Kirk Deeter’s One Man War On The Bobber

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I love Kirk Deeter like a brother, but I’m afraid he has lost his mind.

Im his recent article, “Is It Time For Bobber-Free Water?” Kirk calls for a ban on strike indicators on some trout rivers. I can’t help but respond to this idea, partially because Kirk has intentionally hung a target around his neck, and in the hope that reason will carry the day and maybe my friend will get some much needed psychiatric help! So let’s have some fun.

If you have not read Kirk’s article, I suggest you read it now. – “Is It Time For Bobber-Free Water?”

Kirk, buddy, I’ve read your manifesto a couple of times and I think you need to come down out of the clock tower before someone gets hurt. 

The assertion in this article is that, strike indicators ruin the water for dry fly anglers. That somehow nymph fishermen are cheating and that fishing an indicator is not real fly fishing and guides who allow their clients to use indicators are irresponsible. Kirk goes on to suggest that anglers who practice the “art” of dry fly fishing, the anglers he calls, “the most dedicated,” should enforce a “code of conduct” under which anglers using indicators would be second class citizens relegated to fishing poor water and conditions. A code which would establish a formal class system where guides and guided anglers would have to fish dry flies and bobbers would be reserved for lowly DIY anglers and beginners. Maybe Deeter himself will administer some kind of test to determine which flies, tactics and water anglers may fish according to merit.

Deeter goes on to malign “neophyte guides” and “newbies” for turning the grand old sport of fly fishing into a “numbers game” that’s all about “how many more than how.”  and “about what more than why.” He even goes so far as to blame the decline of fishing on the Missouri over the last fifteen years on “the Bobber.” He suggests that indicator anglers are killing fish disproportionately, while he seems to feel it’s ok to target fish on redds as long as you use a dry fly.

trout-fishing-a-days-catch-big-lagoon-1908-photo-print-4Tell me Kirk, have you ever looked at the old B&W photos of our proud forefathers, holding their expansive stringers of huge trout? Why do you suppose fish limits were created in the first place? If nymphs and bobbers are the recent inventions of neophyte guides and their newbie clients, how were those old fellows in the photos killing all of those fish? Harpoons? Or perhaps dry flies?

Today’s bobber-lobbing fly anglers are the same ones you’ll see on Facebook holding their fish in the water, not by the gills or on Twitter, rallying to fight the Pebble Mine. They are, in larger numbers than ever before, women and teenagers, environmentalists and activists. Even when they are a “twenty-something guy with a beard and a trucker hat” they are breathing new life into fly fishing. It was the old guard, the Thurston Howell III crowd and their elitist, private club ethics that almost killed fly fishing. Not the bobber.

Deeter’s argument simply doesn’t hold water.

“I’m 100 percent convinced that in some rivers trout only eat tiny nymph patterns because they are bombarded with nymphs all day, every day. Give them a break, and I’m sure they’ll readjust to eating dry flies,” he argues. Come on Kirk? I know you’re smarter than this. Fish are only eating nymphs because they see so many nymphs? That makes no sense at all. If everyone else is fishing nymphs, shouldn’t that make your dry flies that much more appealing?

The truth is very simple. Fish eat tiny nymphs because actual tiny nymphs are their natural food source. It’s called matching the hatch, except that in this case, there is no hatch and you are artfully presenting your dry flies to nothing. Fly fishing is about understanding the fish and outwitting them. I’m sorry but the fish don’t know that they should only eat dry flies offered by gentlemen anglers in proper fishing hats. If you’re not catching fish on dry flies, don’t blame the guy who understands why.

Like everything, fly fishing evolves.

It has evolved from a single dimensional game where the angler has a single tool in his bag to one where we choose from a myriad of techniques, and adapt to conditions and use a bit of our own ingenuity to overcome the challenges and catch an educated fish. That’s the game. Not pin the tail on the trout, where we continue to employ the same old tactics and expect a different result.

The funny thing is that I’m not really a big bobber fisherman. I don’t even think it’s the most effective way to fish nymphs. I use them from time to time, when appropriate, but it’s not my first choice. Neither are dry flies, unless I have reason to believe that’s the ticket. I just don’t think it makes any sense to tell other anglers how they can or should fish, any more than it makes sense to tell a fish what it should eat. And I think the idea that fishing an indicator somehow spoils the water for “better” anglers is simply absurd.

Let’s be honest. Fish do not know what strike indicators are.

If they are not eating your fly, it isn’t because they know what you’re up to. It’s because you are not adequately imitating their food source. They aren’t refusing your fly because someone else is “cheating” but because you aren’t on your game. Take responsibility for your own angling failures and leave other anglers out of it.

No, it’s not cool for a guide to row into water you are fishing and have his clients fish over you. That’s poor etiquette but it has nothing to do with bobbers or nymphs or how many fish anyone is catching. It’s simply being an asshole. Just like trying to tell another angler how he can fish. If we are going to “actually teach people something,” maybe it should be respect for each other. That would include respecting their space as well as their approach.

Deeter says he has nothing against bobbers.

At first read, this is hard to justify. He seems to have quite a bit against them, but after reading a couple of times I agree. He doesn’t have anything against bobbers, but he seems to have something against the anglers who use them. In fact, there seems to be quite a bit of distain in the rhetoric of this piece of writing. Enough to make me wonder if the bobber is actually what has Kirk so steamed.

DSC_7140Tell me old friend, what’s the real problem? Is it that strike indicators are just too effective? Is it that they are catching all the fish who might eat your dry fly? Is it that these young guides just don’t understand how difficult fly fishing really is? Is it that we are all just taking the easy way out? Or is it something else? Is it that fly fishing is moving on without you? Is it that you and your buddies at the Harriman Ranch just aren’t relevant any longer? Is it that these bearded whippersnappers with their flat brimmed hats, who by the way read Trout Magazine and Fly Talk and therefore pay your salary, just have no respect for their elders?

Come on buddy. I know you’re better than this. Don’t sit in that quiet eddy and let the world pass you by. Maybe it’s time to forget about tradition for a while and try something new? Actually learn something new about fly fishing. Maybe you need to take a year and fish a car key. Remember what William Boroughs said. “Evolutionally speaking the only way we can’t go is back.” If you don’t like the way fly fishing is headed, then use all of your vast experience and fishy instinct to come up with something better. Don’t just say the rest of us are cheating.

You’re right. Something does have to give. You. You have to give up this one-man war on the bobber. It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, and you are as big a man as I know.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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73 thoughts on “Kirk Deeter’s One Man War On The Bobber

  1. I’m kinda with Mr. Detter on this one. Although I’m more a habitat improvement guy than a gear restriction guy, when it comes to improving a fishery. I’m not completely sure flies only water really makes sense anymore because it’s hard to tell where fly fishing stops and something else starts.

    I do agree bobbers are great to get kids started. Last Summer I took my 11 year old nephewTrout fishing for the first time with a spin casting rod,pencil bobber and live grubs. This Fall while we were waiting for our crew to show up to sample inverts, he walked upstream with a fly rod and nymphed up a couple on a tight line.

    There should be a progression in any activity. If a12 year old kid can catch a couple Trout in half an hour in a city park without the benefit of a bobber suspended nymph, then by the end of a a full day float with a professional guide most adults that can afford the price and the time for a guided boat ride should be able to do the same. I’m not saying they have to but it should be an option. Sooner or later even new anglers should at least consider taking off the training wheels.

