The AT Survey… How “Dumb” Should We Aspire to Be?


surveySounds silly, but it’s a very serious question. In fact it’s probably at the root of most of the fly industry’s disagreements—from bobber battles, to if/how we grow the sport (particularly among women and Millennials)… product distribution channels, stream access, and more.

On the one hand, some say fly fishing is a beautifully complex sport, and should be appreciated as such. On the other hand there are those who contend that the learning curve is too steep, and that’s a barrier.

So how much should we “dumb it down?”

How “Dumb” Should We Aspire to Be?

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  1. My sense is most hard bitten types take pride in their rigging, leader construction and knots in general. Think hard about matched rods, reels and lines and correlate their flies with fresh and salt prey species. Having said that, many rely on their local fly shop to rig their outfit for them, buy flies recommended by shop staff and employ simplifications like extruded leaders and tippet rings. So really it already is “both ways”. Therefore it comes down to choice in large part based on an individuals commitment and experience level. Everything is available to all but it is up to the industry to provide access to the requisite knowledge new comers to the sport require to avoid their quickly becoming frustrated. Frustrated, yes, because fly fishing is, compared to alternate methodologies, complex.

  2. At the outset, I disagree with the notion that simplifying something is the same as dumbing it down. Knowing what is truly essential and what is truly unnecessary takes a great deal of understanding. Valuing simplicity does not mean one is incapable of learning the latin names of every possible hatch or tying excellent representations of each stage in their development or knowing the intricacies of how to present each one differently. It may mean the angler truly believes all that detail is unnecessary for a pleasant day on the water, and a few fish brought to hand. The very concept that simplifying something is “dumbing it down” is what is dumb.

    The essentials – how to cast a fly, how to read water to know where to cast a fly, and how to choose among a few basic patterns – are not that complex, and should be viewed as Fly Fishing, not Fly Fishing for Dummies. Going very far beyond that should be viewed as Fly Fishing for the Truly Obsessed, and people will get their at their own pace – if they ever become truly obsessed. If they never do, don’t be condescending. They still buy licenses and tippet and either flies or materials. And if a sales person is condescending, the customer will definitely notice it and will either buy elsewhere or not buy at all.

  3. Friends please. This is so silly. It does not matter what we think fly fishing should or should not be. What matters is what the participants make of it. Products that simplify the sport, media that simplifies the sport, brands that appear to simplify the sport… if the marketplace likes it, it will grow. On the other hand, products, media, and brands that complicate the sport… if the marketplace likes it, the more complicated side will grow in popularity.

    It should be obvious by now, that with the internet, there is room for both viewpoints and there is room for brands that promote both sides to flourish. The entire industry does not need one unified voice on something like this.

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