Some things never change
It has been 37 years since I first started to use a fly rod, that was at age 12 in 1976. Prior to that I use either a spinning or spincasting rod with a clear bubble and fly to catch trout. Most of the early years of my fly fishing were spent on small streams with a Diawa – Dianna fiber glass rod 8’ 6wt with a Pflueger 1494 1/2 reel on it. I fished mostly wets and streamers with the occasional dry fly for the elusive top feeders. Well 37 years later I have a closet full of equipment, including a couple of outfits worth more than my first car, a used Volkswagen rabbit. My fly choices have become more sophisticated and I do tend to catch far more fish but I can tell you I enjoyed it just as much then as I do now. Lately I have been noticing how much things have changed in fly fishing but how much they stay the same. A couple of things that have spurred this on were a couple of fishing buddies passing along reading material to me . One in the form of 12 PDF digital books that date as far back as 1854 and the other some old Fly Fisherman Magazines from 1977-79. These old magazines really drove the point home as to how commercialized the sport of fly fishing had become. This is not nearly a bad thing, as I believe that we have far better equipment –rod, reels, lines along with a better understanding of trout and their food. Also far more species are being caught with fly rods in both salt and fresh water. One of the funniest things that has not changed, E.M Tod writes about it in his book wet fly fishing published in Scotland in 1884, is the debate over dry fly fishing as being more sporting / more “fly fishing” than fishing with a sunk fly. That same sentiment is echoed in another old book I recently read by Charles Z Southard published in 1914 the debate by this time had made it to the shores of the United States. Both men adopted pretty much the same attitude towards fly fishing as I have, remain flexible and let the Trout tell you what fly to fish don't try to " force feed them a pattern you want to fish". One last piece about this Mr. Tod writes something very funny in one chapter about using both a dry fly and wet fly at the same time, with the wet being a dropper off of the dry fly. I thought that was something new guess not. He follows that up in the same chapter and I will paraphrase” tis better to go the river with both wet and dry flies then decide to which to fish than to preclude one for not being actual “ fly fishing” . A man of the latter thought mine as well fish after being poked in the eye with a sharp stick”as he will be just as effective. That made laugh out loud when I read it.
It amazes me all of the equipment changes that have taken place in a just 37 years seeing that bamboo and green heart were used pretty much exclusively for well over a hundred years each then to see one material come into favor fall out and then begin a revival in just those 37 years is amazing. Fiberglass rods ruled the day from the mid 60's until about 1980-81 when companies started to build much better graphite models. Now they have started to make a comeback with many custom and a bunch of production models on the market today. One surprising thing I read about is that the whole Boron/graphite mix is not new .A couple of rod copanies were doing that in 1979 but it was not very successful so they abandoned the idea until a few years ago when Winston and Orvis brought out models with mixes. Speaking of Orvis & Winston they are a couple of the big names along with Scientific Anglers, Hardy, Thomas & Thomas and Cortland that have lasted. With new comers Powell and Scott Power ply just coming on the scene. Most of the ads in those pages were for companies that are either gone or no longer make fly fishing equipment,.Berkley not only had several fly lines but a line of fly rod and reels under the specialist label. Lew Childre one of the big bass rod companies had a line of “ speed stick” fly rods. H.L. Leonard was still producing Bamboo rods out of their Central Valley, NY location and had just become a member of the S.E. Johnson (wax) company. Having worked in fly and tackle shops for almost 20 years on an off it is kind of sweet to see some shops that have survived far longer than most. Dan Baileys, Bud Lilly’s, Kaufmann’s fly shops out west. Housatonic Meadows and Sportsmen’s Den here at home. There were more fly shops listed for Connecticut and New York than for either Montana or Colorado in an add for Cortland fly lines.
Catch and release was a hot topic ,with some modern devotees who were outspoken against it, "as wasting a precious resource by tossing half dead trout back into the river". Water clean ups were just getting started, dam removal was an unheard of thing and conservationists were just then pushing for fish ladders on dams. I guess fly fishing has gotten much better due in large part the early conservationist movement started in the 70’s has lead to most of our trout water being much cleaner. Unlike today where talk of less stocking with better management of habitat for wild fish they spoke of increased stocking to further opportunities for all anglers. One kind of disturbing thing that I picked up was a bit of high minded elitism that many of the writers of the day had. One article I read made a point of that if you were fishing either up or down stream if a spin fisherman is encountered they should always yield to you as you were the more sporting gentlemen. I guess some things take longer to change than others as this attitude persists to a small point today. I feel, to each his own! Another thing that reading this older material has done is renew my love affair with wet fly fishing. After reading a couple of old books on it and reading an article by Lee Wulf about it back in April I spent a day swinging a Quill Gordon wet and just banging the crap out of the trout over a three day stretch. So I guess the more fly fishing changes it comes back around again.