Our Man In Canada
July 30th, 2001

Abandon the Sport?

Chris Marshall
By Chris Marshall

Jack Imhof's conservation feature in this issue (page 46) makes the case for fly fishers to get actively involved in community-based fishery management initiatives on local rivers and lakes, in order to create and maintaine sustainable fisheries. For this to happen, the more fly fishers there are to get involved the better - the greater our number, the stronger our voice.

However, there's a problem: while we have considerable success in recruiting new fly fishers, the drop-out rate among these is huge. A 1996 study (Response Management for the North American Fly Tackle Trade Association and the American Sportfishing Association) indicates that the majority of new fly fishers appear to abandon the sport within five years of taking it up.

I suspect that there are a number of reasons for this, but a major one is that many of them fail to develop their skills sufficiently to be successful. Unlike golf, fly fishing has little in the way of high-profile infrastructure for instruction and encouragement. Sure, there are fly fishing clubs and schools, but fly fishing tends to be a solitary sport. Golf, on the other hand, is a social activity, where novices get to play along with more experienced players whom they can watch and emulate. Consequently, many novice fly fishers tend to be left out in the cold to become frustrated and discouraged.

Current Issue

This need not be so. Some clubs have excellent teaching and mentoring programmes as well as extensive social fishing events. If these were more widespread, it would do much to help novices grow and stay with the sport. As individuals we can also help, by taking novices (especially youngsters) under our wing. Even if each of us volunteered only a couple of trips in which we shared our expertise, it would make a significant difference in encouraging more novices to become successful enough to fly solo and stick with the sport.

Although we might dreeam of fishing in pristine solitude, the fact is that most of us spend the bulk of our time on home waters in relatively easy reach of urban centres. To protect and sustain these, the more fly fishers who utilise them and cherish them, the better. If we work harder at nuturing new fly fishers as well as recruiting them, we'll all end up winners, for successful and confident, they will be more inclined to metamorphose into full-fledged fly fishers, to stand with us as keepers of our streams. ~ Chris Marshall

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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