    • I agree and think it works best as a starter technique and a good transition from dry fly fishing to nymphing since it’s a visual process. As someone who progressed from bait to hardware to fly fishing, once something becomes easier I think it’s time for a new challenge. I read lots of fishing reports (I know, it’s a fishing report so I don’t accept it an authentic historical account) where the author is bragging about catching “50+ trout” using nymph/bobber setup. If you’re catching/releasing 50+ fish you’re abusing the resource and ignoring the culture of a sport that’s traditionally not about numbers. Probably time for a new challenge at that point so take the bobber off.

  2. The only way I have been taught to nymph is with strike indicators, so I do not know any other way. You say you rarely use an indicator, what would you suggest to be the next technique I should learn in order to keep progressing as a fly fisherman?

    • I’ll use strike indicators when I’m fishing deeper runs in small to medium size streams or slow water in larger rivers. Unless the water is really rough I like the New Zealand indicator. I like it because it will sink, but you can still see it. Bobbers effect the drift of your fly too much. They get stuck in the surface current and you think your getting a good drift, but you’re not.

      What I prefer to do, when I can make a good approach, is a classic high stick. Not quite the same as euro nymphing but close. Use a long rod and keep it high and parallel (ish) to the surface of the water, keeping all of line in the air. Move the rod downstream at the same speed as the water and watch for the leader to twitch or pause. It’s the best dead drift possible.

      In the context of what Kirk and I are talking about, I never fish nymphs from a boat. Maybe a dry dropper but never an indicator rig. Not for any moral reason, it just bores the hell out of me. I really only want to fish streamers from a boat. I will put down the streamer rod for a good hatch or during hopper season, but that’s about it.

    • In my opinion, you are progressing. The more methods you have and understand, the better your chances of catching trout. Try straight lining – no indicator, just keeping the line directly over the nymph and “feeling” the strike. This works well in pockets, shallow or narrow runs where an indicator night cause too much line to be slack between the rod tip and the indicator. Keep your rod tip up at about shoulder height and the line fairly taut, and track the drift with your rod tip. Often the trout will hook themselves, but keeping the rod tip up also limits your “strike distance” and will cause you to “snug” your hookset rather than overstriking and pulling the fly loose. It also allows you to “strike” at any little twitch that might be a trout, but still keeps your nymph in the “window” and continues your drift, in case it’s not a hit, or the trout is missed.

    • Hey Asher– Here’s a really good demonstration of how to nymph without an indicator (it’s about 8 minutes in):

      This method works great in runs with moderate-to-fast current, or runs where the depth or bottom structure is not uniform (such as pocket water, or where a shallow riffle pours over into a deeper trough). Hope this helps.

  3. I love dry fly fishing when it’s appropriate. It’s my favorite way to fish too.
    Nobody likes a fly fishing snob. If you like dry fly fishing fine do it. If you like to chuck streamers fine do it. Being judgmental only makes you look like a douche and the only one who it bothers is you. Relax. Fishing is about so much more than the gear you use.
    I know guys who only fish bamboo and flies made with feather and fur. They scoff at those who fish foam or synthetic materials and cringe at the sight of a San Juan worm. But they don’t preach at me. They just make friendly fun of me. What ever floats your boat Deeter. That includes the dress. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    • Think you hit the nail right on the head. Reading thru some of these posts I feel like I’m at Bushwood Country Club with Judge Smails. It’s fishing people… We aren’t curing cancer!

      In my opinion only an incompetent or at the very least a stubborn angler that will throw a dry fly for hours when the fish clearly aren’t rising. You can raise your nose to me all you want because I adjust my presentation but don’t force your ridiculous ethic on the rest of us. If all you care about is throwing dry flies go to the city park with a hula hoop and practice your aim.

      My favorite part, “I’m 100 percent convinced that in some rivers trout only eat tiny nymph patterns because they are bombarded with nymphs all day, every day. Give them a break, and I’m sure they’ll readjust to eating dry flies.”

      Really??? “Biologists estimate that nymphs account for about eighty five percent of a trout’s diet.” But its the anglers fishing nymphs that keep fish from taking your dry fly and not the fact the nymphs account for the vast majority of their diet. That makes a lot sense.

      Seems to me that the real issue is simply having the huevos to call someone out for poor streamside ethics or disrespectful/selfish angling practices.

  4. I agree with you, and should’ve left a comment on Deeter’s post. I cannot understand why he blamed strike indicators rather than the actual guides rowing through his water in his initial example. It’s kinda like blaming the shoes that a thief was wearing when he or she broke into your house, and saying that if we banned shoe crime would go down. One has nothing to do with the other. They happened to be using indicators, but that’s got nothing to do with the poor manners/ethics (if you want to go that far). The rest of his post goes beyond that example, but I cannot understand how that was a good example, and don’t agree that we need more rules and judges of this stuff. Fish how you’re happy fishing as long as it’s within major ethical guidelines and the law.

  5. Remind Kirk that his floating fly line is just a long, skinny bobber/indicator if he watches the end of that while nymphing. Euro nymphers also need to be reminded that “sighters” are also just a type of strike indicator.

    • Not quite the same, bobbers can suspend heavey nymphs allowing super long floats attached to s center pin unit with a dimwit holding the rod they really can be a pain. So can a drift boat captain that thinks any water an extended drift this passes through is his.

      It can take all afternoon to effectively fish a few good riffles with tight line or Euro nymph.

      That being said I own some pretty colored mini ping pong balls and New Zealand wool.

  6. Why is it that anyone feels they have the right to tell another person how to do something? What business is it of his how anyone chooses to fish? Governing bodies designate some waters as catch and release to assure a sustained trout population not subjected to bait or spin fishermen, both techniques that foster a greater probability of causing lethal harm to a fish. Isn’t enough that we are given opportunity to fish waters that the general public can’t, because of the method we choose to use?
    And this notion Deeter has about dry fly fishermen being the most dedicated is pure elitist baloney. Sez who? You think you’re more dedicated than I am? I started fly fishing at the age of eleven with dry flies. But my mentor, who was much older and an extremely dedicated fisherman and conservationist also showed me how effective trailer flies and dropper files are. Our “indicator” was a large, bushy fly like a Wulff pattern that would often get slammed as frequently as the nymph tied to its hook. Would you consider a Royal Wulff or an Irresistible a bobber?
    What’s so terrible about increasing the odds of a hookup in your favor? I’ve since added streamers (horrors!) and foam flies (certainly not a FLY in my book!) to my repertoire. I’ve also figured out when to use which of those and other methods, all of which increase my odds for catching fish. So if you want to talk “most dedicated,” I think I’m showing more dedication by doing my best to master every possible method, not by limiting myself to what I know best.
    As for the “neophyte” progression suggested by Mr. Potter, I started out with dries and did quite well. Actually, I was a bait fisherman long before I knew what fly fishing was. I was good at it, too. That experience helped me understand nymph fishing even more once I took it up. But as a progression where nymphs are the start (like bobber fishing) with dries as the end result? That’s disingenuous at best. I’m pretty good with a fly rod, dry flies, and matching the hatch. But there are times when I go back to two split shots and a worm on a snelled hook just for the pure enjoyment of it. Maybe I’m just regressive, or experiencing arrested development.
    One more possibility to explore – maybe how nymph fishing really frustrates Mr. Deeter is that it accelerates educating the trout to the danger of eating that fly that looks a little different. Maybe they’re becoming tougher to fool. And I’ll lob one other bomb at all of this while I’m at it – the wild trout in the East that still remain have Harvard educations, and have long ago lost their naivete. maybe the Western trout are beginning to catch up.
    Fly fishing is different things to different people. The notion of surface fly only streams is about the snootiest, most elitist suggestion I’ve heard yet. Get off your high horse, Mr. Deeter. The immediate benefit will be a shorter casting distance.

