As a continuation of the previous post, Should You be Asking for Fishing Spots?, I wanted to write an article directed to those who are more experienced anglers and get asked for fishing spots all the time. If you are new to fishing, or new to an area trying to find places to fish, go back and read that article before you read this.
Fly fishing, well almost every type of fishing (including bow"fishing") is growing in popularity. Maybe due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, maybe for health reasons, or maybe people are just wanting to escape from the growing amount of technology and urbanization in their lives. The outdoors can be an amazingly soul reviving experience, full of thin places, and everyone has the right to experience this. Frankly, I am glad that this growth is taking place.
However, this growth is frustrating for both the experienced angler and the newbie. To the angler that has spent years learning the waters and the fish, the newbies "demanding questions" can be off-putting. As though they are looking for instant gratification in a sport you took a lifetime to master, they want to know the exact spot you caught that fish so that they can go and easily repeat your success. And, although many of those new to the sport actually are seeking that "do it for the Gram" moment, they don't understand how much effort is really required to find that shot. This is where a little education from the experienced angler should come it. This is where you can help them to also find their own thin places.
To many inexperienced anglers, starting up in fishing (especially fly fishing) can be difficult. Having no background in fishing, they have no idea where to even begin. So often, they head directly to the easiest place to get information from others, Facebook. A group, like Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing is a huge (and growing) trove of knowledge that many new anglers desire to tap into. So they ask questions.
I know it can become frustrating, and even annoying, to repeatedly see the same questions, and having your answers met with anger because you are not telling them exactly what they want to hear. But lets have a little patience. Lets try to show a little compassion and realize that we really do want to convert these newbies into the world of fly fishing (and not drive them away.) Why do we want to convert them to fly fishing? More on that further down...
I started Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing to make fly fishing in Texas more accessible. To many, myself included, fly fishing seemed like an elitist, rich-man's world. A world that I was far from being a part of. Yet, something about the sport really sucked me in. But, because I was afraid to approach anyone in person to ask for help, I just struck out on my own and figured it out by myself. Today, with the anonymity of online groups and forums, it is much easier to approach people and ask questions...so they do...in droves, without any background knowledge of why their question might be met with some trepidation and resistance.
There are more and more people fishing, so the waters we fish are often becoming crowded. Some of these new people want peace and solitude and the excitement of doing it all themselves, but there are those that genuinely don't care about any of that. But lets step back from our frustration with the growth for a minute, how many fly fishermen do you know that have genuinely no regard for the environment? Now, compare that to the other types of fishing you know, tournament bass anglers, bowfishermen, etc. Overall, who would you say has a greater reverence for the environment, water, and the fish they target? This is exactly why we need to convert them to fly fishing. For the long term good of our waters.
Anyway, back to how we should approach answering the questions about fishing spots.
We don't want to drive people away. We don't want fly fishing to continue to be perceived as a group of elitist that are unaccepting of anyone new to their community. So we should be kind and helpful to those approaching you with questions. And, most of us are actually pretty good at that.
But, I am also firmly of the opinion that you do NOT have to give directions to every fishing hole you have been to, or where you have had success. You should protect some waters that you love. However, you should point the newbies in the right direction, and help guide them to a lifetime of fulfilling fly fishing experiences.
Here is what we, as experienced anglers, can do to help newbies find fishing spots (without burning up your favorite places):
1) Remember that they are new. Being new means that their casting might not be great (heck mine still sucks) and areas that are open and have wide bank access are great for learning. Direct them to local parks, community ponds, or open banks on lakes, where they can practice their casting, maybe catch a few sunfish, and if they get lucky, catch a bass or two.
Let them know that these public parks might have other anglers, but they are great places to learn the basics that they will need when ready to really venture into unknown waters. They will be able to practice their casting skills, can take their kids with them, and that these areas are typically easy to access. Many times, this is all that these newbies are really looking for.
2) Kindly let them know WHY you are not giving away your specific spot. Much of the anger in response to your "vagueness" is due to a lack of experience. Newbies are unaware how bad it can get when a great spot gets burned up, and how quickly trash accumulates. Remember, they are new, they have not experienced what you have.
Beyond that, and you might not believe it, but many people think that fish are an almost unlimited resource on every body of water. They think that every body of water is stocked by someone and/or can quickly replenish. They believe that taking a few fish won't have any real impact (and in some places, it might not.) Show kindess, but explain that it never ends up being only them taking fish. Often they take a couple fish, then the next guy takes a couple and shares the info online, then more people come and all of a sudden there are not any more quality fish left. Explain how small, remote waters, may be great fishing right now, but it they are not protected, they wont be great fishing for very long.
3) Point them to the resources they need. I know that some are not looking for "resources," but instead are looking for a quick fix. But by pointing them to resources to help them find their "own spots," a couple things can happen. One, they might actually use these resources, and their catch will be much more rewarding since they "did it on their own." Or, two, other newbies that are following the post will see these resources and use them properly.
These resources can be anything from the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, other fly-fishing websites, books already written about the subject, local fly fishing clubs, or local fly shops that have maps available. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and his wife won't see him again, am I right?
Yes, some people may get angry that you are not telling them where you fished, but kindly explain that the joy in fishing is the reward you find after a long period of work. Delayed gratification. If they still get mad, you probably were not converting them to fly fishing anyway.
4) Send them a private message. If they are genuinely interested, and you are willing to help them out a little more, possibly giving them info you might not want to post publicly can be an extremely kind thing to do.
Send them a private message to find finding out what their intentions are and what information they need. Let them know that you can share a spot or two, but that they should do everything they can to protect it. Catch and release if it is a small body of water, treat the fish with respect, take home all their trash and other's trash too, and don't go telling everyone else about this place or posting it on the internet. Kindly let them know that you will still be fishing that spot, and if they take care of it, you might be up to sharing more information.
Kindness like this, while letting them know how important it is to protect the environment, can be the quickest way to lead them to taking care of our waters.
5) Offer to take them fishing. You don't necessarily need to take them to your best spots at first, in fact, I might even take them to a spot that has been trashed and burned. Show them why it is important to protect the waters and care for the fish. Show them why they shouldn't let anyone and everyone know about each spot. If they prove themselves, you can start sharing more and more info, but always encouraging them to learn on their own.
It's not always easy to take someone new out. Especially someone you have never really met. But have them meet you at a public park one day, teach them a few things, let them see you taking care of the water and fish. While you are there you can talk to them about how to find spots on their own.
Ultimately, if you are frustrated with the growth in fishing, I understand. Some of the spots you have fished for peace and quite in the past have become popular, crowded, and sometimes burned up. I get it. I have seen this too. But, you are not going to stop the flow of people new to fishing, nor do I think we should.
The best way to protect our waters against this influx is to convert them to fly fishing. Don't drive them away, toward bowfishing or something like that. Help guide them, mentor them, help them to become closer to nature, and their understanding for the need to protect it.
Do you have other ways to respond? Better ideas to guide newbies to fly fishing? If so, drop me your thoughts in the comments.