There's been some buzz about Barry Bonds breaking the
old home run record which Babe Ruth set many years ago.
The main complaint is that he 'did' steroids. Some
commentator said if someone was to break the Babe's
record he should be fat and a drunk. And of course
the number of games played in the Babes day was less
than today as well. Name your poison, there isn't
a level playing field.
We personally don't put much stock in records, and
gratefully our sport doesn't really have any. Well,
there are the IGFA records for big fish on different
tippet strengths. But I don't think the average fly
fisher is caught up in those. They seem to be for
folks with a lot more money and time than most of us
have. Or someone trying to make a name for themselves,
credentials of some sort. But if a person was really
picky, what kind of material were those 'old' leaders
and tippets made from? How do they technically compare
to the ones used today? For instance, are the new ones
more resistant to abrasion? Should today's records have
an asterisk indicating they were caught with artificially
enhanced product? I suppose you could add the type of
rod to that as well. See, it is endless.
Fly-fishing has been artificially enhanced too. The rods
and lines we use today are a far cry from what was used
even 40 years ago. I won't go into a discourse about
cane rods, but most weren't much then but they were what
'was.' Silk lines actually cast quite nicely. But they
did soak up water and had to be hung out (we strung them
from tree to tree) then treated and polished for use again
in the evening. The rich had extra reels already spooled
up and just changed reels. The advantage was you could
sit around in the shade mid-day (and maybe have lunch
and a nap) and be recharged for the evening hatch.
The creation of plastic fly lines was a true revolution.
The first ones Scientific Anglers marketed as floating fly
lines had tiny glass bubbles in the coating over the braided
core. And while they don't compare to what we use today,
they were marvelous! They didn't sink like the silk lines
and an angler could fish all day with it. They were fatter
than our modern day lines 'tho, and didn't always fit as well
though the small guides on cane rods.
After World War II, fiberglass rods were created first
using the antennas from military vehicles. They weren't fly
rods, but fly rods weren't far behind. If you are interested
in the evolution of fly rods, there is an extremely interesting
book, Fiberglass Fly Rods by father and son
Victor R. Johnson. It really covers everything from bamboo
to graphite. For those new to fly fishing, you have no idea
of what us old folks had to put up with. Amazing we stuck
It think it was in the 1970's when I bought my first pair of
Polarized glasses. Talk about artificial enhancement! Being
able to see INTO the water was a marvel. We take Polarized
glasses for granted now, but I believe using the technology
was originally intended for camera lenses. If you've never
tried them, take a look at the photos below. Maybe we should
charge points for fish caught using Polaroid glasses. Obviously
an unfair advantage.
I suppose there have always been people who tied their own
flies, some who carefully inspected the natural insects and
matched them. But we are all beneficiaries of those who took
the time to write it down. Matching the Hatch
by Ernie Schweibert was the big one. Those who read it finally
understood the relationship of the 'hatches' and could actually
predict what insects would show up when - and be prepared to
I'm not sure if artificial enhancement includes fish too.
But we certainly do have them. Hatchery fish for sure,
and then the cross breeds as well. At least one of those
is a 'natural' - I'm thinking about the Cut-Bows in the
Rocky Mountain west.
But there are Triploids, sterile trout which just eat and
get fatter, kamloops, tiger trout and palomino ones as well.
Various created breeds of Walleye and Muskies, frankly I'm
not sure of the intent on any of those, but they sure
So what really is an unfair advantage? This generation will
live longer and better lives than our fathers or grandfathers.
Miracle drugs save lives every day. Food of all sorts is
'enhanced' by one method or another (including modern
refrigeration) which gives us all access to better nutrition
than our grandfathers could have imagined.
In fact, to get technical, some of the food we eat contains
steroids. You or I may never have taken a steroid in our
lives (that we know) - but we've used various prescribed
medications, ointments, and even nasal sprays which indeed
Perhaps we are all artificially enhanced. I'm sure I am.
~ The LadyFisher
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