This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
June 19th, 2006

Technical or Common Sense?

A readers wrote he was very tired of seeing the term 'technical' in the context of fly fishing. Part of his email is below:

"Instead of blowing up the boards I am going to growl in your direction concerning my newest pet peeve. It is the word "technical" when associated with fishing. Where did this dumb phrase come from? Who is responsible? I have fished the "dream stream." I have fished the South Platte in Cheeseman canyon. I have fished the "miracle mile," and I have fished the Blue River near Breakenridge Co. All places lauded as being "technical" waters.

How then is it that a hack like me, can catch fish there. Plenty of fish and big fish too? I don't cast particularly well. My mending is even worse, and most of the flys I use are size 16 dry, and most are patterns that haven't been commercially sold in years. My favorite - don't tell anyone or they will all know what a hick I am - is a fly we call a grey hackle yellow. Yellow floss body, red hackle tail, silver tinsel rib, divided white quill wings, and light dun hackle!

Until I got old, fat and desperate from living too far away and catching too few fish, I didn't even carry a nymph in my box, and nothing, NOTHING, under size 18. I fish with 4x tippets most of the time. In short, while the fishing in those waters is difficult even challenging at times, it requires a bit of patience, an understanding of fish and what they want, and maybe a little bit of skill. Technical? Give me a break. I don't need a calculator to catch fish there. I did fine as a kid with my $20 fiberglass "pole." I don't need any special scientifically generated dubbing, or a tippet designed by NASA. So what the heck is so danged technical about fishing fish that have been fished over a lot.

I should be noted I guess, that I started flyfishing with crusty old buzzards like my grandfather and his friends, who had been fly fishing in Colorado and there abouts since the roaring 20's. I started fishing before the yuppies thought it was cool, and when even the hippies were just figuring out what we were doing out there in the river waving that stick around, in short Gerach was just a pup back then himself. So I understand that I am an old fogey at heart myself. But still, technical? How about proper? If you put a good drift on your fly is that technical, or just right? If you use the fly the fish want is that technical, or just good fishing? If you do something different than the last 600 people who fished that trout is that technical? Or just common sense?

I mean for goodness sakes, one of my favorite things to do when I am home is to fish the upper stretches of the Arkansas river with the biggest ugliest salmon fly I can throw, while people are out there dragging the bottom with #24 nymphs and bobbers. It isn't technical, it's just fishing. The fish like "willow bugs." They eat willow bugs. And if knowing that and using them is technical, well then I must be a dang fishing engineer."

Well said my friend.

Those of us who are older than dirt learned a few things along the way. If you didn't you didn't catch fish and that just wasn't as much fun. Most of what we learned was by studying the streams and insects and putting together when the bugs hatched and when/where the fish fed on them. All pretty elementary really. A lot of trial and error was involved as well. But if a person was curious and just a bit devoted to solving these mysteries, it could be done. Some of us caught more fish than others.

It wasn't because of great machined leaders ('tho Castwell did tie his own at that time) and it wasn't because of fantastic casting rods, or scientifically designed to match the hatch dubbing, or some tiny nymph you could barely see. The group we hung around with tied their own flies to match whatever it was they thought was there for bugs. And people caught fish. They solved their own problems, and caught fish. That was about as 'technical' as it got. What the successful anglers had however was a passion, a dedication to their sport - fly fishing - which combined their knowledge from year to year with a desire to better themselves. For some it was almost a calling.

Things and times have changed. We here at FAOL are probably to blame as well. We wanted to see more people be involved in fly fishing. Certainly to know the joys of the sport - but also to be willing to take some responsibility for their own fishing places. To become stewards of the watersheds and fisheries. To be willing to share their information and bring others to our sport.

In doing that, we have tried to bring the best in real fly fishing information to our readers. And perhaps in doing so, we have provided too much for those who are not willing to learn it on their own. We have hand-fed those who want instant gratification, instead of instilling a passion to learn.

For that I apologize. ~ The LadyFisher

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