in opinion and rivalry in the fly fishing industry – there are certainly fly anglers out there that I don’t want to be friends with (just like in kindergarten). So I believe The Mission statement about the cult in a way counters that dogma by saying that there is an undefined ‘movement’ out there that does not represent the stereotype, and that movement is like a ‘cult’, i.e., good individuals that will go far out of their way to help other fly anglers, and these people just enjoy to fish and drink a beer (whether you’d like to smoke a spliff on top of that is also totally up to you). So from reading your blog post, maybe ‘cult’ wasn’t the best way to describe that, because as in my case, I immediately linked it to the dictionary meaning of the word…Which brings me to the name of your blog, Gink and Gasoline. That’s another phrase that’s pricked my mind with confusion for some time now; the dictionary meaning of ‘gink’ is a crazy person – that you certainly are by looking at this post for instance (and the introduction photo) – but gasoline, where on earth does fuel fit into this realm? Perhaps you should do a post on that just like this one to clear that up, it would be much appreciated;)

  3. What’s really funny Mr. Cahill is you are in fact one of the biggest promoters and writers of our “Cults” propaganda literature there is. Your website has how many visits annually? Your work has been published and then republished in countless formats. You sir are one of the Leaders whom the rest of us follow.

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