      • And whats your reasoning on its fairness? How is a dry/dropper any different than a multi-nymph rig with an indicator. You have the opportunity to fish different presentations throughout different sections of the water column. If a stretch of water gives me a 2 or 3 hook per line limit you bet im going to tie on different things if i feel its necessary.

    • Actually Mr. Potter believes tight line nymphing is the pinnacle of fly fishing because you have to deal with the added dementions of depth and the associated varying current speed.

  7. The problem with your argument, I think, is that you can easily substitute “spinning gear” for “bobber” and make the argument against fly fishing only areas.
    Or you could go one step further and substitute bobber for bait and argue against artificials only areas. Would you?
    I could see the benefit of having small sections of water that are fly fishing only, no indicators, no weights based solely on the precedent of having fly fishing only sections, etc…
    We’ve already told people not only when and where, but how they can fish many times…

    • Go to Britten and fish the Tams. you will get your dry fly only. You will also pay to play. People can do whatever they want with Private water. But for me as a good California Libertarian living in the East. We don’t need more regulation. I think that “fly fishing only” (artificial lures only) areas are good but lets not go overboard.

      • I agree with you Charles. Draw the line somewhere with regulations.
        But you can bet a lot of spin fisherman react the same way to fly fishing only areas that all these guys are to no bobber areas. They’re raging about Deeter having lost his mind being an elitist, while they rig up and hit their favorite fly only waters. It’s perfect hypocrisy.

  8. Just what we need in this country: a few people claiming to know better than the rest of us telling us what is right and fair and outlawing what they don’t like. Damn. You are turning our beloved sport into politics and political correctness. Cut it out!

  9. Thanks Mr. Cahill this is a well written retort. And I would like to say that I believe much of Mr. Deeter’s premise is just plain wrong. Dry fly fishing is not dying because of the use of bobbers. On the contrary bobbers make fly fishing accessible and less intimidating to the public at large. As one grows fishier I believe they will graduate to more technical types of fishing. And I think most fly fisher will agree that once you catch fish on a dry fly you want to do it again. It is hard to beat the high of watching a fish take a fly on the surface.
    It is important to grow as an angler. My father is a great example of a dry fly purist that has adopted less traditional techniques over the last 3-4 years. It is awesome and humbling to have the guy that taught me how to fly fish, call and ask questions about different nymphing techniques.
    Lets face it casting a big nymph rig with a fishpimp or thingamabobber isn’t fly fishing at its best. So Deeter doesn’t have anything to worry about.

    • One thing as exciting as the take on a dry fly is the slashing strike of a trout taking a streamer. I’ve watched big browns streak from a “lair” across shallow water like a torpedo to annihilate a wooly bugger in an explosion of water that ends with them launching right into the air (once, right on to the bank) the second they feel the hook. Nothing boring about that. Pretty much heart-stopping, actually.

  10. Like your friends down the road at SCOF, you missed the mark badly. Deeter’s article is in the context of protecting native, wild fish numbers, not telling people in the midwest and southeast how to go about fishing for stocked missiles.

    Its funny and sad when you look at the reactions that occur when people put forth different ideas, and use-cases for conservation. Its expected behavior that people lash out at the originator of the idea, and (whether joking or not) attack the person on a personal level. He did not say ban them, he suggested a few ideas…and to see how it has been spun around from a few of you out there is pretty disturbing in all honesty. Like SCOF, you actually prove his point pretty well for him.

    If you think Deeters ideas were bad ones, then why not contact your buddy instead of reacting like this? You are, in essence, giving him more airplay (for the sake of getting more clicks of course).

    “Is it that fly fishing is moving on without you? Is it that you and your buddies at the Harriman Ranch just aren’t relevant any longer?”

    It sounds like you either need more time on the water, or help.

  11. Oh, one last thing.

    Did Deeter really say dry fly guys were the most dedicated fly fisherman?

    Or the most dedicated consumers?

    By dropping that last word from your quote, you did a great job lighting the pitchfork.

    • According to Mr. Cahill’s response, and I quote, “Kirk goes on to suggest that anglers who practice the “art” of dry fly fishing, the anglers he calls, “the most dedicated,” should enforce a “code of conduct” under which anglers using indicators would be second class citizens relegated to fishing poor water and conditions.” That is what I base my comment on. As for fishing over stocked missiles, that is the choice I now have and the one I fish. But I cut my teeth on wild trout in the Catskills, where now stocked fish are often the norm as well. I still fish wild trout streams every chance I get. The conservation of wild trout fisheries would have been best served by more catch and release regulations, less introduction of competing species, better habitat preservation, and a greater awareness of the effects of insecticides and other pollutants on trout streams, as far back as the forties or sooner. That ship, unfortunately, has left the port.
      Thankfully, there are efforts to recover such habitat and work with what we still have. In my home state, a program was instituted a decade ago to preserve the few remaining strains of native brook trout. Weirs were constructed, where natural barriers didn’t exist, to prevent rainbows and browns from migrating into these habitats. The streams were closed to all fishing to allow the stocks to replete and the environment to replenish. Even now, only a limited number of these fisheries are open to catch and release, single hook only, barbless fishing. These streams will be cycled out and others introduced at intervals to allow both the environment and the fish stock to recover. Maybe more states with even better numbers of viable fisheries should engage in this and similar management techniques. Maybe some of the larger waters could be manages like New Zealand manages their amazing fishery, with tributaries being used only for brood fisheries, where no fishing is allowed at all.
      But I think the idea of dry fly only
      “in the context of protecting native, wild fish numbers” is disingenuous and misleading. Other fly fishing methods don’t damage trout fisheries any more than dry fly fishing does. What’s needed is better presentation and enhancement of healthy fisheries.

      • Your native brook trout needed segregation and protection? That’s really interesting. I see the opposite where I live. Brook trout tolerate big migratory browns, rainbows, chinook, and even native pike who migrate into the lower reaches to spawn. In fact, someone I know just caught a Lake Michigan run brook trout……….that’s a big f’n deal.

  12. I believe I understand the gist and the angst of Kirks argument. He is basically lamenting the inevitable changes in our fisheries. Those changes have more to do with intelligent and steady angling pressure than they do with style.

    I spent over 25 years guiding on Alaska’s Kenai River. After a few years, I learned about seasonal patterns that helped produce amazing fishing for me and my clients. Kenai River rainbows would form massive aggregations in a few places for weeks at a time. We could spend all day in a short piece of water and never even come close to running out of large catchable fish. Now those aggregations are worked apart by a steady stream of drift boats and wading anglers on the Upper Kenai. On the lower Kenai, they blasted by a fleet of power drifting sleds. Trout fishing went from a quiet sport to a NASCAR race.

    I now make my home on the Missouri River. It has amazing dry fly fishing. At least it seems that way to me, but I’m newer on the scene. I’ve gotten to know many of the old timers. They lament the giant pods of rising fish that used to form. You could spend all day targeting two or three pods. I’ve never seen that happen. I’m usually targeting one fish or sometimes a small group.

