Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 21st, 2000

Are You A Fly Fisherman? Or . . .

I've been reading a string of comments on our Bulletin Board, (Opinionated) with great interest, and I must say something really strikes me. I feel a sense of frustration by those posting. What does make a person a fly fisherman? (If you prefer fly fisherperson insert as you wish.) It isn't having the 'proper' gear. Nor is it fishing a couple of times a year, multiplied by whatever number of years you wish. As in "I'm an 'expert' I've been fly fishing ten years!"

For many that is just one year's experience ten times. They have not learned anything beyond what they soaked up that first year. I'm also struck by some of the responses on our monthly drawing. People who have been fishing less than five years who say they are "expert" - I've been fly fishing over 50 years and I'm not an expert! Compared to many I barely qualify as an intermediate! Yes, there are those who pass themselves off as experts - mostly the ones who charge for their services. Are they really the 'great and near great?' Not necessarily. Does it really matter?

Feel free to vent your feelings about that, but consider this, in the end the only thing that matters is your personal connection (and committment) to our sport. What some so-called expert passes off as his expertise may not be anything of value at all. Only you know if it is of value to you! Keep what works for you and trash the rest.

Is there an 'attitude?" shown by some in our sport? Sure, I see it too, and mostly it puzzles me. Sometimes I think it is a cover for what they really feel - inadequate. There are some 'experts' who I think have harmed fly fishing. Some have passed off bad techniques or products for their own profit. There are also some non-experts who have harmed fly fishing by their superior attitudes, and some in the industry who have jacked prices out of sight which doesn't improve the fly fisher, just gives that 'superior' attitude. Being a fly fisherman is not about how many toys one own, where you fish, or what you wear. It is about why you fly fish, and how. It does not include in the definition what a person fishes for!

Fly fishing is about personal challenge and personal growth. It is about how you or I relate to nature and our personal connection to it. It's about how we help or harm the places we fish. It's about our individual commitment.

My husband Jim (JC) and I have been teaching fly fishing and casting for over 30 years. We've taken a fair amount of flack for doing do. Things to the effect there are already too many people on the water, there aren't enough fish, on and on . . .

The reason we teach has a bottom line. If we can teach people to cast well, play and land a fish without losing the fish or breaking a rod, they will catch fish. Eventually they will put a fish back. Perhaps because they have caught their limit, or are on water which is catch and release - whatever reason - when they put that first fish back, and find they aren't struck dead on the spot, that one fish becomes their fish! They begin to care about their fish. That is a beginning, not an end.

This website is dedicated to the notion there should be one good fly fishing information website. It is also a place where our readers can share their knowledge and opinions.

As a website FAOL will continue to grow. We hope to become the best fly fishing destination anywhere on the internet. We've been here every week for almost three years. We aren't the most polished, professional website around. We don't have all the whistles and bells some do.

But hear this. We've been building this site for three years now. Every week. If this website was a fly angler, who did his research every week, made a point of talking to other like-minded people about some phase of the sport every day, seriously read something about fly fishing every week, enlisted the help of other fly anglers around the world to help improve his skills, and fished every week - in three years maybe that angler would become a fly fisherman!

And just maybe that fly fisherman would show up here. And find something of value.

For those who have not yet reached that exalted fly fisherman status, don't be discouraged. You are all welcome here. Regardless of how long you have been fly fishing, where you fish, or for what, we hope to provide good honest information for you. We will try to do so without an attitude. Forgive us if we do have opinions 'tho.

For right now, enjoy this beautiful lake with me. Hmmm, I wonder how we should fish it. ~ LadyFisher

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