Monday, February 14, 2011


Let's kick this discussion off right, set the stage a little.  Please play the video, just for a little mood music.  As long as we're talking hardcore, we may as well have some.

As an angler, I am distinctly not hardcore.  I hear this phrase tossed around a lot- what it means to various parties, to be "hardcore".  It always gets thrown around like some kind of compliment. I don't buy it.

Among steelheaders, the hierarchy seems particularly distinct- the hardcore guys and everyone else, with some of that ground being divvied up between spey casters and the winter steelheaders- whose cross weighs the most.

What does it mean to be hardcore?  Does fishing all night for a week make me hardcore, or fishing for steelhead all day when it's 20 degrees outside?  Do long road trips in a work van, fishing by myself, sleeping on the floor, eating God knows what, hiking for miles to get into some remote access?  Does the fact that I'm a night fisherman, or the fact that I've fished a couple hundred miles of my locals streams on foot make me hardcore?  I don't think so.  It may make me determined, I may be stubborn, I may not be afraid of the dark- I'm not hardcore.  That all just sounds like a vacation to me.

my fly line, somewhere in the Cascades

Sometimes I hear or read the exploits of so-called hardcore fisherman and I get the idea that if I don't have crampons and a sat phone in my pack I'm not hardcore.  That I would have to parachute in behind the front lines in Afghanistan to fish the Hurgistan Reticulated Trout in order to be hardcore.  I think I could scale Everest, build a shelter out of my waders for the little Nepalese children, catch Reticulated Trout to feed them with fly line I wove myself out of yak hair, and still not be hardcore, not in the eyes of some. Those guys in that Metalhead movie seemed pretty hardcore- it certainly had the soundtrack,  but I've only seen the trailer, and for all I know they went and set up a back country nail salon- they can do a lot with editing.  Does having the full line of Blair Wiggins action figures make me hardcore, or does it just make me a grown man who still plays with dolls?

Hardcore definitely is in the eyes of the beholder- one man's hardcore can be ho-hum to the next.  When is it just stupidity, desperation, or lack of experience, at what point is it just unnecessary flogging? I guess being hardcore- fishing any weather and conditions, or going to audacious extremes to find fish or new water, has some merit, perhaps some appeal, but part of me can't help thinking "What's the point?"  To stretch the analogy to its extremes, in mountain climbing circles, the difference between someone being daring and audacious, or simply stupid, can be whether they survived or not.  Is this necessary or even desirable in fishing?

I guess my view of what hardcore is, is colored by where I live- Trout Country.  I live within an hour of over 100 miles of trout stream.  That being the case, I go whenever I feel like it- the nearest water is less than four miles away.  I'm not planning for weeks, blocking out the time, then traveling for hours, having to make do with whatever weather and conditions occur- I live here, and if the weather is bad, I can do something else.  I'll go tomorrow.  The same with winter steelheading- I'll fish all winter long, but when it's 5 degrees outside I just don't feel like fighting the ice in my guides.  I have flies to tie.  I have fished all kinds of conditions here, for days at a time, but typically I go home and sleep in my own bed when it's over.

you bet that's snow in the background and one awfully small fish

When I think of hardcore fishermen, I think of Larry Dahlberg.  Sure, he's got the TV show and the endorsements, but when I see him, he's not being ferried around by some high priced guide, he's out fishing the worlds nether parts in order to film a five minute show segment for ESPN.  Was it really worth going to Papua New Guinea to catch some esoteric bass so they can distill that trip down to five minutes?  My conclusion is that he really does love it that much, and merely found a way to subsidize it.  If you think otherwise, go book that flight and tell us all about it when you get back, including the part about the shots they made you get in order to get back into the country.

No, I'm not hardcore.  I fished 100 days last year, fished winter steelhead, fished a gorgeous March week, fished the peak of the run in April on a remote stream, fished nights, fished the snow, rain, fished any time I wasn't working or otherwise engaged.  I fished eggs, soft hackles, streamers, dries, Hexes, mice, leeches, skunks. I fished 15 different streams in the state. I fished alot.  Then I went home and went to bed.

If you have a thought on this, please leave it in the comments- I'd be curious to see who or what you think is hardcore.

I think I'll go play with my dolls now.



  1. I think in the eyes of some you may be considered "hardcore" just for going winter steelheading. I think "hardcore" is all relative.
    I doubt much of the fishing I do would be considered hardcore, but I've fly fished for Largemouths from a 10 foot kayak among 12 foot alligators in the Pearl River in MS. Does that make me hardcore? I don't really think so, but I'm not afraid of alligators. I'm also not afraid of snakes (I used to be a reptile zoo keeper), but I've met other fly fishers who won't fish certian rivers because of the healthy snake populations. I think those people who aren't comfortable among certain elements of nature (i.e. the dark, the cold, or wild animal fishing companions) would consider a lot of things hardcore. It's all relative.

  2. nice read! Keep up the great work! I used to be HardCore- then I got married had a wonderful child and don't fish 6 days a week during the run like I formerly did. I used to fish a lot more, then I got hooked into TU and became President and fish even less, but have been engrossed in restoring coldwater resources that we all hold dear for our next generation and those that follow our footsteps. Take care of the trout and the fishing will take care of itself. Tight Lines....

  3. Both of you make excellent points- it's all relative, and as time goes on your life and values change making some of those endeavors seem pointless of foolish. FR

  4. Being an old coot gives me some perspective I think. And I guess that's what separates the "hardcore" from the dolly boys. You are maybe a little hardcore tempered by what seems like common sense. Ah ha! Common sense as in I don't want to risk hypothermia, ah ha, I'm not in the same shape I was in when I was 21, ah ha, gators. No thanks, I'll stay home and play with my dolls

  5. Hmmm...I didn't comment on this last time. Maybe afraid to!!! Lol. I am called "hardcore" by a lot of my fly fishing friends. And just "fish crazy" by my non-fishing friends. But, in my mind... I am just a gal that loves the outdoors. Period.