A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer as I am wont to do on quiet autumn evenings, (who am I kidding, I take an ipad on the water with me so I can check my e-mail and play Angry Birds), when I came across a lively thread on fly fishing elitism. This one happened to be on FlyBC but the same thread pops up on most fishing forums from time to time.
Since the subject was being discussed by fly fishermen one might imagine that the the thread would develop along predictable lines in much the same way as if you had asked a few McDonalds executives to debate the ethics of paying minimum wage or a gaggle of soccer moms to discuss the merits of their precious snowflakes. In other words, it's a tough arena to get an unbiased opinion never mind some constructive, informed discourse. One might imagine that but that wasn't really the case.
The thread began with the usual question; “Why are fly fishermen so elitist and why are they always pointing their fingers at the gear crowd in regards to ethics?” Which was promptly answered by a forum member with more years on this earth than the Joshua tree;
“This is the order of life,
#1 – People that use two handed rods for fly fishing.
#2 – People that use single handed rods for fly fishing.
#3 – Gear fishermen
#4 – Bait fishermen.”
As trite as the above statement may appear, it is unfortunately an opinion that is at least casually shared by some fly fishermen.
Here are a few more (slightly edited) quotes from the FlyBC thread;
“I think that flyfishers feel it requires more intelligence and skill to be a flyfisher. There is also a sort of mystique and romanticism connected to fly fishing, an art form if you will. I remember when I used only a spinning rod and I watched a fellow fly fishing and it was poetry in motion. I thought someday I would do that and I do. For me it was a spiritual and cerebral pursuit which became more important than actually catching fish. Maybe this is where the perception of elitism comes from?”
“I think that you will find that most, if not all, fly fishers started out as bait/gear fishermen. Very few bait/gear fishermen will claim to have “been there, done that” with fly fishing.”
The fact is that most flyfishers do not believe they are elitist . We all pretty much started on bait or gear and then chose another path. I myself use gear and or bait when conditions require it, I just prefer to flyfish when I can and my choice of fishing locations and target species tend to reflect that preference.
Some more words of wisdom;
“ You have three fishermen at the top of their game.
One is the best angler with a spinning rod.
One is the best angler with a bait casting outfit.
One is the best angler with a fly rod.
Of the three, which is the best most ethical angler?
If you can narrow it down and come up with an answer, then you likely believe in elitist values.”
“Fly fishing is what you make of it, if you look for elitism you will find it. It's all a matter of personal perspective and what you fixate on.”
Bottom line is that you will never get away from elitism. If there are two or more methods of doing something, the person that does it one way will think anybody that does it any other way is misinformed at best and at worst, living in a uni-bomber cabin in some backwoods hollow married to his sister. Ferrari drivers look down on Lamborghini owners, beef farmers believe the best use of land is for cattle while canola growers feel they could put it to better use. It goes on and on. Rarely do people just shrug and say “Go ahead and stand next to me brother and practice your dark art while I just enjoy my own thing and live and let live.”
Fly fishing, gear fishing, bait casting, it doesn't matter how you do it as long as you enjoy it and the regulations allow. Elitism is a sort of racism and we as thinking entities should be able to rise above our xenophobic genetic programing. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and just fish!