"Everyone has a novel in them," the old adage
goes, "and that's exactly where it should stay."
I think the same is true of fly-fishing inventions.
Fly fishers tend to get immersed in the sport,
both literally and figuratively, and when you
spend a lot of time, money and effort on something
it is only natural to expect some sort of return.
I'm not just referring to the fishing experience,
return enough, but the feeling that "if I could
just come up with a novel idea for a piece of
fishing gear I'd be able to make a lot of money."
And fish full time.
Your average angler doesn't have the wherewithal
to invent a new rod or reel, so, when we do invent
something it tends to be an accessory, and we avoid
the most fundamental step in formulating a business
plan, a needs analysis. If you would simply heft
your fly fishing vest you would quickly realize that
every accessory necessary, and a hell of a lot that
aren't, has already been conceived and birthed. But
that still doesn't stop some from pursing the dream
of fishing independence, as an unscientific survey
of a recent issue of a popular fly-fishing magazine
Not far into the magazine is an advertisement for
the "fly box," a modular component system of trays
and drawers that you wear on your chest and allows
you to carry every fly invented since Dame Juliana's
Jury of Twelve. It is an awkward looking thing that
encourages the fly fisher to carry more,
insidious marketing as it preys on that inherent
paranoia of every fly angler that, no matter how
many flies he brings, he just won't have the right
one. From the looks of the fly box, you wouldn't
want to take a fall in the stream with this thing
on, as I doubt you'd be able to right yourself, and,
adding insult to injury, with just a few blinking
lights the wearer would look like a robot from a
1950s Sci-fi flick.
At the opposite end of this spectrum is the lanyard,
geared toward the minimalist who wants to carry all
of his accessories around his neck. I can't imagine
that an angler could carry all of his
paraphernalia-nippers, spare leader material, forceps,
flashlight, camera, hook hone, flies, etc.-on a
lanyard unless he had a neck the size of Warren Sapp's.
But what is truly astonishing about the lanyard is its
price; $27.95 for something you could easily make with
a shoelace and some shrink tube.
My favorite, though, is an ad for a quick release
leather thumb, a small leather case hooked to a
zinger and attached to your pants that you "just
guide your thumb into...then to the fish's mouth"
to hold the fish while you disengage the hook. You
don't need this protection with most fish, and the
ones you would, blue fish, barracuda, shark, etc.,
would bite your thumb clean off, leather case or no.
And, similar to the lanyard, if you did feel a need
for a leather thumb you could easily make your own
by buying a pair of leather gloves, cutting off the
thumb and hooking it to a zinger (and you'd even end
up with a spare). But, most disturbing, the thing
looks vaguely obscene, like a codpiece or prophylactic.
I'm beginning to think that these inventions would
make for an interesting collection. For example,
I wish I had bought the hat vest, a baseball cap
advertised a few years back with pockets and snaps
that would allow the minimalist to shed his vest
and carry all of his gear on his head. It has
apparently gone the way of the shag carpet, and
it's no wonder; the hat vest empty looked ridiculous,
with the pockets filled the wearer looked like a
bizarre cubist painting.
Perhaps the American Fly Fishing Museum could
start a fund raising campaign to add a new wing,
displaying these arcane inventions so they aren't
lost to posterity (and reinvented in the future).
A sub-strata of the collection could be ridiculously
over-priced items, such as $135 pliers. I'd wager
it would be the most popular exhibit in the Museum.
"The vagaries of the sport," Russell Chatham observed,
"occasionally demand acknowledgement of a wide range
of patent absurdities."
Not to mention patented absurdities...
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.