This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 23rd, 2004

Your Opinion Does Count

There really are advantages to being older than dirt. I'll really try to remember what they are.

My husband, JC or Castwell or Grand poo-bah, and I have wonderful conversations about where we have fished, what we caught, books we've read, people we've met - just super memories to say the least.

The other night at dinner we were talking about various 'dinner meetings' we've attended over the years where the guest speaker was a dignitary of note. We were privileged to have heard both Joan and Lee Wulff speak at a T.U. dinner meeting of the Paul Young Chapter in Detroit. Joe Brooks spoke at a T.U. dinner meeting in Saginaw MI, Carl Richards was speaker at one of our classes at the college. I'm sure there were others, but those stand out. We originally met Lefty Kreh when we were all invited to teach casting at the Pere Marquette Club. He taught long-line casting and we taught trout presentation. All a very long time ago.

For a couple of years, JC and I did the 'dinner circuit' with his "Flies Only" slide program - (which you can see in condensed form here on FAOL.) It was an interesting experience being on the other side of the microphone.

Lee and Joe have passed on, Carl is still writing an occasional book, and Lefty, a well-known author in his own right, has joined the staff of Temple Forks to promote reasonably priced rods for the fly fishing world. Lefty actually had tried to get Sage to do the same thing many years ago, but that was long before Sage acquired Redington.

There are still dinner meetings around. Once in a while we receive an email from a local group asking us to post their event on our Events section of the Bulletin Board. But for the most part the speakers are not people whose names we recognize. There are some exceptions of course, but I can't help but wonder what the speakers talk about.

Some of the speakers we heard years ago had new books out, and their 'book tour' included speaking to local T.U. or other fly fishing groups. FFF (Federation of Fly Fishers) was not a big deal in our region, in fact JC and I founded the first FFF group in Michigan. FFF was seen at the time as mostly as west coast group, and indeed was founded in Oregon by steelheaders. At any rate, the speakers quite often told us about fishing exotic places, had terrific slide programs and made us all want to get on a plane and visit those places too.

At about the same time, indeed, Jim Chapralis (who writes our Competitive Casting section) was out fishing those exotic places and was the person who opened up the fly-to-fish travel industry. He has since retired from the industry - but he's the guy who made it happen.

What's different?

Television, the Internet, big fly fishing shows now make getting information about fishing nearly anywhere in the world as easy and hitting the 'on' button. More books are written about 'how-to' than either where to or why to.

Which leads to the popularity of a couple of annual events which did not exist just a few years ago.

The Sowbug Round Up, founded by Tony Spezio, is one of those events. The International Tying Festival out east is another. You may have one locally which we don't know about, but they are a wonderful opportunity to learn new flies, methods and meet in person 'name' tyers.

They have I believe replaced some of the 'events' which were common just a few years ago. The problem with the dinner meetings is they became fund raisers, auctions became an integral part of them, and folks from neighboring groups were expected to attend and contribute. There is just so much wall-space in a home or office, and a limit of how many prints one needs. Not to mention auctions for trips you could arrange yourself for a fraction of the auction price.

The big fund raisers replaced what had been a more close-knit user friendly event where you could actually ask questions and have real conversations with folks you admired. (Or at least thought you had enough in common with to want to get to know them.)

What I've presented here is why T.U. and FFF are in trouble.

You join a group for various reasons. But for most the bottom line is you hope to find some folks with whom you have a common interest, perhaps find a fishing or tying buddy, maybe to be involved in some stream clean-up or restoration. Maybe help some kids get started in fly fishing.

We all operate from our own self-interest first, so to say everyone who joins such a group is there because they want to give is probably unrealistic. Most end up doing so because they feel they have something to contribute.

None of us want to feel we are being taken advantage of. In other words, we don't want someone tapping on our shoulder asking for money every time we turn around. Either in person or by mail or email.

There is nothing wrong with having a dues structure which supports a national office. But we don't expect the national offices to fritter away the bucks, or to be living the high life either. Unfortunately that isn't reality with either TU or FFF. The FFF is, in fact as this is written, in the process of a major reorganization. TU has not yet received the message. TU has some very good people, but they have forgotten where they came from.

If you are already a member of an organized group of fly fishers, you do have a voice. Let your group know what you expect of them - and be willing to pitch in to help. If you are not part of a group, attend a meeting or two. Introduce yourself (there is usually a social hour before the meeting) and don't complain about not being made welcome if no one knows you are there!

Fly Anglers OnLine certainly is a big community of fly anglers - but we are not an organized group which can affect things on a local - or national level. Sure, we can write letters, send emails, make phone calls - but we don't have the clout of an organized group.

That's the job for both the local and national TU and FFF. If they aren't doing the job - it is your responsibility to see they do. ~ DLB

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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