Sitting in my richly paneled study, enjoying a contemplative smoke from my antique Savinelli pipe, and sipping a cut tumbler of peaty 69 year old Glen Disdainful, an unbidden thought arose, disturbing my musings of whether the purchase of a 1923 antique Hardy red agate Perfect, or a 1912 check Perfect, would more impress my angling companions. The strange unbidden and clearly absurd thought was this: “Are fly anglers guilty of being elitist?”
Pushing aside such a banal, pedantic, and obtuse consideration, I returned to my aggrandizing acquirement activities, but the intrusive thought somehow persisted, so I strategized that I would give the idea its’ head, and with icy analytical logic skills force its withdraw in submission back to the cloudy murk from whence it came.
Ugly truth be told, I didn’t grow up into a long heritage of fly angling. In fact, other than one or two failed attempts at bait fishing as a kid, I really didn’t grow up fishing at all. I did grow up, (disregarding certain in-laws’ claims), and upon reaching adulthood and succumbing to the urban norm of office work and the overall loss of freedom and soul, I found myself seeking an activity that satisfied a few requirements. First, the activity must take place outdoors, as I feared additional time under fluorescent lights would perhaps result in behavior likely to end with an incarceration. Second, it must be something that is possible to do alone, because negotiating with people about money as a daily routine isn’t conducive to gregarious altruism. Lastly, it must not be too expensive and pointless, or involving seasickness, like golf or sailing.
8 years and literally $150,000 worth of gear later, I found myself a card-carrying fly fisherman, with a decoder ring, flannel shirt, trucker hat, and a juvenile predilection for the use of fly fishing related brand-name bumper stickers on my fishing vehicle, not to mention a closet full of top-of the-line rods, reels, fly boxes, and other expensive accouterments.
I found a passion for the artistry and skill of the cast. I also found that the methods and tactics within fly fishing I find most enjoyable are all essentially functions of that skill. Perhaps that is why I most enjoy pursuing persnickety trout with a dry fly, or swinging a classic Steelhead fly with a two-handed rod. I enjoy the history of the sport and its characters. But the dedication and skill it takes to achieve greatness within this sport, these things I find possibly attainable, but never quite perfectible or completely mastered. Whether it is exploration, tactics, fish behavior, entomology, or learning specific watersheds, there’s an endless supply of challenges to be found in fly fishing. And that satisfies me. Gives me my soul back.
I can’t say whether these things are lesser or greater than other forms of fishing. I can say it is unlikely I’ll exhaust the intrigue of our hobby and find out. I suspect others share, in part, my sentiment. I don’t love fly fishing because it is more or less than; I just love it.
So my analysis wasn’t icy, clear, or even analytical, for that matter. Then, for the purpose of formally providing a conclusion to the afore-listed enthymemes -- [That is a joke; enthymemes are hidden premises; if they are hidden, how can they be aforementioned? I wonder if this ramble is the result of too much peaty Glen Disdainful. …I digress].
Let me again attempt a conclusion by saying that I have a friend who did grow up fly fishing. He had only a Sucrets box with a grey hackle yellow, a Parmachene Belle, and a black gnat, and he had a drugstore fly rod. With only that gear he learned to love fly fishing so much that he made it his vocation, poor fellow.
So, Q.E.D., fly fishing isn’t necessarily elitist.
Now I shall go back to deciding which antique Hardy Perfect would best esthetically and physically balance out my newly acquired creek Burkie.