    Fish adapt to pressure and available food. If they feed a certain way and get continually caught or disrupted, they will make adjustments in their locations and feeding habits. That’s part of the game. I like dry fly fishing. I nymph with and without a bobber. I love fishing steamers. I love swinging with two handers. The more people Nymphing with bobbers, the less folks I’ll have to contend with when I choose those other techniques.

  13. For someone who is supposedly knowledgeable about fly fishing for Trout, Kirk demonstrates a serious lack of the same when it comes to feeding habits of the species. He would be well served by reading Ernest Schwiebert’s “Trout Volume II” published in 1978 and more specifically pg. 1421.

    Dave Whitlock points out that these are the most important positions to fish aquatic insects (in order of evocativeness).

    1. Fly one to six inches above steam bottom.
    2. Fly moving upward (emerging) from bottom to surface.
    3. Fly resting just under the surface film.
    4. Fly resting on the surface film.
    5. Fly actively twitching or skittering over the surface film.

    (From the Winter 2013 Issue of Flyfishing & Tying Journal – “Water Entomology Fly-Fish By”, Dave Whitlock, pigs. 16-21)

    Please Kirk, don’t embarrass yourself further…

    Tim Barker/Planettrout

  14. Back in the day when I used to Marlin fish, guys measured their dicks by owning the biggest most expensive boat money could buy. Because the reality is, catching a Marlin isn’t nearly as hard as they like others who don’t do it, to think it is. It’s fishing……not an art form. I guess that sort of behavior isn’t available to trout fishing…….I mean how much money can one really spend on an outfit? Three thousand dollars? Big deal……..doesn’t pay for a daily fuel burn in some of those boats. So the way they measure dick size in trout fishing is by use of the smallest dry fly one can possibly tie to a leader, and catch a trout. Interesting……….

  15. I have been fly fishing for over 40 years now. I learned from some old pro’s, and was inoculated with “tradition” real early in the game. Dry fly and traditional wet fly presentations were what I learned first. Later Charlie Brooks opened my mind to nymph fishing with sinking lines and streamer fishing as well. It opened up a whole new world! In the 1980’s the first time I saw folks using strike indicators and putting lead above their nymphs, was on the South Platte, Cheeseman Canyon and South Park. High Sticking and Short Leashing was a revelation to me. John Geirach and Ed Engle figure a lot in my education on that. I love to fish with an indicator when it makes sense. I see nothing wrong with it at all. I love Dry Fly, Swinging, Stripping Streamers, Nymphing with, or without an indicator. It’s all good! I’m always thinking about new strategies as well.
    Don’t Judge. After all we are only catching fish and there are a million different ways to catch them! Tight Lines!

  16. I have fly fished for 28 years, started later in life than others. Charles Brooks was a big influence as I started casting dries from the beginning. Nymphing is a strategy I use when no hatches are coming off the water, but I do prefer seeing my prey grab my fly off the top.I never use indicators, I feel the nymph, the line, the rod and do succeed with this approach. I am from Montana, I have the luxury of fishing wild trout streams and rivers, I always am amused when I see people using bobbers and indicators, but am glad that they succeed with that technique. I will remain a purist, fly fishing is not easy, it takes many days on the water to become proficient. That one point keeps many fishers using bobbers because their catch rate does improve dramatically. Fly fishing is quickly becoming a very popular sport, but it remains an art in my world.

  17. I see nothing wrong with using strike indicators in fly fishing. I seldom use them myself, but it’s okay if others do. I think it’s more important that fly fishermen use barbless hooks.

  18. Well if your old friends he will probably take your blog post better than others. You slammed him pretty good with that article and I do believe it was in order. Ive never Fly fished with a “strike indicator” and the first time I read about and saw them, I thought cane pole and crickets ! I am not against them and that doesn’t mean I won’t use them in the future when they are appropriate or needed. I just haven’t had the need for them yet. I believe in tradition, honoring the traditions, nostalgia and customs of Fly Fishing and where it came from, the history is part of the appeal of the “Art” of Fly Fishing and Tying for me. I also believe in progression, and the need for the younger generation to develop interest in Fly Fishing, to progress and keep alive the sport I love. If the “tattooed, bearded guys with trucker hats” are shunned away from the sport and don’t develop interest in it , then our sport dies with the “Old Guard”/ Old Timers”, which at 40 years old I am on the cusp of that category, the in-betweener, I have tattoos, a beard and sometimes”but not often” wear a trucker hat. I also have a deep appreciation and respect for my mentors and their traditions and ways of Fly Fishing… And have been known to be more traditional in appearance on some Fly fishing outings. I believe it boils down to respect and acceptance of each other as well as a healthy awareness of ethics of what is acceptable fly fishing techniques that hold as true as possible to the spirt and Art of Fly Fishing/Tying.

  19. The bobber is really a dumbed-down, public school version of fly fishing. That’s why guides use it to get people who never held fly rod into fish, which is sad if you think that this is the pinnacle of nymph fishing.

    I fished the Missouri around Craig all spring and summer and saw some terrible casting out of the guide boats. I would be ashamed if I were a guide and that was coming out my boat, but they were all rigged the same: 7 foot leader, thingamabobber 2 inches from the tip of the fly line, and they all caught fish. I’ve seen guys run bobbers through pods of rising fish too. It’s a sad situation.

    I made a promise with myself this year to fish without any kind of indicator and go back to my Joe Humphreys’ style nymphing technique roots. Harry Murray calls it upstream, dead-drift nymphing. I caught a lot of fish on the Mo and other rivers throughout MT this year using that method. When I compared numbers with guys in the parking lots, I out fished most of the “bobber-floggers” too (not the ones in the boats, just the ones on the bank). I believe that you need a bobber to nymph from a boat, but it is much for fulfilling to nymph like George Harvey, Joe Humphreys, or Jim Leisenring and also with a Euronymph rig than with a bobber. This is just my opinion, and fishing is just fishing, but when a guy shows me a big fish that he nymphed up with bobber, it’s kind of like him showing me some hot chick that he just slept with that had to be “Ruffied.” Any idiot can do that.

  20. BAN THE BOBBER! As a longtime fly fishing guide on very popular Colorado waters I’m with Deeter on this one. Bobbers suck! The truth is that there is an entire new generation of fly fishing guides and anglers who don’t know how to fish dry flies or streamers. These guides certainly don’t teach their clients how to do anything but flip that bobber rig all day long completely ignoring rising trout or fish willing to hammer a hopper or chased down a streamer. Find me a bobber lover who enjoys catching trout on a slowly swung wet fly or one who even knows how. These newer guides and anglers don’t know how to do anything else besides put on a bobber (they even have screw-on ones now for the real hard-core bobber lobbers) or they have no confidence to fish a dry. Customers whose only understanding of fly fishing for trout revolves around bobbers and beadheads with jig style hooks continually walk into our fly shop. An angler or guide simply doesn’t have be nearly as skilled or knowledgeable to catch fish with these rigs. Calling this fly fishing is a stretch at best (no casting necessary!) and a direct copy cat imitation of drifting worms, salmon eggs or minnows with a spinning rod at worst.

