Fly Fishing Gatekeepers; Why Do FlyFisherman Belittle on the River?
Updated: Apr 9
In the last few weeks I have stumbled across posts on a variety of social media platforms and fly fishing blogs where it seems there is a lot of very particular people about fly fishing. I've seen them referred to as "purists" or fishers that just don't care for new methods or equipment. I've also heard them referred to as snobs who are aggressive towards beginner anglers, techniques, and those who advocate for the sport in any way but "dry flies" only.
The fact that there are mean people on the internet or social media apps doesn't surprise me. What is surprising is how many people feel that they can't even ask questions of more
experience fishers without getting taunted or belittled. Fly fishing is an activity that isn't necessarily intuitive and involves a lot of trial and error before you get the mechanics of it. Casting is awkward, the reels are different, and the patterns and styles of flies are innumerable. Furthermore, the terminology itself is like a foreign language to some people.
Fly fishing in the Shenandoah Valley alone offers a multitude of species that require different rods and flies. Floating lines, sink tips, double tapered versus weight forward, tenkara, all things that are important to know for just around here. Then apply that to fishing all throughout Virginia, freshwater, saltwater, different knots, even more different lines with shooting heads, no bite leaders and wire guards. It can be a lot for a seasoned guide such as myself, much less a beginner.
You can only learn by finding out the answers and trying things. You can only teach if you can explain terms and techniques in a variety of ways. I would be equally frustrated if when trying to found out more about something, I was made to feel dumb. When I guide I make it a specific point at the beginning to say "ask as many questions as possible, it's how you'll learn. If my explanation doesn't make sense, say so, and I can explain it another way." I want my clients and anyone that fishes to understand that you'll never know everything about fly fishing, that is what makes it so personal.
I ask everyone that before they respond to someone's question remember what it was like when you were still learning. None of use started out casting well. We all lost fish and even more flies. And most of us were lucky enough to have others answer our questions when we had them. And if you ask a question and people aren't willing to help you they are snobs. Get away from them as fast as possible. We should all be bringing people in, not keeping them out. The fishing community needs to grow this sport to all ages, and spread the positivity that comes along with spending some time on the water.