Everything RIGHT With Fly Fishing Today by Mark Usyk

I normally don't post to the blog until Sunday and today is Friday. But, after seeing another blog go basically viral on all the fly fishing pages recently about what is WRONG with fly fishing, I've been thinking. I questioned, and I answered. The question I had was are we, the fly fishing community, doing good or bad. Are we a bunch of wanna be rock stars and reckless braggarts hurting fishing and conservation or are we doing good things. The answer I came up with is one I want to share with you, my fellow brothers and sisters of the fly rod. My answer... We are NOT that bad. As a matter of fact, we're doing a lot right.  

Everything RIGHT With Fly Fishing Today

1. Growth. We’re growing and attracting new anglers at light speed. Growth is good. For as long as I’ve been alive, reading anything in the mags about hunting or fishing, it’s always mentioned at some point, we have to get the next generation involved, otherwise the sport dies. I seriously doubt we have to worry about fly fishing going by the way side. We gain anglers every day.

2. Hero shots. Yea yea yea, there’s a grumbling in the ranks about why everyone needs to have that grip and grin before the release, acting like a hero. Well, for one thing, it’s helping the above. Growth. Non fly fishers for the longest time thought fly fishing was for Trout and that was it. Today, scan your favorite social media pages and you’ll see anglers holding up everything from Trout and Bass to Tarpon and Permit, all with a fly rod resting across their shoulders. It’s motivating the next generation to step up to the plate and grab a fly rod. Fish that were once considered trash fish, garbage bottom feeders are suddenly acceptable (rightly so) on a fly rod simply because it’s another species checked on the list.

Sure, there’s horribly held fish in some of the shots. Do you think if the picture wasn’t online to show how improperly handled that fish was that it didn’t happen? Well, it did. And thanks to the internet tough guys that feel the need to rudely stand up and proclaim the angler an ignorant slob for such poor fish handling skills the offender learns the right way to handle the fish, all be it with a blow to their ego. But for every rude comment trying to impress on the heroes how vain and ill equipped they are to take up the ranks of the fly fishing elite, there’s ten who pipe up and offer congratulations on the great catch, and add in their own personal advice… “Don’t mind the jerks, it’s a great fish. Congratulations on your first (type of fish here) and just try to be gentler with it next time.” Although some do come off as elitist jerks quite often in these posts, social media is in a way helping to educate new anglers on the proper handling of fish…just try not to be such an ass about it. Remember…There was a time you didn’t know any better either. Keep the jerks outnumbered by the positive comments and we’ll keep on moving in the right direction! The positive I see most out of all this is that the elitist attitude, even though it’s still present and shows it’s self now and then, is being out numbered, and becoming outdated.

3. Because of the above, the growth, the fresh meat and the motivation to do better, there’s all kinds of great gear coming out on a daily basis. Everything from new technology in rods to sun protection, tying materials, fly fishing specific boat accessories, bigger tougher reels, better leaders, cheaper gear, more expensive gear, the list never ends. There’s nothing bad about this. We’re striving to be better, the proof is in the innovations, which, in a roundabout way, are attracting more new anglers. We’re possibly in a perfect storm of infinite growth.

4. Keeping vs. Releasing. Some seem to have forgotten that it’s a personal choice what one does with a fish once caught.  For instance, in New York it is our right given by the state to take 5 trout...  when in conversation with those that do not support Catch and Release, it is sometimes easy to address them with that statement.  " you have the right to take fish by law, but you do not have the right to leave your worm containers, or beer cans, or take 3 fish over 12 inches instead of 2, or run the fish to your cooler in your trunk and run back to the creek like you just erased your limit. "  But luckily today, for every bash of an angler for taking one or two home, there are ten more to stand up and admit that they too will from time to time eat their catch. There will always be two sides to the conservation oriented law biding discussion;  the Catch and Release  exclusive only crowd, and the occasional fresh fish for dinner crowd. From what I see on the all showing social media, we actually have a good balance of both right now, bickering aside. I went fishing last week for pike and I caught a Walleye.  It was a good size fish and I did harvest it.  I did it for a few reasons...  one, it was my right to...  two, I wanted to take the fish home to show my boys how to clean a fish, and I surely did not want to do it on a trout, unless we were camping...  three, I knew I would surprise my family with me cooking up a fish dinner and I wanted to treat them to something special. 