    Believe me, I honed my skills dredging worms under a small float on a dead drift for trout in Pennsylvania and this is precisely the goal of attaching a bobber to your leader. Add a pegged bead egg and bingo you are in business! Don’t get me wrong-I have absolutely no problem with spin or bait fishing and occasionally fish this way myself, especially when a dinner of fried fish is in order. What I do have a problem with is “fly fishermen” chucking a bobber, weight and two or three flies that are actually small jigs or bead eggs looking down there nose at the spin and bait fishermen they encounter.

    Bobbers have highly degraded fly fishing for trout. Not that long ago, fishing dries was considered the ideal way to fly fish and putting a strike indicator on was a last resort. It is now mostly ignored to the point where one can float down the Roaring Fork River, for example, in early July during the height of the Green Drake and Caddis hatch, fish rising everywhere and watch boat after boat after boat float by with anglers staring dull-eyed at a bobber floating ten feet from the boat down the middle of the river. People fish these things because they completely remove the need for having any fly fishing skills whatsoever.

    Thank all the fish gods everywhere my clients have embraced abandoning the bobber and actually having fun and fly fishing.

    Bobbers are about producing numbers without the need for teaching or acquiring skill. BAN THE BOBBER!

    • As a guide in neighboring Eagle county, I would totally agree with your comment and really what you said is what Deeter was saying except the “banning” part. There’s a time and place for indicators.

    • In August and September on my home waters in No. Colorado, when the dry fly fishing is dynamite, the vast majority of anglers — nearly all of them — on the small streams will still be chucking lead and bobbers. I assume it’s either because that’s all they know how to do or because they believe it’s the best way to catch a lot of fish.

      I don’t know what can or should be done about it but my honest, unfiltered reaction is that it’s pathetic and, yeah, not really fly fishing.

    • Up here in Yellowstone country I get a sense of relief when I see guides and clients on the river using bobbers. All that tells me is they are out of the game and that’s more dry/streamer action for me!

  21. If Joe Brooks were alive today, I’d bet he’d be found fishing nymph with a bobber from time to time, if not eveytime he hit the water. Hell, I think the words strike indicator adds to the general idea that fly-fishing is only for fancy-pansters. Call a spade a spade they’re bobbers. I tried to buy a pair of fancy pants some years ago and the fella at the shop wouldn’t sell me a pair. Said something bout some fella named Deeter had bought em all.

  22. The first day I ever fished the Bighorn I fished dries for about five hours and did really well; spot a fish, get good drift, catch fish. The second day I fished it was also my first time fishing lead and using a strike indicator. I hated every second of it. The casting sucked and I wasn’t good at mending yet. I was thrilled when I spotted a nice rainbow rising in about a two feet of water just up from the run I was failing to nymph and could finally switch back to the dry. Now I’m much better at the nymph game, but would rather fish dries any day. I mean who wouldn’t? But you can’t fault someone for using an effective technique, seriously.

  23. 1. If throwing a bunch of nymph rigs into a pool is going to make the fish shut down, how in the hell would throwing a bunch of dry flies all of a sudden make them eat?

    2. It seems like all of this bobber derision comes from a western perspective where a lot of the famous trout rivers are just one 50 mile long riffle. In a situation like that, it is possible to mindlessly fish with an indicator. But if you are fishing a river with varied features, you need to adjust your indicator constantly for optimal drift.

    3. Related to point 2, due to the buoyancy, indicator fisherman miss a ton of strikes whether they are skilled or not, and the unskilled/mindless ones miss even more fish because they are fishing at the wrong depth. Why should the bobber-snobs even care then? The rubes are not getting a lot of bites in the first place, and all indicator users are missing way more strikes than the few they see. More fish for you to flail away at fruitlessly with that dry fly!

    4. It seems like Deeter’s real issue is with guide behavior and overall fishing pressure, not the method. Most guide clients want to catch a whole mess of fish. If that is the way to catch a ton of fish without having to see your client frustrated, it’s keeping the customer happy. Sure, you have a few clients who are about the entire experience, but then you also have clients who fork over several hundred bucks, and they want to catch a shitload of fish, dammit! Maybe Kirk has some tips on how to getting an entitled client with a bad attitude to care about the finer points of dry-fly fishing.

    5. I’m not sure where he gets worried about everyone fishing indicators. I see plenty of people fishing dry flies, even more if you count dry/dropper, and streamer fishing has absolutely exploded in the last few years, not to mention indicatorless nymphing. As far as techniques and tradition goes, we’re fine.

    Some of you guys need to lighten up. Having conversations like these does not encourage people to pick up fly-fishing. The only thing fly-fishers should argue about is the best way to conserve as much fish habitat as possible and how to keep angling rights on as much water as possible.

  24. Bobbers, Euro-nymphing, articulated streamers, and spey casting are all emblematic of the warrior approach to fly fishing that has been marketed in recent years. The “vacuum the stream” attitude is the antithesis of the dry fly purist’s view of what fly fishing means. I would favor dry fly only stream sections for those of us who don’t want to fish alongside guys that might as well be wearing war paint.

  25. Pingback: "Bobber Wars," Part Deux: The Truth Comes Out | Orvis News

  26. Its just another tool to use depending on the situation being fished. Guess what, I don’t always fish upstream either. I may change my presentation technique five times in a couple hundred yard section of water because that it what the water dictates.

  27. Good stuff Louis, you made some great points. Anglers have different things that motivate, stimulate and aggravate them. If you dont like indicators dont use them. If you like big wads of shrimp on spinning rods with floats, go for it. Lets spend more time fishing and less time bitchin. Surge on, RP

  28. At least people are calling it a bobber. I’ve had this endless debate for years with friends of mine that are devoted bobber guys. Which is fine. But they get apoplectic when I explain that I used to use bobbers when I was an equally devoted worm kid fishing for blue gills. Whenever I mentioned that the argument would come out … but we are controlling the depth of the fly. Yeah .. and when I stopped catching fish at a certain depth what did I or anyone else with half a fishing brain do? We lengthened or shortened the distance between said bobber and worm. Duh!

    I think the most salient issue with regards to bobber fishing with flies is that the angler (often a beginner with no real foundation in ANY fishing let alone fly fishing) really is not fly fishing nor is he or she learning to fly fish. And that is unfortunate. Sure – they might boat 30 fish and get a few 20 inchers but they won’t get the same thrill and enjoyment out of the experience as one who figures out how to swing a wet fly or finally mends that line to get a drag free drift and a fish explodes on a dry fly. For a good portion of the bobber crowd fly fishing is just another disposable recreational activity while on vacation. Something to check off on the to do box then move on to the next activity.

    I am not against bobber fishing but I am old fashioned enough to feel like you need to earn a few stripes to get to call yourself a fly angler. Having a guide tie on your flies and adjust your bobber to the right depth … that ain’t fly fishing.

  29. Agree. He’s more tired of guides than technique. Id be pissed at the guide floating in front of me never mind fishing. Let’s ban using 2 flies before bobbers. He loses all credibility with me saying he’d use dry dropper over a bobber. Isn’t that the same thing?

