Fly Fishing Needs More Rednecks
Just about everyone who fly fishes goes through a phase, typically early in their fly fishing career, in which they think that it makes them sophisticated or refined. Tragically many never get over the idea.
I’m not sure how the stereotype of the upscale fly fisher came about. Up until the mid-20th century and Lee Wulff’s adoption of the fishing vest the standard fly fishing attire was oddly formal, consisting of shirt, neck tie and jacket. This may have laid the foundation for an elitist image. The onset of the Cold War around the same time led to shortages of bamboo from southeast Asia and the resulting high prices for cane rods helped insure that for a time only the wealthy could afford a fly rod. As new synthetic materials were introduced the cost of rods declined but by that time the damage may have already been done.
To this day the perception lingers that fly fishing is expensive. It certainly can be if that’s the route you want to take. Between Orvis, RL Winston and several other companies the fly fisher can spend one thousand dollars each for rod and reel and several hundred for a pair of waders and vest. But it is not necessary to take out a second mortgage to get started. There is a wide range of fly tackle suited to the frugal-minded which is perfectly serviceable and will catch fish almost as well as any other tackle. A good fly fisher is one who spends a lot of time on the water and learns from their experiences.
Sadly there are those among us who enjoy the image of the sophisticated, well-off fly fisher. They revel in displaying their expensive equipment and attire and wouldn’t dream of hitting the water without logos of Patagonia or Hardy prominently displayed on their person. They look down on anyone who isn’t fishing a dry fly or is using a spinning rod. And God help you if are keeping fish. These are the people who have made fly fishing a bit miserable. Not because of their stream etiquette or even their condescending attitude but because they present such an obnoxious image that is attached to all fly fishers. I have overheard many derogatory remarks and even some tirades from non-fly fishers when they see me wading in with my fly rod. Over the years I’ve made some changes to my equipment, opting for the economical and functional over the expensive and impressive, and since donning waders that have the Cabela’s logo instead of Simms and a camo ball cap that that reads Remington I have not heard the same venomous spewings. But as much as I hate to think it, I may be in the minority. I have met plenty of decent-seeming folks who fish with fly tackle, but I think I have encountered far more who are uptight, snotty and not much fun to share the stream with.
Which is why I have decided that the fly fishing community could benefit heavily from a modest influx of rednecks. The key is, of course, a modest influx. I love rednecks, and there are decent ones who can help balance the conception of fly fishers in the mind of the general public. But I don’t care to have throngs of drunken jackasses flocking to fly shops and charging into rivers.
What about plain old regular folks? Sure, more average, run of the mill people should get involved as well, but regular folks don’t stand out as much as rednecks. Once beat up pickups start filling the parking areas and groups of anglers wearing faded T-shirts and hats emblazoned with beer logos populate the streams the notion of fly fishing as a gentlemanly pastime will quickly subside. More rednecks would also present the image that fly fishing was a decidedly redneck sport which would discourage certain breeds of people from getting (or staying) involved, namely the pompous anal orifices who currently give the fly fisher a bad reputation. Perhaps most importantly, rednecks could teach us how to have fun. Enjoyment is not derived from how you go about doing something, but how you experience that something while doing it. And rednecks know how to relax and become involved in the moment. Never mind that you aren’t wearing the proper shirt or haven’t the right hat, if you want to get out and fish, then get out and fish. Hit the water for 45 minutes after work regardless of whether or not you just came from a board meeting or a welding shop. And you don’t always need to go whole hog with equipment and theory either. A rod, reel and box of flies will get the job done, especially for short outings. As fly fishers aren’t we always telling everyone what a cathartic, spiritual experience fly fishing is? If this is true then we don’t need the special attire and elitist attitude. Given our many commitments in life and often all-to-brief moments for leisure maybe we should lay aside the formality and rigid social dictates and take a lesson from those among who don’t worry about such social contrivances.