A REAL FLY FISHING RIG
Recently while discussing fly fishing with a friend, he brought up the fact that he was thoroughly disgusted with fly fishing. He had bought an entry level rod and reel with a small starter package two seasons ago, but wanted to upgrade to a "real" fly fishing outfit. He then proceeded to begin a slight rant on what had him so twisted. It seems after going to three or four pro-shops, it was basically laid out for him that unless he wanted to simply waste his money they would always come out to a price tag of something in the $200 to $300 range. And each and every time, they would get frustrated with him and tell him they didn't carry anything in the lower price ranges, stating quality and pride in their products as the reason. After about 10 minutes he paused, shook his head and said that not a single one actually asked him about fishing. One however did ask him what rod and reel he was using now, and only smiled when he told him, with no further remark. Personally a response that just may be followed by a smack upside the head…but I digress.
Standing there soaking it all in, I couldn't help but recall a good number of recent posts on the internet blogs about this same issue. The last year seems to have brought an uptick to these types of discussions. Online however things are a bit different. You have a gathering of folks dedicated to the sport at different levels. Some of which seem to lose the level of common sense. Myself included as my wife will remind me. So the sentiment in most online blogs or discussions seems to always blame the economy, since folks just "aren't willing to spend money these days." And while some of that has merit, I can't with good conscience agree 100%. I am beginning to think there is a flaw in the message that we provide at times. So I listened and by the end of his rant I began to feel angry as well, having seen it myself over the years. Always laughing it off or just shaking my head, before grabbing the tying materials I wanted of the rack, then paying and leaving. But what about the guy or gal that is truly hunting for guidance or information? Too often they don't get it. Or too often their troubles and confusion are blamed on the gear they are using. The last of which is what irritates me more than any other single issue. Now listen….I am not going to preach about the evils of top gear. I have bought and sold my fair share. And I like top quality gear. But you have to "keep it real" also. Those things are for the most part items of vanity rather than necessity, 90% of which is not required to catch fish, or to have a good time on the water fishing.
So while I sympathized with him on my issues, I went on to also explain that his first mistake was in thinking the rig he had been fishing with, and catching fish with mind you, wasn't already a "real" fly fishing rig. I then fell on the sword of all things fly fishing and apologized for the "few" who just don't get it at times. Then between apologies and explanations, together we had him set up. He had a $100 budget, so we kept the rod he already had after explaining to him that it was quality graphite, the size he needed and all solid components. We ordered him a $40 all aluminum reel to replace the graphite one he had which didn't even have a functioning drag. We agreed the line was his weak link and I gave him a much better line I had sitting here new, explaining to him that it was on clearance and was bought as a spare. Then he cleared out his 14 inch Polar Creel and converted it into a fly fishing shoulder bag. I laughed for 20 minutes after I told him to use it and he looked at me dead serious and said, "I can use that for fly fishing?" Sad, but funny, it seems the perception of what is needed, or what qualifies as fly fishing worthy gear precedes us. Is it that we forget what is truly needed to fly fish? Or is it that we just convince ourselves that more is needed because it helps us feel further aloft within the company we keep?
This weekend all of his gear had arrived. So we lawn-cast his new rig and got him rolling, then I waited for the report at the end of the weekend. It does appear that his new setup must be a "real" fly fishing rig now, since he caught a boat-load of fish with it. I'm assuming also that he did not get laughed off of the creek because of his gear bag. Not that it can't or won't happen to him but that is for another article.
All of this in the end has planted itself in my mind ever since. It's like that piece of tiny river stone that gets in your wading boot. Even though you may eventually work it into a position that is no longer on the bottom of your foot, it's still there. And you will never truly be comfortable until you take the damned boot off and remove it. Well, for this month's article I'm sitting down to take off my boot.
We all as stewards of our sport, need to take off our $300 Smith's and Maui Jim's long enough to make sure we are seeing things in clear light every now and then. Sometimes we seem to lose focus on what is required, and what we simply want. And understand that while we may "want" it, it's not a requirement for a person breaking into the sport to have before he or she is allowed to share water with us. I know you needed that $800 new generation rod that will cast loops tighter than Kate Upton's butt while holding the entire line in the air. But you are fishing a 30 foot wide stream with fish rarely over 20". So both the rod and the $400 reel are like driving a Ferrari on gravel road. No more effective in application than a Ford Focus. But you look good. Which is perfectly fine….we all love our toys and want to know that we look like we know what we are doing while using them. Just be honest with yourself and new-comers to the sport. I have rods, reels and some of the best-selling gear out there. But I would be fooling myself if I actually thought that they in any way help me catch more fish than the $39 4-piece Three Rivers rod that sits in the corner of my den with a 20 year old SA click pawl reel on it. It casts a beautiful line, is built solid, reasonably light and has brought more fish than I can count to hand. There is no rod made that will catch a fish any better than that rod; it's a simple fact. It's balanced correctly with the right components and is a very functional tool for the water. Remember, I said catch a fish. Not look better, or cast a prettier loop. It won't gain any "props" within the circle of fishermen you will run into on the water. And nobody will EVER ask, "Hey is that the new Cabelas Three Rivers? Can I check it out?" But it will catch any fish in the water. Isn't that what matters most? And isn't that the message we should be mentoring to folks wanting to fly fish? Shouldn't that also be what we would expect from a pro-shop as well? When they know they don't have the gear on hand to properly fit a particular fisherman, be it due to budget, gear on hand or desires. Shouldn't they at least help that person with where to go, what to buy and what to avoid when looking elsewhere? I think so.