Saturday, February 4, 2012

Grasping Straws... The New Hero

Sitting at home on a Saturday, not fishing, tracking through the prolific cyber-fly world of blogs, forums, and pod cast, I'm tempted to be an anthropologist of fly casters.  The culture of fly fishing has changed tremendously in the last 15 years, and the resulting ripple effects of the "new grass" strain of fly fishers in intriguing.

Fly fishers fall into one of two mindsets.  1): Those that have life, and fishing supplements their quality of life; and 2): Those that seek life through the fly, and lust for ultimate experiential enlightement.  In my 25 plus years of fly fishing, group 2 has swollen in size under the rain of digital technology.

Let's call group 2, the "Tilley Haters." Pushing the boundaries of conventional fly fishing, this fish lusting punk culture of fly fishers hates khaki, Orvis, hero shots, and tilley hats (really, I've never seen a revolt inciting abundance of Tilley hats on the stream, and I'm sure those big brims work better in the rain than the mesh back ball caps so many of us don, but whatev).  The answer to the smiling hero shot of that trophy torpedo is a the "new hero" shot; displaying that same fish, while the angler's face hidden (with a non-tilley hat of course), blocking a presumably non-smiling mug.  Intense. Serious. Worship like.  Some of this sect are guides, some are trout bums, some are shop owners, some are college kids, some are husbands and fathers.  Most live to fish. Most seem generally pissed. No trophy will ever satisfy. These guys (gals aren't really welcomed in their crass, porn filled, cyber locker rooms) are doing some of the best cutting edge fly design, photography, and fishing. We all benefit from their drive. They are driven by a need to be fulfilled by the ultimate fishing lifestyle, but are too often left thirsting for the next dose of finned heroin to feel momentarily satisfied, grasping at straws. These folks can be skeptical, and weary of outsiders as they protect their secrets. Bitter and booze medicated.  Classic Dicken's, the best of times and the worst of times.

The Hero
The new hero

 Group A seems more diverse. We will call this bunch the Juvies.  These seem to find a kid like wonder to chasing fish, being outside, and making flies in place of tree houses and derby racers of youth.  Fishing is a enhancement to life rather than the way of life.  This group contains weekend warriors, trout bums, people who hate Tilley hats, and people who love their brimmed Filson's. Juvies won't freak if their face is in a photo, but they probably appreciate the fish shot more that the mug shot. Guides, shop owners, business men, college kids, family men, and loners can be Juvies.  Though some may hang their head after a busted fishing trip, few will have an unsuccessful fly venture impact their work, family, friends, and happiness.  Fishing is for kicks, after all (yes, i'm obviously bias).  The truly passionate in this group are about redemption.  Stream redemption, damn destruction, taking a kid fishing, or just passing on knowledge and legend to the current generation.
We need innovators who aren't haters.  Don't be a horny head.

Even since I wrote this article in 2011, there has been a subtle swing.  Orvis has rebranded themselves to engage with the young, hipster fly fisher, and other cultural shifts seem to be happening in this currently diverse sub-culture. (Amended 5/6/14)

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