An Editorial Commentary on Fly Fishing

Mountain Stream, Tenkara Tradition

Humans have many requirements that are necessary to have a happy, successful life. Yes we need food, water, and clean air to survive. We also need positive emotional support to give us a positive outlook on life. And then there are the things that let us get away from the daily stresses of life like work and bills. You will find individuals who use meditation or yoga to relax while others will use active sports such as running or cycling to download and leave their stresses behind.

For me, fly fishing, and in particular, tenkara has become an active form of meditation that allows me to put aside life for a brief time. From conversations I have had with other tenkara anglers I have heard much the same sentiment. Yet, I have been aware of a deeply disturbing trend within the fly fishing community which makes me sometimes wish I could forget what I have seen or heard.

When I started fly fishing, one of the most gratifying prats of the whole day, other than the tug of a brown, was the camaraderie, even amongst strangers. It was a common sight to see two or more fly fishermen or fisherwomen sitting on the banks of a river chatting. They may have been eating lunch or passing the communal flask around. These groups would share tips or tricks with each other simply out of friendliness with no expectations of any payback.

This scenario is becoming more and more rare as time passes on this mortal coil known as life. Being a father of a wonderful son and expecting my daughter in December of 2015 I have been trying to figure out what is happening. Also, being a fly fishing guide and outdoor writer has forced me to keep my eyes on the fly fishing industry and social media for quite some time.

A short time before I came up with the idea for this post, an event occurred which put a spotlight on what had changed almost overnight in the world of fly fishing. Well, in twenty-twenty hindsight it was a number of events that all occurred over social media over the period of a year. The light bulb went on after the last exchange between a group of fly fishermen that escalated into a veritable death match of words.

The exchanges that went on for over a week were saddening and sickening to see. It became abundantly clear that RESPECT for others had become a thing of the past. Every person in this world wants to be respected for who they are and not for what others want them to be or think they should be.

One incident involved a young woman who posted that her boyfriend had purchased, in her words, "a fly pole" so that she could learn to fly fish as a way to spend time together doing something they both found fun. She also asked for any advice on how best to enjoy fly fishing. The excitement put into her post was infectious, making me want to get out on the water.

As soon as her post went up, she was greeted enthusiastically by a large number of fly fishermen and fisherwomen. Admittedly, it was mostly fishermen as there is still a small but growing number of females who are enjoying fly fishing as a sport. She was given lots of advice, which when boiled down, came out as just have fun and don't stress over the small stuff. She was also told to not rush anything as she would learn what she needed when the time was right.

She responded by thanking everyone for welcoming her and for their advice they willingly shared with her. She again reiterated how excited she was to be going out the next day to use her "fly pole".

That, apparently, was the trigger to bring those with no respect for others to come pouring out of the woodwork. The first ten to fifteen comments after her gracious thanks were snarky or downright condescending comments to her by chastising her for using the term "fly pole" rather than the "correct" term "fly rod!" One commentator even told her if she didn't know the correct terminology that she just not start fly fishing in the first place.

I was infuriated by this lack of respect, as were a number of other followers of this young woman's post. The ire raised by such a negative comment was met with such force that the had attacked her quickly vanished. Everyone came to her defense, including her boyfriend, which did show that there was a large contingent of anglers who wanted to see her have fun fly fishing.

Unfortunately, I never found out what happened, whether she actually went out or if she was permanently scarred against fly fishing. Sadly, I am pretty sure she never went out due to the lack of respect for this young woman by a few people.

One other scenario happened, again in a social media fly fishing group, which raised the hackles on the back of my neck and ultimately made me take a break from social media as fun.

This scenario involved a young man holding his first trout caught on a fly rod, the fish held chest high above the water in the classic "grip-and-grin" position with arms extended out to the camera. The image was posted by the young man's guide, who gave the client's name as well as the dimensions of a truly magnificent fish. The guide congratulated his client on a job well done as well as a number of anglers who saw the post.

The fish, like I said was magnificent, virtually dwarfing the young man. Because of the size of the fish the young man had a recognizable death grip on his catch, one hand trying to wrap around the tail and one hand squeezing just below the gill plate. Unfortunately, from the looks of the picture, it did not appear that the fish was going to have an extended life back in the water even if it was a catch-and-release situation.

It did not take long for the young man to be attacked by a number of individuals about his handling of the fish. Luckily, there were those who defended the young man, including the guide who posted the image. The guide made a statement that he should have shown his client the proper way to hold a fish of this magnitude. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment this quality lesson was pushed to the sidelines.

Even with the statement from the guide, the negative comments continued pouring in until the guide made the decision to pull the post. I spoke with the guide a few weeks later and asked him what prompted him to pull the post. He told me, with a quiver in his voice, that the longer the post remained up the more derogatory the names for his client got.

He commented on how horrible he felt for exposing his client to this kind of disrespect online and was told that the young man no longer wished to fish by the young man's father. The guide was told it was not his fault but the fault of the disrespectful comments made towards the young man who simply had not learned the correct way to hold a fish.

In conclusion, respect others and if you find something wrong or disagreeable with either a statement or an image, do some research about the situation before making a comment. If there is a correction to be made, find a way to suggest a change without being derogatory towards someone.

Remember, to be respected one must show respect for others!!!

Labels: , ,