Texas is where I live and fish, so Texas is my example in this letter. However, the same things could probably be said around the world.
Dear Fly Fishing Community,
Fly fishing is not just a "good-ole-boy" sport anymore. Fly fishing in Texas is growing. The population of Texas is changing and growing. The popularity of fly fishing is growing. There is no doubt about any of that. However, it seems like I have to write something like this every year (Righting the Ship.)
Unfortunately, many still want fly-fishing to remain allotted to a select few that have always been on those waters. Usually under the guise of "not burning spots," they berate those new to the sport and they belittle others that are asking for advice, and knowingly or not, they are ostracizing many non-traditional fly anglers. Unintentionally or intentionally, they are trying to keep fly fishing for the elite...for the good-ole-boys. The face of fly fishing is changing.
With this growth, undoubtedly there will be problems. The crowds will grow on the waters, especially in areas with easy access. The parking will get more limited. There will unfortunately be more trash. And, there will be some "run-ins" with people that take advantage of our resources. Spot-burn is a thing, but who or what really is the cause of the problem? There is no doubt about any of that, and that can most definitely be infuriating for those who are accustomed to solitude on those stretches of water. Nobody enjoys solitude when fishing as much as me.
But, the problem is NOT that more people are fly fishing in Texas. Nor is the problem the sharing of a river's name. And the problem is most certainty NOT people promoting fly fishing here in Texas. It might FEEL like those are the problems, but they are not. And that is not what you should be fighting against when trying to protect the waters you love.
Over the last 10 years, Texas has seen its population grow by 4 million people. Most of those have moved to the larger population centers in Texas (where many of you reading this live and fish.) On top of that, fly fishing is seeing a growth of over 3 percent annually (according to the Wall Street Journal) and the number of fly anglers has probably increased by more than that since the beginning of the covid pandemic. With that growth of fly anglers in Texas (both new to Texas and new to fly fishing) there will be more people fishing the accessible stretches of water in our state. There will also be more "conventional" anglers and those that bow-hunt fish.
But what is the actual problem? Is it the person that shares the name of a river or a picture of a fish they proudly caught? Or is it the person that is taking advantage of our native resources by keeping fish from small stretches of river that might not bounce back as quickly as a lake that get stocked? Maybe it is the state that allows for "bowfishing" of native species? Maybe it is the fact that there really are just not that many places to safely and easily access the public waters of Texas.
Maybe you shouldn't be be fighting against the fly anglers that want the same peace and solitude on the water as you, or the people that want to bring this enjoyment to others. Maybe you should be using your energy and key-board-warrior skills to draw attention to the waste of fish and petition the state to outlaw bowfishing of native species, to reduce the number of native fish you can keep from smaller bodies of water (rivers, streams, etc.), and to provide more access points, trash cans, and parking for the waters that we all want to fish. Maybe we should fight to get more fishing access to and stocking of local ponds (including retention ponds), to provide more places for people to fish. Maybe we should be fighting the lack of regulations that protect fish and our waters from chemical spills (Samsung Spill; Brushy Creek Fish Kill.)
It is not the fly anglers wanting to fish that are the problem. It is not the person that says they caught a fish on the Blanco River, or the Lower Colorado, or the Pedernales River that is the problem.
Maybe we should look introspectively. Maybe we should see that our word choices when arguing can impact the way we come across to others. We do not, and will not, always agree, but we can debate in civil ways. Maybe we should look at who we are arguing with and really decide if they are the problem. Are we doing anything to better to sport, or are we just bitching at the people that want to fish like we do?
What can we do to make fly fishing better for everyone? Do you take a bag to pick up trash when you fish? Are you reaching out to your lawmakers to find ways to provide more access to fishing or to change to laws to better protect the fish and waters you love? Are you looking for new places/waters to fish? Are you using your social media prowess to organize river clean-ups? Are we properly mentoring those new to the sport about the best practices to care for the fish and our waters? Or, are we just bitching because things are not the same as they have always been?
Like it or not, fly fishing is growing in Texas. And like I have always said, 90% of the time it is not the fly anglers that I have a problem with. We should be encouraging others to get into fly fishing, as it provides a closer experience with nature. Having more people to fight for protection and access is a good thing for everyone in the long run. What are we doing to make it better for everyone?
I am open to hearing how I am wrong, and I encourage you to let me know your thoughts. But please keep an open mind to hearing everyone's thoughts on this matter, as it impacts ALL OF US.
Peace Out-side, y'all.