Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why Other Anglers Hate Fly Fishermen

We are snobs! It's just that simple. Oh not all of us of course but the ones who make a lasting impression are what we all are judged by.
We look down our noses at those who do not fly fish and think we, with our brier pipes, single malt scotch and expensive cigars, are better. In some cases we certainly are because we generally are more conservation minded than our gear throwing brethren, but that is the exception not the rule.. We scoff, and rightly so, at the use of salmon eggs for bait and the presence of hatchery fish but that still does not give us the right to be the elitists we are accused of being.
Even amongst ourselves there is definitely a social scale. Those of us that are not physicians or lawyers are the ones that get to cast their fly in exotic locales while us middle class fly fishermen ( I include myself in this group) are barely tolerated.
You see this a lot with the higher class Spey casters who fly fish for steelhead in the Pacific northwest.
We seem to forget from where we came. As for myself my story is quite familiar. I returned to the Pacific northwest, where I was born, after 17 years of California dreaming. I had heard tales of the salmon that were caught up here and wanted to try it for myself. I also heard of steelhead, a fish that until 1973 I was totally ignorant of.
I got lucky and hooked up with a couple of experienced steelheaders who showed me the ropes and after catching my very first steelhead in the winter of 1975 I knew this was for me.
As I became more successful catching steelhead with gear and yes bait, I wanted to try fly fishing. Well the rest is history! I have fly fished for over 30 years but it was not until 2004 that I gave up gear and switched exclusively to the fly rod. I had accomplished all that could be accomplished with gear in the waters of Oregon and Washington so it was on to a different challenge. I found myself, during the winter, missing my fly fishing more and more and so I mostly gave up catching a lot of steelhead and salmon on gear to just catching a few steelhead and trout on a fly. It's a conversion that I am most delighted with. I gave up salmon fishing altogether because the fall salmon crowd made me very uncomfortable with their carnivorous and slovenly ways.
Now I am a mostly full time fly fisherman and will die being a fly fisherman. Yes I do fit into the snobs description sometimes I guess but with me it's not thinking I am superior it more like I found a better way, for me at least, to fish. I the depths of winter when casting a fly is not very practical I will drag out my drift rod and corkies to drift fish. After a couple of winters strictly adhering to my fly only regimen I found myself staying home a lot because of unfriendly conditions for casting a fly. I do have reasonable skills drift fishing and can take home an occasional hatchery fish. I would rather be fly fishing though.
I will continue to look down on those who show no respect for our wild salmon and steelhead by doing things like snagging or egg stripping. I will look down upon those who do not know the meaning of ethics and etiquette. I will look down on those who kill wild fish.
Someone has trouble with that then too damn bad!
I think we middle class fly guys get the bad rep because of those who have more money than common sense and think their money and lavish fly fishing lifestyle makes them aloof and better than the rest of us mortals.
I've attended a few fly clubs and visited one or two upscale fly shops that have that air of superiority about them when they see me roll up in my Ford Ranger pick up and not a Land Rover. I agree with the gear guy being put off by this. Hey I cannot be helicoptered in some remote British Columbia river for some trophy steelhead or visit the bone fish flats of Christmas Island or Belize although I have fished for Atlantic salmon in Ireland.
The guys I know that can do trips like this are pretty down to earth anglers who guide for local fly shops and are able to get to go to these places because of their employer.
No, I am talking about the Henning Hale Orviston types from the book "The River Why"
These are the ones who get the ire of the gear crowd, some of whom are very skilled with their spinners or spoons or drift gear.
I am talking about the one who will not give you the time of day when they are encountered on the river.
It's those that give the fly fisherman the bad name and it's these guys who will do little if anything for conservation causes while they jet off to Iceland to pursue Atlantic Salmon.
For me I will continue to do what I do and enjoy myself. I am not wealthy nor particularly skilled but I will always exchange a pleasant greeting to all whom I meet along the river. Even you gear chucking peasants.


  1. Seth Norman described what you are referring to perfectly in "6X redemption."
    I think we are all guilty of a bit of snobbery, but when it gets out of hand and our identities are made up more of what or who we are not then who or what we are, then it gets odious.
    Nice article!


  2. The great thing at least for me, I dont really care what others but just being honest!

  3. I don't really care either gribble but sometimes the prejudice against fly fishers causes a little tension along the stream bank.

  4. But why do fly fishermen have such a problem with anyone keeping trout to eat? One of the reasons I fish for trout. FYI, my panther Martin will out fish any fly/nymph every time. 10:1