  30. An open letter to Kirk Deeter

    As a full-time fishing guide I am having a hard time understanding your position or intent here. While it seems as though you want better fishing, your message is unclear and your argument somewhat flawed.
    You say, “Some scientists suggest one in 10 fish or more croak after being caught. So you tell me who’s having a bigger impact on the system, the person who catches a creel limit every now and then, or the guide who’s raking in 50 fish a day with nymphs and bobbers? Maybe anglers who use bobbers should keep the fish and adhere to a limit.”
    The first question is why you are singling out nymph fishing and guides? What about dries, streamers and swung emergers? My best days guiding this season (in regard to numbers) involved dries and swung emergers. My second question is what about unguided fishermen? Are you implying that without the aid of a guide they cannot put up these numbers as well? If so, you are sadly mistaken as some of the finest fly fishers I know rarely hire a guide. Lastly, are you implying that the angler who harvests fish just takes what they are going to keep and then goes home? Like the rest of us most of them keep fishing until they are bored, tired or run out of time.
    If catch and release nymph fishermen have such a negative impact on fish populations, our fisheries would have collapsed long ago as these fishermen represent a large percentage of the total angling hours and have for years now. You say, “Some scientists suggest one in 10 fish croak after being caught.” However, most of what I have read suggests it is more like 2-3 percent for catch and release fly fishing—and more toward the lower end when it involves barbless hooks.
    Let’s assume an incidental mortality rate (IMR) of 3%—the upper end of what is commonly accepted. Then let’s assume that most anglers catch somewhere closer to 25 fish when they go out. Round it up and it results in just 1 fish being inadvertently killed. Double it and it is just 2. Conversely those who use bait and lures have a higher IMR that is more in the 5-35% range. And those who kill their limit can harvest between 1-12 fish depending on the state and species. Plus they usually have to release at least some level of fish due to the fact that most states have minimum length limits. And as I noted, they don’t always stop fishing just because they have their limit. So let’s say they catch 20 fish, keep 2, and have a 5% IMR—the lower end of the range. This results in 3 fish being killed, or 1 more than the extremely successful nympher who catches and releases 50 fish, and 2 more than the more realistic scenario where this angler catches and releases 25 fish. The average C+K angler is doing more damage than the most effective fly fisherman.
    In your July 2013 article Three Ways to Help Catch-and-Release Trout Survive, you highlight the importance of proper landing techniques and minimizing the time fish are outside the water. This is great advice, and something all anglers should do. But based on my time afield, which as a guide and serious angler is considerable, those who harvest fish often do not carry low-impact nets—if they carry one at all, wear waders that allow them to keep the fish in the water, or use barbless hooks in order to reduce tissue damage. Plus many use treble hooks and double-hook lures which regardless of what any spin tackle industry funded study says, do more harm than many are willing to admit.
    So in reality, the C&R nympher is doing far less harm than the C&K angler. To say otherwise is misleading, reckless and divisive. The real issue here seems to be that you do not like nymphing. The same could be implied about C&R. And if you were not a “fly fishing” editor, fly fishers. Or maybe you are just trying to win over the C&K guys in an attempt to increase readership at F&S or bring these guys into the TU fold and thus increase membership numbers.
    The harsh reality is that the consumptive angler has had a huge negative impact on our resources and by default our fishing over the years. Angler exploitation is the primary driver behind stocking. This heavily subsidized practice takes money away from habitat work, reclamation, land acquisition and infrastructure (boat launches, outhouses, trash containers, trails, parking areas, etc.) It is also bad for wild trout as any biologist will tell you. To imply otherwise raises some serious questions as to whose side you are on.
    We all know that artificial lure, barbless hook, catch and release regulations help sustain and even increase wild trout numbers. We all know that harvesting fish reduces fish populations to at least some degree and in some cases, removes the very fish that are most important to us recreationally, economically and biologically— older breeding fish.
    I understand that you are the editor of TU’s magazine, TROUT. As a former member of TU, I now understand why the organization’s focus and mission has shifted away from fish and more towards fishing. Gone are the stickers proclaiming “TU Zero Limit” and “TU Wild Trout Catch and Release,” and gone will be members like me who actually did something other than simply paying dues. TU isn’t a fishing club and it never should be. By inviting everyone to the party you are losing more than you are gaining, including TU’s original mission–to protect the nations wild trout.
    With all due respect, you couldn’t be more wrong on this one.
    Nate Hill

    • Nate, Personally I think “TROUT” has become a better product under Mr. Deeter. His articles and posts in f&s are usually pretty good, this one not so great. You did a lot of math to come to the conclusion that if you are going to fish, you will kill a few Trout. That’s just absolutely true. All that being said, how can you be a full time guide and not be a TU member? As one of the few active TU members you have more control over the mission, goals and activities of you local TU chapter than the editor of TUNAs newsletter. TU is a grassroots bottom up organizstion. All the money and power goes from the bottom up. Your local TU chapter is only as lame as you are. TU is a fishing club, who do you think those guys were that met at the Barbless Hook on the bank of the Au Sable? But TU is also a conservation organization,and a social club that raises money to fund that conservation. A good TU chapter has to get it all right and in the right portions for their membership. I don’t know why anyone would send a $35 check to TU every year and not show up for meetings, events or projects, but I’m glad they do. I spend a lot of time in the stream in Watershed meetings and on the phone. When I’m talking to my Representative about a bill and tell him my chapter has 500 members on his district that can read, write and tend to vote, I get their attention and I’m glad to have those dues paying members. Bumper stickers are great for recruitment but make for lousy stream management policy. Put ’em back, Keep ’em wet or Catch and fillet. It won’t make an difference if their isn’t any water in the stream, if the gravel is silted in or a dam steals the gradient and blocks migration. You got somebody else doing a better job on that stuff sign me up. You want a bumper sticker how about “1 TU”.

      • Greg,
        It sounds like you are an active advocate for habitat restoration. It also sounds like you have an active TU chapter that makes things happen, thank you for that. I am not aware of the TU chapter to which you belong. But you may not realize what is happening in other TU chapters across the nation. As you suggested in your post I have worked at the grassroots level to protect trout fisheries in my home state of NH. Last year I wrote a proposal to get the Wildcat River added to the states list of Waters managed for Wild Trout (MWT). When I contacted my local trout unlimited group about this idea the president resisted. He stated his worries about a shortened season (to protect spawning fish) alienating anglers (who wanted to keep fish), and the reduction of stocking (over wild fish). Then I went to the regional TU brook trout specialist, Jeff Reardon. Jeff responded that he did not recommend supporting a policy that includes catch and release. Thus he would not support this state program to protect native and wild trout. After multiple meetings and presentations To their credit the local TU group eventually agreed to agree to sign on to my proposal. This summer, with state and federal biologists we surveyed the stream. What we found was a much higher concentration of wild brook trout than biologists expected, one that deserves inclusion in the states wild trout program. But where this effort goes from here is up in the air if the regional brook trout specialist, and TU national will not back our efforts,
        Other “grassroots efforts” have seen similar resistance. In Rhode Island anglers formed the group Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout when local TU groups fought their efforts to ban stocking on wild brook trout waters. Last year I remember seeing a well written proposal for a brook trout specialty license plate for Maine. Revenue would have gone directly to protect Maine’s native brook trout. States such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia, and others have similar plates which have been greatly successful. Famous artist Derek Deyoung agreed to do the artwork for the Maine plate. This would have made for a very sailable product. Despite the grassroots efforts to get this plate off the ground Maine TU refused to help with this project.
        I remember when a TU splinter group in Maine (I can’t remember their name) worked with a hunting and fishing group to stop stocking over genetically pure brook trout and stop the use of live bait on waters that contained them. It is common knowledge and public record that the national TU rep for the region signed in to testify against a bill designed to do so. Another group (possibly the same one?) tried to get ESA protection for Maine’s imperiled blueback trout. Again, national TU refused to get on board and the effort collapsed. When I asked those involved why they walked away from what seemed like a slam dunk I was told that it was futile without the support of TU.

