Lucky Once, Maybe More?
Lucky Once, Maybe More?

I have earlier written about the arrogant stuffiness of the flyfishing elite. They are aloof and full of themselves. The vital opposite, I have written about, is the ‘hybrid’ flyfisher that Derek Bird mentions below. They are young and full of positive energy. Spoiled some would say or devoid of a fishing soul others would argue. In between, we have the obligated flyfisher, who as Mr. Laughlin so perfectly put it does not want to be forgotten about, but has committed to life’s duties. And then buzzing about are the Trout bums, the carefree types, one step away from life’s commitments. Does there have to be a set way to be, if we do not act arrogant or envious? Throw out the arrogant. Why? Am I envious? No, not of them. I am a bit envious of the trout bum kid. I envy his freedom and the seeming excitement. But, he is one step away from arrogance if not careful and I have long ago committed to the harness. I don’t worry about being forgotten unless my freedom or liberty is affected to fish. I am not one to demand quality access to fishing utopias. If I cannot access waters that cost $1000+ a day to fish and stay at, so be it. But, you envious ones should know that the arrogant ones are often invited to those waters to fish for advertising/promotional purposes. They don’t fork out $14K to travel with Nomads of the Seas. They are the lucky ones that are invited.

I think Mr. Bird’s concern of whether the hybrid flyfisher is so caught up in process that they forsake history, heritage and those that traveled before is valid. Is it a flyfishing malady or a greater indication of self indulgence because we are in a system that provides for excesses?  ‘I don’t need no stinking heritage, I’m creating it.’ These are interesting dynamics. I don’t have an answer, save giving a beat down to the pompous, bloated, arrogant ones. Beyond that, as I said before, let’s see where the bums go, where the ‘hybrids’ take us. Enjoy it from afar if you are a ‘flatlander’ and yes never forget the full spectrum of flyfishers that seek that special something. It is indeed beyond the mechanics and casual, too cool image some obsess over. We each find ‘The Moment’ or ‘it’ in our own way, but for different amounts of time and intensity. Read The Drake, FLYFUSION and other notable blogs and don’t worry too much. There are some pretty smart flyfishers out there, definitely with a soul.

Derek Bird has one telling phrase I like (among others): “…he consistently proves himself a free-thinking fly angler and seems to be less affected by the currents of the mainstream angling thought that others seem to depend on for cognitive direction.”  We could all stand to do that more. Less trying to live up to status or group think or keeping up with the trout bums. It is all too stressful and only taints why we fish as individuals. Individuals. I bring all this up to just ponder the ‘problem’ if there is one.

The Streamlines by Derek Bird  FLYFUSION   Summer 2008 Edition

A Balanced Approach

“Many thoughts flooded through my mind upon first reading Jim McLennan’s newest book, Water Marks: Thirty Years of Fly Fishing Insight. For me, McLennan’s book is refreshing because he consistently proves himself a free-thinking fly angler and seems to be less affected by the currents of the mainstream angling thought that others seem to depend on for cognitive direction. His insight requires the attention of all of us but especially the next generation fly angler. For I believe that parts of his angling philosophies directly contrast with the direction that fly-fishing culture is currently heading. The younger guys who have taken up and are taking over fly fishing have changed the sport and will continue to change the sport, that is for certain. But the more magazines I pick up and the more calendars I see, I feel myself becoming increasingly worried with the inevitable change in direction.”

“I don’t really know what to call the new hybrid fly angler, and I don’t know if there has been a term applied to this ambitious lot. They seem to be a perfect mixture between genius and dropout. The stereotypical modern fly fisher reminds me a little of the kid who has all the potential to do well in school but is not motivated by achieving the grade. Their passion is driven by a specific aspect of the sport: the knowledge of science and mechanics. The new angler seems to believe they can know everything that has anything to do with making a trout rise and understand all the mysteries behind a piece of water. New technology and an intimate knowledge of casting bring them to the place where they can cast farther and quicker—they are a machine of sorts.”

“The hybrid fly angler is becoming a leader and we must give him credit for his scientific knowledge of rod materials and his unsurpassed understanding of entomology. But there is something missing, for when one focuses too much on a single aspect of an issue there are other components that naturally get neglected.”

“McLennan directly tells his audience that we must realize that being a fly angler is about being part of something larger than ourselves. Those who are all about technology need to connect themselves with the rich history of fly fishing. McLennan states, “Fly fishing used to be a funky blend of tradition and technology, but lately the tradition side had taken a beating. We’re losing our sense of heritage and without it the soul of our sport will wither and croak.”

The Drake, 2008, Volume 10, Issue 1


‘I love your magazine and look forward to each issue. My only caveat would be that you seem to cater to a young crowd. While I am past middle age, I still have a great passion for flyfishing. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring those of us who may not have the wherewithal to travel the world and fish in exotic places. We have as much, or more to offer this sport than the 20- to 30- somethings, with time to travel the world and do the “look-at-me-I’m-more-cool-than-you” flyfishing trips. Contrary to what many may think, most flyfishing folk are not guide/ski bum/fishing bums who live in mountain towns. We work every day at jobs that might allow us to go one one good fishing trip a year and, maybe, that once-in-a-lifetime-journey. Just don’t forget about us. Rick Laughlin, The flatlands of Kansas’


‘You guys are on it! I spent several years as a flyfishing guide; poor, drunk, fishing my brains out, sleeping in the dirt and living the dream. You guys have truly captured the essence of the trout bum. Thanks for giving us something worth reading. Robert Bell, Denver, Colorado’

I think what might be interesting is for someone like Brian O’Keefe to write a definitive piece or book about his observations of this personal evolution: ski and trout bum to traveling among the elite to amazing destinations. What has he observed along the way? What is the dynamic of all these characters? A no hold barred look at ego’s, arrogance, hardwork, difficulties and the realities across the board. Not a justification of one life style but an objective look at how carefree trout bums, guides, innovators become the establishment, the elite. How does this mix play out behind the scenes once access and status are attached? I think O’Keefe (I have only met him in passing and have zero idea as to his personality…he seemed pretty humble) would be a great candidate for this because he has been to many exotic places, was a ski/trout bum of sorts, tackle rep, has viewed the behind the scenes part, dealt with all manner of elites, is married and has had to balance work and life, has used his talents in photography and self promotion to establish great name recognition within the industry…and could, perhaps, set us at ease as to the realities and potential good that can come from this mix of elements.

Headin' Back Out