December 5, 2008

Hey fly fishing industry, get a clue!

I've got a stack of fly fishing magazines piled high on my night stand. Typically, I don't have much opportunity to read them during the summer; between work and fishing, there's just no time.  The pile steadily grows larger until I get off the road in late fall, and finally get a chance to sit down and reflect on the season.  Once the snow flies, it's time to kick back, settle in, and catch up on some reading.  Now is that time.

Of the many rags that are out there on the market, Fly Rod & Reel is one that typically rises to the top.  I'll have to admit, it's mostly in part to the hard hitting environmental pieces penned by the great Ted Williams, but it's an otherwise decent magazine.  I was sitting down with the January/February '09 issue reviewing the staff picks for their 2009 Kudo Awards, when it became decisively clear, "the industry" just doesn't have a fucking clue.

Maybe I'm missing something here, are all fly fishers wealthy aristocrats who solely target trout? I would almost be convinced of that argument if it wasn't for the fact that the industry rags sometimes feature salt topics, you know, so they look well rounded and all. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the steelheaders that steal the occasional cover, practically humping that gargantuan Oncorhynchus for the fish porn it truly is. [P.S., you might arouse those fish if you showered once in a while] Regardless, I have to believe from talking to other anglers, in person and online, that the actual numbers of trout and salmon fly fisherman are greatly exaggerated and disproportionately portrayed in these rags. These guys are not your middle-aged Caucasian males, in their 50 somethings, pulling down six figure incomes, chasing tiny 6" brookies in their brand spanking new Orvis gear. Nor the guys chasing rainbows, browns, and cutts out west with their Winstons, scraggly-ass guide beards, and wavy hair flowing out from underneath a visor. Maybe thats the major demographic whom subscribes to these mags, but from my estimation, the average fly fisher encompasses a wider income range, many on the lower end of things, and enjoys fishing for more than just salmonids.

When I thumbed through the 2009 Kudo winners, I noticed a recurring theme, old timey. I know it's the 30th anniversary of these fabled awards, but the rag was to award a special recognition, specific to a "classic" that had withstood the test of time. Funny, though, that the first couple of awards mentioned were not really new at all to the market, but rather re-badged classics that have been around since the dark ages of fly fishing. The HMH Standard vise. Not really a barn burner there; a solid sturdy vise that is a great value and purely functional. My first vise was an HMH, a Silhouette that was modeled after the Standard. A great vise that served its purpose well, but far from being progressive. I guess I don't quite understand what the achievement was for this pick, other than the old adage, "if it ain't broke don't fix it". If you want something progressive for a vise, look at the Barracuda Trekker by Dyna-King. All the features of a true rotary, a couple bells and whistles, and a palatable price tag. There's your "achievement".

The next batter up was the Hardy Perfect. This reel is ancient, fucking cave man style. I guess if you consider the reel has shed some weight over the years, down from a husky 46 ounces, that might be an accomplishment, but anything is lighter than shit carved from stone these days. But wait, it gets better, the warm sense of nostalgia touted by FR&R staffer Darrel Martin over these reels isn't the tradition about Hardy's 'new' reel, but rather the feeling in the left side of your chest when you find out from the store clerk that these reels go for $850 to $950 bones. For a fucking click pawl reel designed to catch stunted brook trout. Give me a break. Why not feature the Lamson Konic, or even one of those bad ass Nautilus reels that could help you land an Arleigh Burke class destroyer on 6X tippet. At least most of us could afford the Konic.

The Innovation and Achievement award went to the Cortland 444 fly line. Might as well still be fishing silk and catgut leaders than casting with that shit. How about props to Scientific Anglers or even Rio. They have brought true innovation to fly line technology, while still maintaining traditional action and tapers on some of their Specialty lines. The last award I'll mention is the Patagonia Pack Vest. I love Patagonia; they make some tight-ass shit that is functional as well as fashionable. And 1% For The Planet, kicks ass. Yvon Chouinard rightly so deserves the 2009 Angler of the year designation. But the whole modern vest deal is so 1995. Why not showcase the Double Haul? It is modular and can be worn alone as a chest pack, a fanny lumbar pack, or both of them together. These packs are functional, and are not as clunky as some vests I have put on. If you have to bring the whole fly shop along with you in your vest in order to catch a fish, well then, I feel sorry for you. It's not about being prepared, but about packing smart. Ditch the vest already, it's 2008. Tread Lightly! is not just a term for low impact back country exploration. Bring only what you need and leave the rest in your vehicle. I typically fish with just a Cliff's Days Worth box in my breast pocket, a pack or two of shot, 4 or 5 tippet spools, and a Leatherman. I have a cell phone along for photos and in case of emergency, two Clif Bars, a liter of water, and a landing net.
Less is More.

Everyone does not want to chase carp or roughfish, and I thank them for it. But the industry, as a whole, needs to embrace the other walks of life out there that fish the long rod. It is possible to have diversity amongst the industry and still be successful. The traditional fishing industry has dealt with this between the bass, walleye, pike/muskie, panfish, and trout and salmon groups, why can't the fly fishing industry? My theory, it is controlled by a bunch of grumpy old men who fear change. The current squabble going on between the print media and blogging underworld is a case in point.

The discussion going on over at Fly Talk on Field & Stream is debating whether fly fishing media is over saturated. There is mention of clutter and the print media as being more newslike. Print media seem to dump on the internet guys and trash them as know nothings who spend more time blogging than fishing. What I perceive is propaganda perpetuated through a dying media outlet. Blogs are interactive. If people don't like what you have to say, they let you know. They have the ability to hide behind anonymity. If you don't speak the truth or post topics of interest, people don't visit; It's that simple. There is a quicker sense of gratification as this medium plays out in real time. There is no three month lead to battle with while trying to maintain current and relevant like the print media deals with. On the other hand, editors have a hand on what gets published and don't have to publicly deal with angry mobs who are displeased with their latest works. It is at their discretion on which Letters to the Editor get printed on the next issue. Propaganda. You might make the argument that a blog is no different, in terms of propaganda, on what and what does not get released. Yes, there is a subjective viewpoint, as is most always the case in the works of a diary or journal. But the big difference is that we, for the most part, are not getting paid, unlike most of the contributors to print media publications. I have no obligation to convey a corporate viewpoint nor hawk a specific piece of gear from a sponsor. I can convey my viewpoints, thoughts, tactics, hopes, distastes. I am the average Joe, hear me speak.

You have the option of closing the tab to this window and not having to read my ramblings ever again. You don't have to listen. You have a choice. I'm not renewing the majority of my magazines when the come due [I subscribe to most all of them]. What are you gonna do?

Welcome to the Brownline Nation. Shut up and fish.


- the roughfisher