It’s been said that fly fishing is a way for people with more money than brains to show off their latest toys trying to catch a fish with fur and feathers tied to a hook while those fishing with worms are reeling them in (fish). Except for the money part, I guess that about sums it up. Somewhere along the way, we fly fishers have gotten a bad reputation; and when you look at an old picture of someone standing in a river or stream that looks like it was manicured just for the photo op, wearing a shirt and tie, you can see how the label “snob” might apply.
The thing is, fly fishing began in Europe and we imported it’s basics from England where they have some peculiar attitudes toward fly fishing: First off, not everyone is entitled to enjoy the benefit of a trout stream; most of the water is owned privately and access is restricted. Their idea of fly fishing holds that trout can only be fished with dry flies, up-stream and only to rising fish. Anything else is poaching. When fly fishing came to our shores, it took hold in New England where “civilization” was and English traditions were common place.
A lot of our fly patterns – especially dry fly patterns – were English patterns until someone had the good sense to “improvise, adapt and overcome”. Slowly, fly patterns emerged, not only into our current dry fly patterns, but when someone realized trout feed more under the surface, the evolution to emerger patterns began.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s true that fly fishing can be expensive. All you have to do is look at the multitude of catalogs of rods, reels and even clothing. But like shopping for a car, you can buy a Ford Fusion or a Lincoln or a Rolls Royce. The point is, once you know what you want and what you’re trying to achieve, it’s a matter of wading through ad campaigns and choosing what works for your wallet. Having said that, those of us who are old enough to know better, know that “the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys”…. And that’s what manufacturers of “stuff” depend on.
I don’t know many people who are considered fly fishing “purists” that began fishing by casting a fly rod over the Au Sable. Most of us dug worms, caught night crawlers and drowned them on a hook from the other end of a casting rod or three piece cane pole with a cord line and bobber tied to it; and we caught fish. But somewhere along our evolution from the “the dark side” someone gave us a crack at casting a fly over water that held hungry fish waiting and willing to snatch a furry hook if we presented it properly. And like that first bluegill, we were hooked.
Certainly equipment is part of the equation and good equipment makes it all that much more enjoyable. But it doesn’t have to empty our bank accounts or delay our kids going to college. There is so much equipment on the market, it’s incumbent on us to do our homework and make the choices we can live with and afford. The key is in knowing what we’re trying to do, how we need to do it and what we need to get it done. And above all, have fun.