"Grave" Changes in Fly Fishing Life

“For two or more decades, fly fishing has increasingly been marked by complexity, hyperbole, expense, intrusion of celebrities, stressful travel, greedy striving for ever-more and bigger trout, and anxiety.” In the Boulder Daily Camera, Gordon Wickstrom take up the pencil to underline Ed Engle’s call for the return to a less complex perspective on fly fishing.

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  • Cracker

    It is the curse of prophets to have their teachings misinterpreted by lesser men.
    So Gordon Wickstrom misleads and misinterprets the words of Ed Engle.
    Engle is tall, angular with the ascetic air of a prophet, he has the weatherbeaten, pinched visage of one after a long day on a winter tailwater.
    Wickstrom writings are foppish, more style than substance _ Good Lord the man wears a bow tie and sweater _ the manner of one who spends more time wishing he was fishing than on the act itself.
    There is nothing more dangerous than a man with a keyboard and a little knowledge.
    Midcurrent’s original review of Engle’s article raised my eyebrows highlighting, as it did, the same paragraph seized by Wickstrom. I had very nearly written at the time that I feared armchair fly fishers would misinterpret Engle’s paragraph as doctrine.
    For the real threat to fly fishing is then utterings of false prophets whose relentless pursuit of elistism to bolster their own shallow egos. These types gravitated to fly fishing, not for the pleasures of the act itself rather than title fly fisher would automatically lift their lives above the sweaty masses.
    These types then hit the concrete dam face of reality that fly fishing at heart is just a fun way to catch fish, but involves standing in achingly cold water, dedication, patience and worse includes fish slime.
    Their illusions that taking up fly fishing would i mmediately confer respect in the community and sainthood among one’s peers, shattered their bitterness is evident in every key stroke.
    The real elitism in fly fishing of course isn’t price of the gear, complexity of the issues, but rather the “that isn’t fly fishing” bleatings of those trying to define fly fishing so narrowly as to exclude all others.
    Engle of course has actually caught the fish of which he writes, many times. His writings are tempered with the air of experience. Engle isn’t offering a miracle panacea or a doctrine for all, rather suggests this approach isn’t for everyone _ “If you’re intrigued by that sort of challenge” that requires “dogged simplification” rather than blind idolatory.
    “I would probably be more successful if I fished a tiny dry fly and trailed the midge pupa imitation behind it because I could use the dry fly as a strike indicator,” Engle writes
    “But I’ve caught enough midging trout using two-fly techniques and it was a good day for me when I finally figured out that what I like most is catching a trout in the most direct way possible.”
    Engle has fished enough to refine his methods not limited to what works but simply what he enjoys most. He invites you to share in a pleasure of his own rather than setting a doctrine. A man whose ideas are worth thinking about, and testing against your own experiences on the water.
    Wickstrom’ on the other hand points at ills of modern fishing like hyperbole, expense, stressful travel, greedy striving for ever-more and bigger trout, and anxiety.
    Ah the good old days, as viewed through the rose colored tints of a recent convert to fly fishing, when no one would write fly fishing celebrities fishers, Paul MacLean’s interview of Calvin Coolidge being fiction after all, and Hemingway only wrote about small fish.
    But I fear any irony in a writer who can manage in the one article to both deplore hyperbole and take a simple pleasure like a way of catching a few trout
    and turn it into a means of resolving a national crisis, would be lost.
    Instead I can only suggest that Wickstrom step away from the computer, open his wallet, buy a tanks of gas and a couple of flies and drive to river and catch some fish.