Headwaters of History: Thinking about Sport and Conservation

November 10, 2009 By: Marshall Cutchin

Fly fishers are known for their reveries: imagining themselves following streams to their sources, pondering magical origins to favorite waters, or thinking of themselves as participating in age-old rituals. But amidst the shifting culture of what we call fly fishing in 2009, we typically forget to look back over our shoulders and remember how we got here. Looking “upstream” at history, we can better understand the evolution of techniques, technology, and other tributaries of our sport. This is especially true in fisheries conservation, where a historical perspective tells us where we’ve gone wrong, where we’ve succeeded, and perhaps where we should go in the future.
On November 21, several of fly fishing’s noted figures — James Prosek, Hoagy Carmichael, and author John Ross, along with two new historians of the sport, Sam Snyder and Bryon Borgelt — will wade into the headwaters to explore fly fishing’s contribution to coldwater conservation. A one-day symposium entitled, “A River Never Sleeps: Conservation, History, and the Fly Fishing River” on November 21, 2009 at the National Sporting Library in Middleburg, Virginia, will investigate lessons from our sources and insights on the future of fly fishing and fisheries, from native species to restored rivers. If it’s any indication of the level of interest, the symposium is almost sold out.