IF THERE IS A TECHNIQUE that might serve as a metaphor for what has happened to our sport in the past twenty years, it is what I’ll call the “Slip and Load:” release a little line into a fully loaded rod and see if you can get an extra five feet without really trying.
Coming to our senses after Robert Redford decided to serve up fly fishing as a channel for divine intervention in the early 1990s has not been easy. In truth, the market had gone begging for new gear, new venues, and new techniques for a long while. What it seems to have gotten, in exchange for a rush of new candidates for the Life-Changing Experience, was subscription marketing, bright colors, and the re-authoring of patterns discovered in granddad’s fly wallet.
Fortunately the great appeal of fly fishing still remains: it takes us outside of our element and, for some, outside of our zone of comfort. In our opinion, more new products that simply make us more competitive in our own ballpark — the kinds of things we brag about at the office — aren’t the answer. They certainly aren’t the answer to the problem of fewer young participants in our sport. Our guidelines for evaluating 2008 products were easily followed: we asked ourselves, “Will this product make us want to fly fish more?” and “Will it encourage us to try something new?”
For that reason we begin with a couple of offbeat favorites this year, ideas and services that don’t fit easily into a standard category. The first is Yellowdog Flyfishing Adventures, a fly fishing travel service based in Bozeman, Montana. If anyone tells you the travel business is easy, or a fast way to get rich, walk away. Booking and managing traveling fly fishers is one of the hardest things to get right, especially if you aren’t satisfied with just collecting commissions. Yellowdog came on the scene a couple of years ago and began doing things a little differently. They are staffed mostly by full-time guides, and they believed from the get-go that being small doesn’t mean you deliver less service. Take a look at their pre-trip confirmation packets, which are better than the chapters of many books on destination fishing, and you get the idea.
Second, we met up with artist Derek Deyoung at the Fly Fishing Retailer show. You may remember that we featured Deyoung’s work on MidCurrent‘s homepage last winter. He was a very busy man for all three days of the show. We think it’s because his work has little chance of being sucked into what Ted Leeson recently called “the great beige pudding” of pop culture. Our message here is simple: buy his stuff.
“Four Feet of Anything” comes from the idea that leader formulas are meaningless if your fly is not in the water. The paraphernalia comes second, after a desire to enrich ourselves in the natural wonder concentrated in midges dodging snowflakes on a high mountain lake, snook exploding in mangrove backwaters, or the silent frenzy of a caddis blizzard.
Get the gear that helps you go. Forget everything else.