Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

November 7th, 2005

Minimalist Angling

As time goes by in my fly fishing endeavors, the more I find myself really de-evolving as far as equipment goes.

The "Neanderthal" herein being myself, not anybody else, since I'm speaking solely to hear myself talk now.

Oh sure, I could be just bellyaching about being po', but that's only part of the story. I think being a Yuffie (that's a Young Urban Financial Failure) has actually accentuated my devotion to the primitive movement. Besides, I still enjoy bamboo rods the most, which while classical, are no longer minimalistic.

I mean, I fly fish because I enjoy it, right? I don't need a lot to make me happy. Yet I find, in the last few weeks, that I am fishing my five-weight rod even when I shouldn't be, when a larger line or even a smaller line would be better suited for the application at hand.

Why then? It's not so much the rod, as the reel. Yes, my five-weight line is on a Medalist 1494˝, and I simply adore it. It's not even a USA-made Medalist, it's just a Medalist I picked up a couple years ago for some forgotten reason.

Shoot me, but I like the sound of it. I'm not worried about spooking fish anyway, I'm fishing bass and bluegill for cryin' out loud. I like the click. I have an Okuma large arbor reel and it doesn't click. I miss the click, so I fish my Pflueger Medalist because it satisfies my click desires, whatever Freudian reasons may lurk within.

One day I had a malfunction on another brand of reel and was left without the ability to use the rod I wanted. I could have simply switched spools if I had kept up the de-evolution solution, but no, I had to switch rods. If, on the other hand, I had two reels and enough spools to accommodate all my line size needs, I'd always have a backup, right? So I am going to convert all my reels to Medalists and happily click my way into fly-fishing nirvana. Two hundred buck Battenkills large arbors? I could buy ten Medalists. Besides, they look far better on bamboo than space-age designed, modern-material reels.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not going to automatic reels like my dad and I fished when I was a kid. That's not Neanderthal, that's art deco. And I'm not knocking anybody's choice in tackle, to be certain.

When I went to Montana, a buddy of mine tagged along at my invitation. He wasn't a fly angler but was interested in trying it, so I sent him to Uptown Angler in New Orleans to get a rig. He came back with a brand new Sage and a Battenkill reel and we took off into his back yard for me to teach him to cast it.

Let me tell you, I was quite happy to hand him off the rod as soon as I could. Oh, it was a fine-casting instrument, no doubt about it, but I couldn't feel it in my hand. It was like casting a feather, and I realize that this has many advantages, but you know, I really miss heft in a rod. I'm not talking about arm-breaking, joint-wearing, muscle-tearing old nine-and-a-half foot ten-weight Montagues here. But I like to feel something in a rod, some little reassuring weight that let's me know it's real, not my imagination. The Sage my friend bought was a darned fine rod, but I was never really sure if I had cast it or not.

In the same vein, I had been wanting a seven-and-a-half foot four-, or better yet, five-weight for close work on the lake and in narrow canals. I coulda spent a bundle on it, for a Yuffie, but I decided to risk a meal at the casino café for me and my girl, and bought a thirty buck Purist for my birthday present (thank you, thank you, it was Oct. 10, don't ask my age... okay, I'm 41, please don't laugh!) What I found was that I liked it. Didn't compare to my friend's virtually nonexistent Sage as a casting tool, of course, and the point is, I didn't expect it too. I got my Granger for celestial casting! It's all about expectations, isn't it? What you want to get from your fishing. It's fishing, after all.

Don't think I'm taking a minimalistic attitude for some holier-than-thou reason. I don't mind how much money other people spend on tackle, and I don't mind knowing that their high-power five hundred dollar rod might outcast mine like there's no tomorrow. But I have just found, I guess, that I don't need to worry about it.

The only exception remains bamboo. My bamboo rods still cost a bit, of course, but then, bamboo is sort of a neo-minimalistic thing. It's like antique Coke machines someone threw out to the dump are worth thousands of dollars as living room decorations. Go figure. As least I can catch fish with my bamboo rods. Most antique Coke machines don't even give you a Coke.

I don't tie leaders. I spend two bucks for knot-less leaders from - brace yourself - Bass Pro Shops. Horrors! Suit me just fine, but gets expensive. So I'm going to de-evolve again and invest in a couple of furled leaders and a couple spools of tippet. Back to basics, yet again.

It's fishing, for Pete's sake.

Point? Well, I'm just not worried anymore that I can't cast an entire line. Used to bother me, now I really don't give a rip. What do I need to fish ninety feet away for? I couldn't see a fluorescent glow-in-the-dark deer hair popper at ninety feet, much less a strike. I'm not complaining that my turnover and presentation isn't delicate enough. I'm not fussing about my rods breaking every other trip, or the noise my Medalist makes (such a nice sound!)

I'm not that great a caster anyway. I get the job done. Nothing elegant about it. I don't cast like I'm painting the Sistine Chapel, I'm more of an impressionist caster. I ain't even Picasso, and by the way, it's just fishing.

So while I am delighted others can afford five hundred dollar rods and high-dollar reels, please don't look down your nose at us Neanderthals. We're just having a good time, maybe even as good as you are! That's what really bugs some high-end tackle-buyers, I think: The idea that the guy with a hundred buck Redington and a twenty buck Medalist might be having as much fun as he is.

But after a devilishly hot summer, low water levels across most of my waters until two hurricanes came by for tea, I don't get to fish much these days anyway, and that's about as minimalistic as it gets, ain't it? ~ Roger

It's out! And available now! You can be one of the first to own a copy of Roger's book. Native Waters: A Few Moments in a Small Wooden Boat

Order it now from,, or Barnes & Roger will also be giving away three autographed copies to readers. Stay tuned, for an announcement on the Bulletin Board on that soon.

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