Our Man In Canada
August 12th, 2002


Chris Marshall

By Chris Marshall

Many of us are enticed and captivated by fly fishing through the richness of its traditions. There is a singular delight in reproducing classic flies developed generations ago, stroking the patina of a hand-crafted bamboo rod, or curling a line over the pools of legendary rivers. However; we're equally drawn by the opposite - by the challenges imposed by changes in conditions, new species, and geographical relocation. The history of fly fishing in Canada is filled with this.

The first fly fishers in this country used traditional British gear, flies and techniques. These were gradually adapted to suit the different conditions of the New World, such as the development of salmon flies constructed from the easily obtainable hair of local animals rather than the exotic feathers of their traditional antecedents. Gradually, these and similar innovations became established as traditions of their own and, in turn, were adapted to meet new situations elsewhere. The application of West Coast steelhead flies is a prime example.

The point is that, however much we might delight in ambiance of the traditions of fly fishing, there is even greater delight when we innovate and adapt those traditions in the face of challenge. In every corner of this vast country there are fly fishers pushing at the boundaries of streamcraft, technique, and the design of equipment and fly pattersn. And it is a regional phenomenon: innovation is initiated by individuals or small groups to meet challenges arising from local conditions.

Vic Bergman's companion features in this issue [Summer 2002] on pike fishing in Alberta and on pike fly patterns are excellent examples of this. In a province where trout fishing is paramount, Vic extends fly fishing to a species more usually pursued east of the Alberta border. Indeed, he borrows heavily from traditions developed in Ontario and Quebec. However, he does more than borrow: he adapts. And there is much that fly fishers in Ontario, in Quebec and in regions wherever pike swim can learn from his adaptions. It's a process of constant reciprocation, cross-fertilization and hybridization - a process in which we are able to toss ideas and innovation back and forth from region to region, constantly learning from each other.

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This process lies at the heart of the editiorial mandate of The Canadian Fly Fisher. While there will always be a few whose vision is cramped by the boundaries of their local waters, most of us embrace the larger vision. We welcome the opportunity to reach out and share the experience of those who delve in waters beyond our immediate horizons.

It is this vision which prompted us to feature a garpike of the cover of this issue, even though readers outside Ontario and Quebec have little opportunity to fish for them. For the same reasons, we featured West Coast salt waster in the photo essay of the Spring 2002 issue and plan to feature Kamloops in "The Downtown Fly Fisher" in the Fall 2002 issue.

And even if we might not find there anything which is obviously applicable to our local situations, we can always take vicarious pleasure in fishing distant waters which we might never have the opportunity to visit in person, and for species which we might never see except in our imaginations. ~ Chris Marshall

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

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