What This Graph Means For Fly Fishing

18 comments / Posted on / by


By Carter Lyles

For those who are interested in where fly-fishing is going and any other topic, a good place to look is Google Trends.

For the folks not familiar with Google Trends here is how it works:
Type in a subject
Google displays a graph of how many times over a series of years those keywords have been entered into their search function
It also shows us regional interest and other trending topics around what you typed in.

I recently searched “fly-fishing” and this is what I got from Google Trends…

June: This was the most popular month over a series of years that “fly-fishing” was entered into Google. My theory is that this is the beginning of summer break for a lot of people. It is also when Montana, Colorado, Idaho, and the other western states (Alaska) warm up and hatches are coming off. For the saltwater dudes and dudettes, this month means tarpon are coming up all around Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. A lot goes on for fly-fishing during the month of June!

November: This is the down month for “fly-fishing” being entered into the Google Search Function. My theory for this is that it is beginning to get cold again and people have been almost “fished-out” for the entire summer. If you look at the keyword fishing for Google Trends the summer is the most popular as well. November is the sign of winter drawing near and lord knows it is a flippin’ wild place in our households when the end of the year rolls around in December!

The Decrease In Popularity
As you can probably see in this graph…there is an obvious decrease in popularity over a series of ten years.

What does this mean??? Are we screwed???

Most of us remember when “A River Runs Through It” came out in 1992. Just because of this one single film it took the fly-fishing industry to the moon. Ever since Hollywood produced this, there has been a steady decrease in popularity as far as fly-fishing goes.

Louis Cahill once told me: “Carter, we cannot depend on Hollywood to help us make a living in the fly-fishing industry. That is up to us.”

This resonated with me pretty well; however, we still have to be worried, right?

Here is why we might have to be worried
The upcoming generations for fly-fishing will become uninterested and the sport will slowly die out
It definitely isn’t a good thing for local fly shops
Unfortunately, the smaller fly-fishing businesses will get weeded out.
A decrease in fly-fishers who care about conservation
The more the merrier!

Here is why we don’t have to be worried
This decrease weeds out the people who fly-fish and then the people who call themselves “fly-fishers.”
I honestly think with a full heart that fly-fishing will be around for a long ass time.
Less for you more for me!

Final Results:
Overall I believe that we should be somewhat worried in this decreasing trend in fly-fishing as Google Trends clearly shows us here. We always want more people! So we need a call-to-action, something that does not involve Hollywood, because they’re not coming out with another fly-fishing movie for a while.

Comment and Share this post so we can, as the fly-fishing nation, get the message out for an official “Call To Action.”

Carter Lyles
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

18 thoughts on “What This Graph Means For Fly Fishing

  1. This is a difficult graph to make sense of. First, it has no scale to allow us to judge the numbers of fly fishing searches. Second, it appears to start with high numbers of searches and descends. But what was happening before the start date. If your “river runs through it” hypothesis is correct, the downward trend may just be flyf fishing settling into its historical trend. If you’re doing trend analysis, picking the right starting date is critical. Third, it records google searches and not fly fishers. An alternative hypothesis is that fly fishers found their favorite links and no longer search for new information. That, at least, describes my pattern of using Google for fly fishing information…

    • I agree with much of what you said but unless we are trying to find cycles within communication signals for the CIA or financial instrument cycles for a hedge fund this graph does a pretty good job. I would like to see the overlay of revenue and then a correlation of the google trend analysis and revenues. If they got a positively sloped r2…well you know

  2. Louis a good friend of mine who was a Chesapeake Bay guide for over 20 years has told me there has been an overall decline in salt water fly fishing. You have to look no further then fly fishing shops which have been going out of business at an increasing rate the past 10-12 years. I can think of 4 or 5 myself that have disappeared. There have been other things that have spurred the decline, certainly the decline of the economy should be in the top 5 but also an overall decline of the fishery, due to poor fisheries management, as well as water pollution which can degrade a fishery as well. There use to be several fly fishing shows on TV, they seemed to have disappeared as well, which could be an indication of the decline. I think that bonefish destinations will continue as strong fly fishing destinations as well as trout & bass fishing on the freshwater side, however I think the saltwater decline will continue in the US unless there is a strong rebound in the fishery and an overall improvement in water quality. That same guide in the Chesapeake always said that “water quality rules”. I think he dead on, because without great water quality nothing else seems to matter. In the end to be a successful saltwater fly fisherman, you must have an abundant fishery.

  3. You could also be seeing a decrease because more people use other search engines. I almost never use Google anymore. I tend to like Bing and do most of my searches using it. However, if there is a decrease in popularity, it’ll come back. Everything is cyclical and eventually comes back around. I wish I saw the decrease when I go to one of PA’s limestoners.

  4. Another reason for the decline of the local fly shop might be the rise of internet sales. Local hardware or grocery stores are having a hard time of it due to large “everything” type stores like Walmart. It is easier and often cheaper to order a special hackle or fur from an internet site than it is to hunt for it in the little neighborhood fly shops. That said, I still try to support my local fly shop as much as possible.

  5. any old timers here want to chime in? is there more or less people on the water now, or 25 years ago? I feel like the new companies that are offering “price point” rods and other gear will help people get into it as well as changing the stigma that fly fishing is for rich folks. the gear is just too expensive, its like the ski industry. you shouldnt have to spend 800 bucks to get something “high quality” in either industry. i blame manufacturers of the gear partly

    • Opie:

      I tend to agree that the increase in the cost “high quality” fly fishing gear may be keeping some potential newcomers from getting involved, but probably a slight few would be my bet.

