Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Something worth fighting about

One on a fly, one on a lure. Does it matter how you catch it?

By Chris Hunt

Maybe it’s a sign of the times. Or perhaps it’s a permanent change to our national psyche brought about the relative anonymity that comes with free-wheeling access to social media coupled with a polarized political landscape.

But folks sure are getting worked up a lot easier these days. And in my insular little world of fly fishing, there is no shortage of vitriol.

It’s enough to make a guy just throw up his hands and … go fishing.

After all, it’s all fishing, right? I was reminded of this just recently when I received a review copy of the new Orvis book, “From Lure to Fly,” a tutorial by Dave Karczynski meant to help conventional gear anglers make the leap to fly fishing. It’s a great little book, and I wish I’d had it on hand 30 years ago when I buckled down and waded into the world of tippets, leaders, weights, double-tapers and size 22 midges without knowing the first thing about any of them. Being a self-taught fly fisher is akin to teaching yourself a foreign language by watching television. Do as you see. Remember. Regurgitate. Repeat.

Just a couple weeks ago, I did a blog post about learning from the gear guys—something most fly fishers who started with conventional fishing can understand. I mentioned tying flies for traditional gear-fishing quarry, like bass and panfish, and tying those flies to mimic the lures that the gear folks use.

Man, did I catch some grief. How dare I, one Facebook reader asked, demean the art of fly fishing by suggesting we tie some flies that look like a good, old tried-and-true Mepps spinner? He then informed me that he was unfollowing TU’s facebook page.

Sheesh. Sensitive much?

Believe me, I can be as “pure” as some of the purists out there. I’ve been known to utter something akin to, “Fly fishing is how I fish. Anything else is cheating.” Of course I don’t really mean that, but I have my moments.

I used to fall back on the belief that fly fishing is a more active form of angling, but, truth be told, all fishing is as active as you make it. This past summer, I took a quick trip to northwest Ontario with some fishing buddies, one of whom mixes conventional fishing in with his fly fishing. He was just as active as I was, and he enjoyed as much success as I did chasing pike and walleye in the chilly depths of a North Woods lake.

Playing the part subscribed to me, I dutifully turned up my nose when the spinning rod came out and used my “that’s cheating” declaration whenever he landed a fish. It was gamesmanship, frankly. In my heart of hearts, I didn’t really care.

In fact, I’d rather see people fishing with spinning tackle than not fishing at all. And I’ll stick to my guns—many of the flies I tied for that Canadian adventure looked a lot like the Dardevle spoons my spin-fishing buddy was using (with some artistic license, of course). If that turns your stomach, perhaps your next purchase ought to be something made from tweed. And to hell with the occasional cigar—grab the pipe and start using words like “summer” and “winter” as verbs.

But, some advice? Don’t get all worked up about it. We’re not talking about serious politics when we talk about fly fishing. We’re not talking about workplace harassment, net neutrality or political candidates with the moral fiber of a banana slug. Keep your powder dry for the real fights that all anglers ought to be engaged in, regardless of how they fish. You know, like the ongoing public lands battles or the shameful effort to remove protections from rivers and streams under the Clean Water Act.

If my fly that looks a lot like a Beetle Spin lure gets your goat, you might want to wander on down to the cardiologist and have your blood pressure checked. Channel your desire to be contrary and snarky on social media to those elected officials who allow real travesties to happen to the accessible habitat that provides your fishing opportunities. Don’t beat down your angling kin. Enlist them, regardless of how they hook a fish.

We have a lot of things to fight for, and a lot of things to fight about. How you fish or what you fish with? That’s not one of them.

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

By Chris Hunt.