Which leads to another side bar discussion...  is being a Catch and Release advocate, enough?  I would say no.  My work with JP Ross and their Trout Power Campaign has opened my eyes as to what aligned anglers and conservationists can do.  The concerned angler should practice catch and release or controlled harvest, but they also should do more than that and get involved to make the fisheries better than they found them.  If we all did a little we all can do a lot.  Right now JP and I are working on a project to protect a body of water in the Adirondacks, and if it goes through we will have one of the largest wild brook trout protected zones in the state.  It is something I will be proud to share with my two sons, and I know that with this success there will be more.  

So I ask again, is just being a catch and release angler enough?  That question is still up for debate.  but either way, the result will still be good. 

5. Fly tying. Fly tying has gone far beyond the simple dry fly and classic wet flies our Grandparents fished. Every day, at any given time, you can surf the internet and find the instructions for just about any type of pattern your fishy heart desires. Not to mention the plethora of books and magazines out there available to wet your thirst for more knowledge on just about any specific area. Salt, Fresh, Trout, Pike, pan fish, it’s all out there for us to find in big heaping piles! Not only has fly tying grown in leaps and bounds, but it’s really proving what we’re made of as a community. At this point, I think most everyone realizes that any new pattern they come up with is probably a variation of, or at least very close to an already existing pattern. And even when a new pattern is invented, most likely the recipe and quite possibly even tying instructions will be offered up so that everyone can give it a shot. And I’m not just talking about Joe Blow sitting at his bench at home sharing, but even the men and women out there making a living at it seem to have no problem showing you how to tie what they would like to sell you! It truly amazes me to see the sharing that goes on as far as knowledge in fly tying goes with us as a group of competitive people. Kids are tying, adults are tying, everyone is either tying, or considering giving it a shot. It’s that can do attitude. And it’s become very contagious. We have only ourselves to thank.

6. Clothing. There’s no shortage of killer threads available to us today, and more keep coming. From functional UV protection to duds that identify us as the addicted fly anglers we are. And look at the advances in specifics like waders, wading boots, jackets, vests, head wear. I could go on and on. If you can’t find it, you’re not looking hard enough. If you still can’t find it, wait a week. Someone is coming out with it sooner or later.

7. We’ve become a force to be reckoned with. We stop mines from opening up for Pete’s sake! We stand as the voice of conservation and responsible use of our natural resources. We carry out what others leave behind. We’re fly fishermen and women…We rock.

8. History. As a whole we’ve come to have a deep respect for fly fishing’s history. Bamboo, though astronomically priced for most anglers, is still recognized in some circles as a functioning tool from the early days when dinner was brought home to Mother still flopping in a creel hung on one’s shoulder. Let’s see a gear fisherman still using bait casting gear from that era…few and far between if any. Fiberglass has made a huge comeback, partially, in my beliefs anyways, because we are a bunch of romantics. We need to feel what once was the standard but was then phased out by new and supposedly better technologies. We need to feel that connection to the past, like the music enthusiast that swears up and down the cracks and pops of an old LP are far better than the crystal clear CDs of today. Not only do we collect the old equipment of yesteryear, but some of us continue to use it. And more so we try to recreate it. Pick up a modern glass rod today, only made possible by all the growth in the industry because of all the new blood and all the enthusiasm in the sport, and you’ll see what I mean.
9. Pride. We’re proud of who we are. THAT is what all the “Hero shot grip and grin” pictures are about. We’ve discovered the secret hidden in a perfect cast, in a well-played drift, in a hard stripped meaty streamer, and we want to share it with others. We want others to feel what we feel, to be motivated to get out there, to be a part of something growing so fast, to be an ambassador.

These are just some of the things RIGHT with fly fishing today, and there is no end in sight…You are a fly fisherman and you ROCK. DIG IT!