Have you heard the term “Fly Fishing 2.0”? Do you know what it means?
If you do you might be ahead of me. Whether it’s marketing, zeitgeist or a true sea change in the nature of the sport one thing is for sure. Fly fishing is changing, but into what?
The signs are all around us. Let’s take you for example. That’s right you are part of ‘Fly Fishing 2.0’. Your are sitting in front of your computer, or tablet, or smartphone reading about fly fishing while you probably should be working. The enthusiasm for fly fishing on the internet is almost unreasonable. Just a few years ago the idea that you could visit a site and read a new article on fly fishing every day of the year would have seemed crazy. And yet, here you are.
If you had a parent, or grandparent who fly fished, they had no such outlet. Fly fishing was whispered about, if that. Now the internet is full of sites where you can read about fly fishing, watch videos and look at cool photos. This is not just a function of the ubiquitous Internet. There are hundreds of times as many folks into conventional fishing as there are in fly fishing. Do a quick Google search. There are far more fly fishing sites online. Why?
Perhaps fly anglers are a more tech savvy group. Maybe they have more time on their hands. I doubt it. Personally, I believe it’s raw passion, but I may be personalizing the issue. Whatever it it is, it’s real and it’s powerful, but to what end?
It’s fair to say that moving out of the media closet is bringing more people into fly fishing. That’s a great thing. New folks discover fly fishing every day and as they matriculate into the community they bring with them ideas and aesthetics from their other passions and interests. These ideas broaden the base of an already diverse fly fishing community. Diversity is good but does diversity mean dilution? The culture of fly fishing is changing, but is it for the better?
The first time I recognized this migration it was the ski bums. If you live in the west and work in the ski industry, you end up with a lot of time on your hands and some pretty good trout water all around you. It was natural that ski bums would spend the summer being trout bums. Naturally, they brought with them some of the culture snow skiing.
As a result, the pace of fly fishing accelerated. The soundtrack changed. In the media, if not on the stream, fly fishing began to take on some of the trappings of extreme sport. Some of that is valid. Anyone who has ever gotten sideways in a class four rapid has certainly felt a rush of adrenaline. That rush exists in our sport but it has been commonly oversold, particularly In fly fishing videos.
It’s hard to express the more spiritual (for lack of a better word) side of fly fishing in video without reinventing Ambian. On the other hand, some film makers in the genre Have spun out of control and are producing ‘fly fishing videos’ which amount to fifteen minutes of jackassery with no actual fly fishing. It’s hard to make compelling videos but at some point you have to recognize that you’re driving a square peg into a round hole.
The creation of the ‘fly fishing celebrity,’ fueled largely by the video production arm, but present in all of the media, is down right surreal. There have certainly been anglers who I have admired, and possibly endowed with superhuman powers, over the years. Guys who wrote books and set an example I worked to follow, but they were just fishermen who tried to share their knowledge and experiences. I guess what I’m saying is they were neither Johnny Knoxville nor Paris Hilton, and those archetypes are now alive and well in fly fishing.
Perhaps a more natural path to fly fishing is through conventional fishing. I think most fly anglers started off with conventional gear and many continue to use both. More often however, once an angler discovers that the fly rod is their calling, the serious tackle starts collecting dust. Among those folk are some who have come over from the world of competitive bass fishing. I had the chance to talk with one of these guys the other day. Zac Cassill who guides at Alaska West. Zac left a promising career in professional bass fishing to be a fly fishing guide.
His vision of fly fishing is one where competition is positive, bringing new anglers into the sport through competitive fly fishing. I’ve always been pretty vocal on the subject of competitive fly fishing. I don’t care for it and any incarnation of fly fishing that resembles professional bass fishing is my worst nightmare, but talking with Zac, it’s hard to not be caught up in his passion and enthusiasm. Especially on the subject of conservation.
It turns out that’s why he left the competitive bass fishing world. “Competitive bass fishing is completely driven by the manufacturers,” he told me, “I was an outcast for supporting the idea of a ban on lead, an idea the sport should be fully behind.” I’m not crazy about the idea of competitive fishing but we can use more guys like Zac in the sport any day.
If you’re getting the idea that I’m concerned about the future of fly fish, fear not. I’m actually really excited. I’m not afraid that the Johnny Knoxvilles or Mike Iaconellis are going to change fly fishing. I have the greatest faith that, in the long view, fly fishing will change them.
That’s the beauty and the power of fly fishing. It is a pursuit which changes you. It opens your eyes to the greater natural world and to your place in it. It will ultimately break down ego. It will supersede competition. It does not give rise to Jackass or UFC. It gives rise to Project Healing Waters and Trout Unlimited.
That’s my vision for the future of fly fishing. A future where the hearts and minds of the fly fishers come together around conservation and community. A future where we preserve, protect and embrace our differences as we do our common interests. A future where ego and self interest are replaced with respect and service. That, I believe, is the natural evolution of fly fishing and regardless of the soundtrack, that’s a video I want to watch.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!