The growth at Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing has been phenomenal to say the least, particularly the growth over the last couple years. I have seen the growth in traffic to the website as well as in the membership and visitors of our Facebook group.
As you can imagine, with this growth comes changes, some good, some not-so-good. New people bring new ideas, new challenges, and more "debate." Debate is healthy, that is how we grow. We hear new ideas and thoughts that challenge us, and in order to have a conversation we must listen with open minds. It forces us to really understand what our own point is and the facts that support it, and be open to changing our minds to reflect this new thought if it is better supported. Heck, as I have mentioned before, my mind has changed over time about many things (cough, cough, the common carp.) We must also be conscious of how our words are perceived by and can effect others, intentional or not.
Unfortunately, as many of you have seen, the growth of our Facebook group has lead to some extremely "lively" debate recently. For the most part, this has been really good, positive, healthy discussion. But, there have been posts and comments made (and brought to my attention) that I have had to take down. I am sure that there have also been some comments made that I have missed (and I am sorry about that.) Derogatory comments and conversation do nothing but divide.
There have been times when I probably let things go that I shouldn't have. There were offensive posts, comments, and more, that likely remained up in the group too long (possibly even today), so I am willing to take the blame on a lot of this negativity. Some of my articles probably have even unintentionally contributed to this negativity.
The word Texas comes from the word Tejas, which comes from the Caddo word that means friend or ally. Are we living up to that standard in Texas?
The sport of fly fishing is incredibly diverse, yet at the same time, not nearly diverse enough, especially in our ways of thinking. Seeing posts on many other fly fishing groups and websites (and some on our own), I am reminded of how our ways of thinking have not changed at all over the years. We (and I speak of we as the collective, not as individuals) remain bigoted and misogynistic.
You personally might not be, but be honest, do you see posts that can be considered derogatory towards or offensive to women in some of the groups you are in? Have you done anything about those, or just let them carry on? Did you participate in the banter? Did you know that 31% of people that fly fish are female?
What percentage of fly anglers do you know, are friends with on Facebook, or do you see posting in Facebook groups, that are people of color? According to the 2018 Special Report on Fishing, from Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation, the fly fishing community’s racial breakdown is as follow: 72.7% White, 11.2% Hispanic, 9.2% Black, 4.5% Asian, and 2.5% other.
Fly fishing must evolve. That is how we grow. Its not that we are inherently bad, its that all too often we are just accustomed to the "locker-room" style banter that has gone along with so many "guys trips" from the past. So when fishing is being discussed, it has a tendency to just come out, often building upon itself, with each one trying to outdo the other. It often is still that "old white guy" sport. That does not make it right.
Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing should be better than that. We should welcome, encourage, and promote the diversity within the sport, making it a safe and comfortable place for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, nationality, financial status, or any other term we want to add in. Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing will be better than that.
It is my call to you to treat the group (and the fly fishing community as a whole) as a place to grow the sport and to continue to learn. You can always read more about Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing and why I started it, but it is important to look back at the Mission of TFFF to help right the ship from time to time:
Mission of Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing:
- Promote Fly Fishing in Texas
- Protect, Conserve, and Restore, the waters of Texas
- Educate Texans (and non-Texans) about the fish and waters of Texas
So that is what I will continue to do. The group, and the conversations here, will be a safe place for all people. If a comment seems to be "out-of-line" with that mission, or inappropriate for a school classroom, it will be removed. No immediate action taken against the poster, but if it is a repetitive offense, they will be removed from TFFF.
Not to brag, but I have made a total of negative money running TFFF, not even calculating the time I have spent on it. I do it because the waters of Texas are something special to me and something that needs to be protected. Fly fishing is the best way I know to share that love with others. So growing the sport of fly fishing in Texas makes more work for me, but definitely helps me share my love with others, who will in turn do the same somewhere down the road.
Growth can be hard. Hard for me to run Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing and hard for us out on the water. Growth means more people, more people can mean more pressure. But ultimately, growth will be good for the sport (more on this to come in future articles), so do your best to embrace it and mold the growth in a way that will protect what you love, through love.
Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing will support the diversity and growth in the fly fishing community.
Peace Out-side, y'all.