      Heck, I have a spey rod that cost more than my first car. 🙂 If I remember correctly, my first Eagle Claw fly rod set me back about $25 and my first car was just under $1,000. (probably dating myself here) Now my “go to” spey rod cost $1,050 and my fishing pickup cost $40,000. That means that my first car cost me 40 times more that my first fly Rod. And the pickup I now drive cost me 38 time more than my spey rod. Would make it seem that fishing gear is still a bargain is you look at it from that perspective! How’s that for fisherman’s logic!

      I don’t have a good perspective on what the google search thing tells us. However, I CAN tell you that the good freshwater places to fish in the western USA are very crowded from April through October and some places out and out over fished. Anyone have any perspective on the trend in membership of organizations like TU etc.??

      Guess that is an “old timers” 2 cents worth.


  6. As for the freshwater side of the sport and living in a resort community for the last 18 years and seeing the volume of fly fishers having increased over that time span especially on the weekends. My conclusion is we don’t have anything to worry about,

  7. I looked at the same graph a week or so ago. It gave me a chance to think about why we’re seeing such a drop. Generally new fisherperson’s are not entering our sport, I have three active kids and fishing isn’t in the normal activity agenda – soccer, softball and karate – yes but not casting a line. I make it part of there lives, but it through my suggestion and not their choice. Each of the kids have fly rods and I’ve even built a rod with my daughter http://www.howtobuildaflyrod.com but fishing is an after thought. Fly fishing or even fishing in general just has to much organized competition for youth. Organized sports and online games are tough to compete with. If you go into goggle trends and compare hunting, fishing and bird watching and hiking you will see a similar decline in all the these outdoor loves.

  8. I can tell you that in florida, fly fishing is bigger now than it was 10 years ago. Let alone a single year ago. It’s definitely become a trend amongst fishermen. Is that good? is it bad? That’s still up in the air. Will the newcomers that are only fly fishing because “it’s cool” still be doing it a year or two from now? maybe not. Fly fishing isn’t easy in these parts. There’s little reward to show in the early stages, and I am sure it’s very discouraging to newcomers. As long as they stick to it, it will be a lot more rewarding than simply catching a fish on a fly rod.

  9. Good discussion Louis and contributors…

    I would not rely on a decline in Google searches as a statistically significant indication for something like fly fishing popularity for a number of reasons, including many that astute observers noted above. Also, speaking as an old fart, fly shops were going out of business in the 1990’s too. I think demise of fly shops speaks more to the attractiveness of the idea of opening a fly shop among folks who are not really business people. I would say some nimble fly shops have prospered, and some have even gone on to expansion and big success, especially if they diversify. In my neck of the woods (which is your home river, Louis), our TU chapter and our river has seen quite an increase in fly fishers over the past 8-10 years.

    However, the competition the outdoors is now experiencing with adults having decreased leisure time, decreased spending money, and increased competition in the form of more passive affordable entertainment is an increasing drag on the fly-fishing industry and the outdoors in general. Add to that the competition that the outdoors and fishing faces with the upcoming generation who are glued to electronic and digital media and entertainment, and I expect the headwinds will increase substantially. (Yet the opening of a new Cabelas in ATL this past week saw amazing crowds of folks over a number of days…)

    In my view, fly fishing sells itself to those who get the opportunity to try it in earnest. Project Healing Waters is a prime example of that. If folks want to get more people involved in the sport, they need to get them on the water. Barriers to entry of cost and perceived difficulty and complexity (both of which are largely debunked with the proper guidance) will need to be lowered through education and PR if you want more folks in the sport. Our TU chapter works our butts off to introduce kids and adults to trout fishing. Our numbers expansion has been considerable given our size (dozens per year increase) but would likely be considered negligible in the big picture of the industry.

  10. I would tend to say that there is a decline. In today’s society everybody wants instant gratification, and quickly. A small stream that I fish often, you will often see some young people fly fishing, and then move on quickly when nothing happens. Wind up running into them on the stream and ask how things are going. The usual answer is ” skunked”, only been on the water a couple of hours. Well I can tell you that there have been many times where I have sat at one hole for a couple of hours to figure it out, and eventually land a trout. I feel that the “gamer” society has ruined what was once a relaxing, and tranquil time on the water, and not about the number count of how many trout you landed. I will say, that quality equipment is somewhat out of reach for most. JMO

    • I agree – I’ve observed younger acquaintances buy the costumes and gear for various sports then go out and hunt or fish for an afternoon, fail, and give up. They lack a certain degree of passion or curiosity.

  11. I think almost all of the comments have merit. I could relate to especially to what JK and James wrote. I am 62, been at it for five years. I could not claim to have caught a lot of fish nor do I currently have what it takes to solve some of the riddles I encounter, but I am a process person by nature. I am not discouraged by “failure” when it comes to FF. I look at it as just having to pay my dues. A lot of type A people (you know what I’m talking about) FF only for the end result. They keep a lot of guides busy, but probably will find something new after awhile.

  12. I’m new to fly fishing, but have been fishing my whole life. I have had awful luck all year teaching myself, but have loved every minute of it. I’m in it for the long haul and encourage peers around my age (27 on the 11th) to join in. I will say that cost of the gear is the biggest hurtle. A lot of people have a hard time dropping a couple hundred dollars on getting started, especially in a blue collar area in this economy. I’m lucky enough to have grabbed some decent stuff through trade, but am saving up for a mark Steffen glass rod. Anyway, as a younger, blue collar guy; I will say that fly fishing has this upper class shroud over it and that keeps a lot of people from joining in. Even at the local shop I get some weird looks from the staff when they see me lookin around for more budget friendly options. Just my 2 cents. I’m doing my part to convert some people over to our side and join in the fun. Tight lines fellas!

    • Horrible with this auto correct trash, but you get the jist. Google can graph out the word “flyfishing” but unless you want a history lesson from Wikipedia its best to research company names or forums…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...