        TU is not a fishing club. When those anglers did meet at The Barbless Hook they spoke of a group who’s goals would be to protect and restore wild trout populations. They did not speak of a group that would spend money on put and take fishing derby’s, organize group fishing trips, promote fish stocking, and presentations from tackle reps. There is nothing wrong with fishing clubs, the Federation of Fly Fishers is a great one, but TU is supposed to be a conservation organization. When the focus shifts from conservation, energy and time are wasted.
        Of course bumper stickers mean less than activism. However what we are willing to stand for speaks volumes about what we will do. How can there be “1 TU” when their poster boy is alienating a large percentage of his constituency: guides, nymph fishermen, and catch and release anglers?

        • Kirk,

          I find it ironic that you call your article “a media experiment to see how anglers would react” but then go on to block my response from your Angling Trade website. Is there something I said that you don’t want others to read?

        • Nate, It sounds like you left the table just as you figured out how the game is played. When you want to make a significant change to policy or put a big project on the ground it can take a whilewhile. We finished up a dam removal last month that took over 12 years, and my mother-inlaw, along with half the town, is still made at me about it, but yhe fishing sure has improved. Not everyone loves all my ideas, most of which are brilliant. They may not immediately embrace yours. What are you going to do, let the major topic at your local TU chapter be whether or not to have a buffet or plated dinner at your banquet? State TU Councils usually have even less money and fewer volunteers than your chapter. TUNA is locked in to a few heavy hitters, even with the best of intentions their staff will always be a few years behind on policy, and with fisheries like we have in Michigan we rarely fit into thier national model. So you are kinda stuck with your local TU or FFF chapter if you want to get something done.

          A good FFF club is also a conservation organization. FFF’s broader mission allows for work on warm water systems the TU mission does not. They just happen to have a casting certification program and their closest affiliate to me runs the Tie A Thon. Facebook Tie A Thon and twist up 100 flies for us. This year’s donations go to Casting for Recovery and our Michigan TU Youth camp. They have been running this event for over 10 years and some years they have donated over 10,000 flies to organizations.

          Screw on that ball cap, pull up yor big boy pants and get back in there, we need you man.

          Guides that let sports bobber fish all day, still lazy.

          Most people join TU to either learn how to fish (usually fly fish) or where to fish, although there may be a few more pure conservationists joining now.

  31. There is no good evidence of a fact (increased fish mortality, e.g.) that would point to the conclusion that bobber fishing is morally more vicious than dry fly fishing. There is no reason to believe that dry fly fishing is more morally virtuous than bobber fishing. Some folks might feel that dry fly fishing has more style, but those folks probability never took the time to develop the subconscious feel for the difference between what river bottoms and currents do to a bobber and what painfully careful fish do to them. There is no moral imperative behind Deeter’s suggestions or dry fly fishing, and dry fly purist notions are usually rooted in laziness. Nymph fishing with a bobber in spooky waters is far more challenging than waiting for a splashy take on a dry fly.

  32. I agree with Cahill on this one. Deeter is clearly pushing his elitist purist thoughts to the detriment of the sport. Strike indicators, or “bobbers”, are simply a tool used to not only help detect strikes, but also control depth and fly movement. I see nothing wrong with them, and don’t see why there is a problem. How is it any different than fishing a dry/dropper rig other than you can’t hook a fish on an indicator? If the fish aren’t eating on the surface, it is pointless to keep casting dries when the fish aren’t going to hit them. Trout eat nymph flies because they resemble their natural forage, not because so many people fish with them, and isn’t that the name of the game in fly fishing? Matching the hatch? Deeter seems to have a problem with progress, not just “bobbers”. Our sport is evolving, and new innovations are enabling us to catch more fish and get new people involved. Why would anyone want to prevent this? I think Cahill has dug up the root of the problem. Perhaps Deeter is just frustrated that his traditional, but still fun and at times very effective, methods are being outfished frequently by other anglers who aren’t as stubborn or “pure” as himself. Great article Mr. Cahill.

    • Perhaps I went a little too far as to pass judgment of Deeter’s character without personally knowing him, and for that I would like to apologize. I may be right, and I may be wrong. However, this whole argument or debate or whatever you would like to call it is outdated and futile. It is an unnecessary distraction to what really matters. A bobber means nothing when we’re in a world with a rapidly changing climate and ever decreasing habitats such as ours. We need to stop feuding amongst ourselves and start fighting for the environment, the streams and rivers and lakes, that we love so much. We need to put our differences aside and focus on the big picture.

  33. While I rarely if ever opine on public forums, and I may live to regret it this time as I have other times, I feel that I have to interject here.. Unfortunately, as is often the case with this kind of stuff, this discussion about “bobbers” has morphed into a “why not just allow lures” thread.. Don’t lose site of the fact that while you might not like it, strike indicator nymphing greatly limits the range of the angler.. Czech style even more so—they are fishing right at their feet.. If you think you have a shit show on your favorite water today, imagine what it would be like with a bunch of guys raking the water with jigs and heavily weighted nymph rigs on spinning rods.. Or how about a bunch of casting bobbers sailing over yoru head at your favorite stillwater.. Under this scenario there would be no refuge for the trout and far less room to play as a spin angler can cover WAY more water than a nympher—or fly caster.. And what about treble hooks? Double-hook lures? Barbed hooks? And fishing from shore rather than from in the water? And folks without landing nets? This proposed migration away from low-impact tackle being suggested by some represents the single most dangerous trend I have seen in my 40 years on the water.. As a group we are backsliding into exactly what ruined our fishing in the first place, and exactly what our fathers and grandfathers fought to stop.. FFO is not an ethical or demographic issue—it is a conservation issue that has also benefited us by allowing more people to enjoy the same piece of water at the same time.. Take a look at the incidental mortality statistics—and not those associated with studies funded by the spin tackle industry.. Do you think a bunch of rural Mainer’s made roughly 200 ponds FFO fifty years ago because they were elitists? Didn’t like spinning tackle? No, they did so to save our fishing……………….. At 57 years old unlike many involved in this thread, I was there.. I saw what conventional tackle was doing to our wild trout waters.. I watched the dead fish floating by.. I saw the fish dragged up onto the shore, lures dug out fishes mouths with a pair of pliers, and fish being otherwise mistreated so that any attempt to throw them back was futile.. I moved from MA to NH to ME in order to escape faltering fisheries, I now I need to move back to MA to find good fishing again as ME has refused to embrace modern fisheries management on their rivers and streams.. I have stood in the water at the Taylor River and had a guy across the stream drop a lure at my feet and drag it across the nose of the fish I had been working only to spook it.. This is the fundamental difference between CO and MT, ID and WY—and why I fish the latter more than the former.. Be damn careful what you ask for my friends, or you too may find yourself having to move to find better fishing when the “we all need to share the water” experiment blows up in your face.. And for the record, I started as a dry fly purist many years ago and long before anyone knew what an indicator was.. I learned to nymph with an indicator long before most due to teh fact that I traveled outside of my native New England.. It became my weapon of choice because it worked.. In fact I found it quite fascinating.. I now find myself doing it less and less these days because I just don’t find it that enjoyable.. But even now, heading to the Rapid or Magalloway in ME in search of big brookies without a nymph rig is not a great strategy.. Nor is going to the Beaverhead, San Juan, Norfork, etc.. I feel the same about Czech nymphing–damn effective in the right place but not my favorite thing to do.. But again, I do it when I need to.. I also like giant streamers, mice and hoppers.. And if the fish are looking up I put everything away and throw match-the-hatch dries.. Fly fishing is what I love to do.. Not sure what I would do with myself if it were no longer available–or I could no longer do it.. I hate to see this anti fly fishing movement, at any level, especially when it comes from within our own ranks.. Lets not commit suicide in self defense 😉

  34. Louis,

    First, I have huge respect for both you and Kirk. As a guide, I have been following this post with great interest, as well as Kirk’s articles and writings. You guys are both pillars of the fly fishing community.

