I’ve noticed a lot of chatter lately, especially in social media, that I think signals an awakening of conscience within the fly-fishing world. More focus on fishing for more than numbers… how fishing can benefit mental well being… how nice it is to get out and explore again in a post-pandemic world… the value of places, and people, etc. I think all of that is just great. A little more ethos could go a long way these days.
Interestingly, I also hear that many shops and manufacturers are seeing a dip in sales, to put it mildly. Many retailers I’ve talked with lately are down at this time. Most are optimistic about the summer season ahead, especially in places where droughts have been alleviated with good snowpack and rainfall, but they’re down now. And many manufacturers say the same thing. Can’t sell some things they expected to sell. Everyone’s sitting on inventory. Saltwater rods outselling trout rods. It’s a nutty time. So what gives? Are people engaging in the sport differently now, in ways that makes them less inclined to buy “stuff?” Could be.
I fear that the reaction by some will be to push the “dumb it down” button more, so more people catch more fish to get hooked on the experience. I wonder, though, if it’s time to embrace and promote the learning curve rather than looking for shortcuts. I think it’s fine, for example, that some people are saying that they find Euro nymphing boring because they like to cast a damn fly rod. I kind of like it now and then, but I also like to cast, and see both sides. Maybe it’s time to put more casting back into fly fishing, rather than less. I hear that a lot these days.
I think it’s great when a guide calls BS on others who would chum up a roosterfish, hook it from a boat, then head to the beach to take the photo. Maybe it’s time to put more stalking and sight fishing back into fly fishing, not less. At least be authentic.
Maybe instead of looking for more shortcuts we should sell fly fishing for what it’s always been. Tricky. Interesting. Experiential. That’s what the long-term, sustainable consumer wants, and that’s what’s going to pull us through the current doldrums. The long-term, sustainable angler is turned off when this industry promotes instant gratification. Saltwater rods are outselling trout rods for some companies because there are fewer shortcuts in the salt.
Of course, it’s all a balancing act. Everyone likes to be taught how to fish, and nobody want’s to be told how to fish. If you’re guiding the 14-year-old who’d rather be on their cellphone than making casts, probably not the smoothest move to try to squeeze 10 years of entomology and wind casting tiny dry flies into a few hours of frustration.
But “catch more fish” is so antiquated. And “dumb it down” is a false idol.
“Make moments matter” is where it’s at now.