Fly Fishing Jazz: “Out of the Mainstream”

Fish QuixoteThe other day someone in a “FlyTalk” comment thread said that I regularly “bastardized” fly fishing.  I guess I do write about heresies like, oh, Tenkara fishing and casting flies at carp.  I’m also the rotten SOB who called strike indicators “training wheels,” said (appreciatively) that Czech nymphing was a drop-shot rig for moving water, and suggested that there are more important things for a trout angler to worry about than how to make an 80-foot overhead cast.  I fish Muddler Minnows dry, Adams flies wet, I probably fish streamers more than I should, and do a lot of other “wrong” things.  But I’ve never been accused of “bastardizing” fly fishing.

Absorbing shots from people hidden by screen names is an occupational hazard for any writer these days.  But to tell you the truth, I feel kinda blue about this one.  It makes me sad when people think innovation and experimentation amount to an assault on fly fishing culture.

After all, the stereotype of fly fishing is that it’s a static, stoic sport bound by rigid methodology, and the typical fly angler is a priggish prude.  Yet the most exciting experiences—and the most interesting people—I have found in fly fishing have proven to be exactly the opposite.  It also seems to me that the more we demonstrate the latter over the former, the brighter the future is for fly fishing.

Indeed there are important traditions that should be understood, respected and preserved.  I don’t think I’ve ever said a pure casting stroke was a bad thing.  Nothing wrong with cane rods and Pale Morning Dun dry flies fished upstream either.

But traditions—in art, in jazz music, and indeed in fly fishing—can also be used as the stepping off points for improvisation.  They should be. After all, minus a new twist, it just becomes “production.”  And nothing, in my mind, could be further from the core reasons why many of us choose to fly fish in the first place.

The guy who complains that experimenting with new techniques and tactics is bastardizing the sport, is like the frustrated junior high school band conductor, yelling for everyone to get on the same sheet of music.

Let me tell you something.  It isn’t going to happen.

And thank goodness for that.