I’m firmly on record, in fact, I’m quoted, saying that “the sun rises, and sets, on the fly fishing industry, where professional guides say it does.” And I’ll always believe that. Guides drive the techniques. Guides are stewards for the waters. Guides’ opinions on gear dictate what gets sold what doesn’t. They are the gatekeepers. They are the ambassadors. They are who will decide the future of fly fishing. I am a guide myself… if only because I understand that guiding keeps me “real” and in touch with the target audience, as I endeavor to write stories about fly fishing. Without guide boots in the water, there is no substance. Without substance, there is no true understanding, and thus, no stories.
And yet, as much as I envy guides and try to fit in among the ranks… as much as I think this industry, as a whole, under-appreciates guides, and can/should do so much more to support the grassroots ambassadors, I also think we’ve reached a time of reckoning where we must separate the leaders and best from the dopes who are peeing in the fly fishing industry’s bowl of Cheerios.
I had an experience in Cheesman Canyon (in Colorado) the other day that made me really wonder about the effects (good or bad) guides have on this industry. I wrote about it on “Fly Talk,” at www.field&stream.com. Maybe Field & Stream isn’t the most focused fly demographic in the world… but it does command the largest “outdoors” audience in the world. And that post, and more specifically the comment thread it contains, should be an eye-opener for anyone in the fly business. Read the comments, I’m not the only one upset about poor guide etiquette.
With all the challenges this industry faces, vis a vis stream access, economic pressures, and so forth… in what way does it make sense for guides to adhere to the “production fishing” mantra?
In my last Angling Trade column, I wondered aloud if nymph fishing, with the indicator, and dragging two flies through a run (watching a bobber) was really the end-all, be-all for this sport. Sure, nymphing has a place… but is that it? Is that the best foot forward? What about the traditions… the dry flies… the teaching… the challenges… the inherent beauties of fly fishing that captivated most of us in the first place?
And what about the ethics?
Is “catch at all costs” really what guiding is about now… and really, well, worth the cost to the sport as a whole?
Do we need to self-regulate in ways that are tighter, stronger, and with more impact? “Regulation” is a dirty word, admittedly. But I’m not seeing a common goal… a shared commitment to the guide ethic being nurtured through shops and manufacturers, at least not to the level it could and should be.
Don’t get me wrong… the vast majority of guides… and fly shops… and manufacturers, embrace, embody, and promote exactly what can and should be said and done in the fly fishing world. But there are loose ends that we all, collectively, need to address.
Is fly fishing really getting the most “bang for the buck” from working guides? Conversely, are guides getting the support they deserve from the industry? Collectively, are we making the manufacturer-shop-guide-angler connection as tight and effective is it can and should be?
The answer is no. How we fix the problem to mutual benefit may well be the most important and pressing business challenge the fly fishing industry faces today.
Editor, Angling Trade