    But, I have a couple of thoughts that I feel I must express. First, if this was NOT intended as an experiment between you and Kirk to see how the fly fishing community would react, I am greatly surprised by your article. I have never known you (via your blog entries, which I read with great enthusiasm) to attack someone so personally and publicly. Praise in public, admonish in private, right? I can’t imagine what would cause you to write a post so venomously. From the tone of your article it seems that are, or were, buds. I cannot imagine you writing that article about someone, especially a friend.

    If this was indeed an experiment between you and Kirk, then your unintended consequence has been to ratchet up an already hostile atmosphere within the fly fishing community. Even the most cursory glance through the fly fishing pages/forums shows a complete lack of respect, civility, and understanding. You and Kirk are looked upon throughout the community as role models, sane voices in a sea of buttholes. What you have shown the community is that it is perfectly okay to personally attack someone with a different viewpoint. Call ’em names, tell the universe how stupid they are, call their character into question. You may as well have called him an ISIS supporter…

    I’d ask that you post some sort of follow up explaining what the heck is really going on, and if this was a serious article, you might consider taking a step back and re-evaluating your approach.

    But, who am I to tell you what to do?

    • Greg,
      I do not know where you got the impression that I “gave up.” I wouldn’t be writing these posts if I had. We are still working towards MWT Designation on the Wildcat River. There was recently an article published in BCHA (Back Country Hunters and Anglers) about the project. Although I have worked hard and won over the local chapter and many other individuals it will be a hard battle without the support of TU’s regional brook trout specialist and TUNA (Entities that should fully embrace such a grass roots effort.)
      The elephant in the room here is not bobber fishing with nymphs, fishing technique is the decoy. The real elephant is that TU no longer advocates for, supports, or even believes in catch and release angling. In fact I even saw one chapter facebook page which advertised having a Chef come to a chapter meeting to share trout recipes.
      BASS has stood by the catch and release mantra. This organization has convinced legions of anglers to carefully revive and release large and smallmouth bass. The bass fishing in my home state of NH is world class…even in some trout ponds. Ironic that bass were stocked here to replace trout as a food fish a century ago.
      Meanwhile TU is working to welcome consumptive anglers in a desperate attempt to increase membership. As a fishing guide I believe strongly in bringing new people to our sport. And I’ve spent countless hours teaching teenagers and adults alike how to tie flies, identify insects, and fly cast. As fly fishing educators we need to lead by example when it comes to conservation. Because it won’t matter how many fly fishers we convert, how many members TU gains, or how many dams we take down if the fish we fight to save end up on stringers.
      It takes only a simple understanding of history to know how quickly C+K can work against us. The journal writings of Ethan Allan Crawford give a telling example. When Crawford lived in the White Mountains in the early 1800’s he wrote of fishing so good that one would have a hard time carrying a day’s catch back to camp. Entries later Crawford writes that all of the big fish are now gone. Crawford was dead before deforestation, and the industrial revolution took their toll.
      In his books Fishing in New Hampshire, and The Bassing of New Hampshire, Author Jack Noon highlights a history of angler exploitation and fish stocking as causing the demise of native brook trout in New Hampshire and Maine. The majority of fish stocking took place in a desperate attempt to re-populate fish stocks devastated by over exploitation. Mostly exotics, the stocked fish further choked out the remaining native trout.
      Why with so much knowledge do groups like TU and individuals alike continue to deny the importance of more stringent fish limits and bans on stocking over wild trout? I don’t know. But we need to need to stop playing politics, and we need to start fighting for fish…not just fishermen.
      Don’t worry…I have not given up on fighting for real solutions…and I never will.
      Did you really say, “Put on your big boy pants”? I would expect a little more maturity and respect from a TU chapter president.

      • Nate, I have not been our chapter President for about a decade. In fact I recently left our board of directors.

        I hope you were talking about my chapter that hosted a chef that presented on how to prepare Trout, what wine to serve and the nutritional benefits of eating them. God help us if more than one chapter thinking that’s a great idea. Surprising, maybe only to me, it was one of our better attended meetings in recent years. The presentation got great reviews from those attending. And one board member suggested it become an annual presentation. All of which confirms it was time for me to leave the board.

        You said you were a former TU member, that’s what I was commenting on. As flawed as it is TU is still our strongest cold-water advocacy organization. They have expanded their goals beyond catch and release (as T. McGuane says were are past the point of just putting back what we take) to a Watershed approach to stream management, including C&R when appropriate and sometimes it is.This is something I have been advocating for years and was the basis behind starting our youth camp.

        I do get what you are saying. It does get frustrating having to push our organization along on important issues that directly apply to our mission and we see as no brainers. That’s just part of the deal so hang in there. If I can ever help let me know.

        By the way anyone that knows me also knows better than to expect maturity to govern any of my thoughts, words or deeds.

        We kinda hijacked this conversation, sorry Louis.

  35. What we REALLY need for the elite fly-fishermaster is that small section of river only they can fish…BUT we control access! We make sure every true SPORTSMAN get a military-like microchip embedded ID card located 2.5mm behind that TRUE fisherman’s right ear. That chip is of course connected to the the ultra-thin wire running down their back to the glutes. A small, but powerful Tesla-esque battery located in the “tweens” then can provide send an ELITE charge to said person’s brain whenever they get a bright idea about such things…or when I tromp by with my flyrod AND ultralight spinning combo …;o)

  36. This raises an interesting parallel discussion on the employment of the “balloon dredging” strategy that is now so common by certain outfitters on the Green River. Using an indicator to see a take is one thing, but using an air filled balloon connected to an extremely heaving wait that basically chums up the river bottom, and then the air in the balloon sets the hook when the fish eats the fly, is another. A very questionable practice I witnessed when floating the Green River in September.

  37. If we want to argue for tradition, the Partridge and Orange is one of the oldest fly patterns known. Fished with the new generation of sinking tungsten coated leaders, soft hackle patterns can move tailwater fish — and big ones. You really want to start some controversy? Go do some down and across swings through water that’s populated with Butt-hooking tech geeks and see what their reaction is.

  38. Nymphers,
    They never move, step on fish, cannot cast, rarely exhibit or understand stream etiquette!
    They certainty catch fish, usually announcing to all “fish on” while moving downstream through other anglers water oblivious to anything resembling the beauty and art of our sport!
    It’s about size and numbers and competition, so why the pretense, just use bait, split shot, a worm or egg will always get you more fish!
    Fly fishing should be more difficult, it’s about learning, paying your dues and earning your fish!
    It’s about a journey some will take, and others shortcuts!

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