April 16th, 2007

Fun - It's Not A Four Letter Word
By Neil M. Travis, Montana

For many years fly-fishing and everything and anything remotely related to it were a consummate passion with me. I believed, and still do, that fly-fishing is the most fun that a person can have standing waist deep in icy cold water. As serious as I have been about fly-fishing, and as staunch an advocate for the sport as I am I have never forgotten that first and foremost fly-fishing is fun. I do it for recreation and not for any other purpose. Watching others attack the sport it seems that my form of fly-fishing has gone out of style.

God has blessed me by allowing me to live in the heart of fly-fishing country, and within a 500-mile radius of my front door are the majority of famous trout waters in the western United States. Anglers come from all over the world to fish these famous waters, and this has given me the unequaled opportunity to observe the changing face of fly-fishing and those who pursue it. While change is inevitable and some of it is good, much of what I see today is not on the positive side of the ledger.

The face of angling today is mostly commercial and mostly serious. Fly-fishing is a marketing tool used for selling everything from autos to clothing. Locally we have a TV commercial for an addiction counseling service that shows a young man and an attractive young woman all decked out in fly-fishing gear. As the announcer drones on in the background about the positive results of addiction counseling in this man's life the couple are making a very bad attempt at fly-casting. TV ads show people driving the latest 4-wheel drive to a 'secret' fishing spot, drinking the latest barley pop around a roaring campfire, decked out in the latest outdoor togs all the while holding or attempting to use a fly rod. The scenes are always perfect, even if the casting is not, but the connection between the product and fly-fishing is obvious. Successful fly-flingers own and use our product. Anyone that wants to be someone owns our product and fishes with flies. Our product is cool and fly-fishing is cool, and cool successful people own our product. It's enough to make a trout throw-up.

Marketing aside, fly-fishing for too many of the people I encounter is far too serious. You can take fly-fishing classes in college, although I don't know of any that grant a degree in the sport, but I suspect that is coming. There are seminars on all aspects of fly-fishing; there are innumerable Internet sites devoted to fly-fishing, fly tying, and fly-fishing trips to exotic places. Some people have certificates that tell the whole world, if anyone cares, about their casting prowess, or that they have achieved the right to be a casting instructor! With time and effort you too could have a certificate that tells the whole awestruck world that you are a 'master casting instructor.' It reminds me of the lyrics of an old song, 'if you get an outfit you can be a cowboy too.'

Last summer I watched a young man and his mother kicking around in float tubes on one of our nearby lakes. It was quite obvious that the lad had never attended a fly-casting seminar, but I can tell you he was having fun. In addition, within a few 100 yards of the access site he started catching some nice trout. He was having a ball.

Well, like the lad in the tube I don't have a certificate certifying I can cast a fly, but I have managed to cast well enough to catch a few fish. Long before there were casting certificates Castwell and I spent more than a few weekends teaching others how to perform the act.

I have yet to attend a fly tying seminar conducted by the most recent fly-tying guru, but I have caught a fair amount of fish on flies I have tied myself, and have had the privilege of passing some of that knowledge on to others.

I don't wear the latest duds, use the most recent must have fly-fishing gear, but somehow in my obviously impoverished state I do occasionally catch a few fish. I seem to cast well enough to avoid hooking my ear, tie dry flies that float, nymphs that sink, and I usually fool a fish or two in the process.

At the end of the day I usually cannot remember how many fish I caught, what size they were, what great casts I made, or what flies I used, but I can remember the fun I had. I think when it's all added up that's all that really matters anyhow. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

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