In mid-March, when the International Fly Pattern Authority (IFPA) issued its first official “Guide to Pattern-Naming Standards,” its rulebook for fly-name acceptability in wholesale and retail channels, few people in the fly fishing business expected any merchants to submit new fly names for review.
A surprise announcement today from the IFPA, however, reveals that two of the biggest fly-pattern retailers, FliegeFeder and Sivreaux Outfitters, submitted a complete list of new patterns for their fall 2017 catalogs, and that seven of those flies will be banned voluntarily following IFPA assessment. Peckatoe River Products, the third biggest fly-pattern retailer, refused to submit to review.
“We see this as a step in the right direction in the fight against obscenity and profanity in fly-tying,” IFPA president and founder Todd McRath said, in an interview exclusive to MidCurrent.com. “We’re protecting the gentlemanly art of fly tying from relentless, targeted obscenity.”
The seven new flies named in the IFPA’s voluntary ban are: the Ass-Gasket Emerger, the Dry Humpy, the BarackO’Rocket (steelhead fly), the Gonaddler Minnow, Jock Scott’s Jock (salmon fly), the Naked Lunch (a bonefish pattern), and Don’s Dingus Popper.
Six of these flies violate the IFPA’s rule against “names that use obscene or profane language or concepts,” while the Barack O’Rocket, according to McRath, breaks the rule against “names reflecting socialist or socialism-promoting agendas.” The IFPA Guide’s two additional rules demand that “flies not be named after living persons other than the inventor” (a nod to religious beliefs that only [a] god can make and name living things) and that “fly names promote proper notions of masculinity, femininity, and hygiene.”
Who Shall Judge the Name of a Fly?
Industry reaction to the list of banned flies was immediate.
“Professional tiers can name flies however they want. We don’t need any third-party governance. This IFPA is just some kind of reactionary-PC thing,” said professional tier Alleck Rüidt, who is based in northern Virginia and sells to suppliers of the top retailers.
The Professional Fly Fishing Unified Merchants’ Association (PFFUMA) issued a statement on March 30, ahead of the IFPA’s announcement, saying, in part, “The PFFUMA continues to have confidence in our members’ ability to assess fly-pattern names for the benefit of customers and the outdoors community.”
Peckatoe River Products’ refusal to submit any 2017 flies for IFPA review follows the attitude of its Chief Fly-Tyer In Residence, S.B. Katé, who told MidCurrent: “How the hell are we going to get those Millennials who should be fly fishing and don’t know it to tear their eyeballs away from their video screens for the tenth of a second it takes a human to recognize a fly—six times slower than a carp needs to judge a fly—if we keep giving them flies with names their X-Box-addled brains can’t remember? Resist the IFPA!”
Twelve national fly-fishing businesses and associations beg to differ with Katé. These groups—including the Paddlefish Dappling Society, Cold-Comfort Wader Makers, and The Estate of the Grey Flannel Anglers (all members deceased)—put forth a joint statement in support of the IFPA Guidelines, saying, “A trout would never say something that would offend a lady. So shant we.”
A Sense of Style, or Censorship?
Todd McRath’s decision to found, fund, and forward the IFPA began two years ago when he heard his grandson attempting to pronounce the name of a fly the child saw on the cover of the 2015 Peckatoe River Products spring catalog.
The cover of that catalog, as many will recall, highlighted the Oregon Vegan Guides’ Association “Fly of the Year”: McQueen’s Cone-head Shmecky.
“I thought my grandson was repeating something he had heard on the television, or on the playground, something smutty sounding,” McRath said. “But then I saw the catalogue. I just couldn’t believe it.”
McRath called in and e-mailed complaints to Peckatoe, garnering just one e-mailed reply: “To discontinue receiving our catalog, please click the link below.”
“That’s not what I was asking them,” McRath said. “I was asking them to be truly mindful, to be the change in the world that I wanted to see.”
As the tulip trees bloomed that spring in McRath’s hometown of Pensatucky, Vermont, he chartered the IFPA in his tying shed, offered membership to all twenty men in his fly fishing club (four of them ponied up the $2,000 to join), and applied for 501(c)(3) status, which the IRS granted in 2016. The five-man IFPA then set about reviewing the offerings of every fly-pattern retailer, in print and on-line, their reaction to fly names like “Meatstick” and “Purple Nurple” leading to the creation of the first official Guidelines.
“There’s a true style that fly-tying follows, not just in selection of materials and design, but in language and intellect,” McRath said. “Look back at all those grand names of the past: Royal Coachman. Scarlet Ibis. Mooselucmaguntic. If we lose that style, we’ll lose all sense of the craft.”
Rüidt countered: “Telling people what language not to use when they have the right to use whatever language they want is attempted censorship. The only things that get to censor me are the fish.”
The IFPA next demands review of all 2018 tying-year flies, but which retailers and tiers will submit patterns for review is not know at press time.