Thursday, November 19, 2015

While We're Banning Things. . .

It was with some dismay that I read the latest F&S blog post by Kirk Deeter. It's probably best if you go read it first. He thinks bobbers need to be banned, if not in fly fishing, then on some designated waters.

I experienced my dismay on a couple of levels- first at the idea that for some people an indicator or bobber rig is their go-to setup, but then I'm spoiled by the stellar dry fly fishing that Michigan offers. I don't know anyone there who ties on a bobber first unless it's the dead of winter and they're after steelhead. Having recently moved to Georgia, I'm seeing more nymph rigs and indicators (I prefer the term indicator in fly fishing as they take on all kinds of shapes and forms, many of which don't remotely resemble a "bobber", though some definitely are.) I personally prefer a dry dropper rig.

But really I'm dismayed by Kirk's logic or lack thereof. My reading of this is of a personal gripe that has gotten out of hand- a couple of people were rude to him on a stream, or there's a couple of rude guides he has run into a few times.

I understand. It happens to us all. Bobber fishing isn't everyone's cup of tea. But where does it end? Do we need Tenkara only water? Streamer free stretches of river? Spey designated water? Bamboo only? At what point do we just need to get along?

Every fishing method requires different skills; they also influence and affect fish differently. Fish rising to dry flies always seem to be the spookiest, but you can often nymph after surface feeding fish have been put down and still catch fish. Swimming a streamer through a hole always seems to agitate every fish in it even if they don't strike- good luck getting anything to hit after you've slapped the water with a big articulated streamer a half dozen times. And you might as well just sit down for twenty minutes or more after someone rides their drift boat over your fish.

I can paint any number of scenarios for you, but a lot of it- and a lot of what Kirk is complaining about- boils down to ethics and etiquette. Treat others on the river the way you want to be treated. Give other anglers space. In the case of guides- making a living on public waters doesn't mean your clients take precedence over other legal anglers on the same water. Unfortunately the one thing that seems impossible to legislate is what we need the most out there- good manners.

Everyone one has a gripe, everyone has a pet peeve, and everyone can think of methods in fly fishing they don't like or would like to see restricted. Chuck n Duck, Tenkara, articulated streamers, indicators, Czech nymphing, egg flies. Calling Great Lakes fish "steelhead". I'm sure there's more.

From a practical standpoint, where does it begin, and where does it end? I'm talking about the process of enacting such regulations. I can't speak for other states, but in Michigan it's difficult enough just to get water designated flies only, and often only after long and deeply divisive battles in the greater angling community. Some communities still bear those scars. Go to fisheries managers with a silly sounding request like banning bobbers and they'll laugh you out of their office. But worse, it trivializes the issues and divides an already small demographic that struggles enough to get fly designated water. As much as I love the outdoor community, we can be a contentious bunch. At what point do fisheries managers just throw up their hands in disgust and stop listening altogether? In a world of ever increasing and bewildering regulations, who wants try to parse out the "bobber free" water out of an already daunting regulation booklet?

In Kirk Deeter's world the gripe is bobbers. In Michigan it's probably chuck n duck. I've heard rumblings elsewhere about spey anglers (and vice versa). Almost everyone seems to hate centerpinners. But at a certain point we all need to step back and look at the big picture. Fly fishing has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of dry fly purism. It's going to continue to change. Some methods may indeed fall by the wayside. New methods we haven't thought of may arise.

Fly anglers have much bigger threats to their sport to fight, such as the impacts of global warming on coldwater fisheries, or the growing war on public access. If we start subdividing fly fishing into increasingly smaller turf, all of it could be lost.

Here's another take on this on the S.C.O.F. blog. Check it out.


  1. I absolutely despise bobber fishing, but that post still gets on my nerves. I respect the old guard, but that post was desperately cliché diatribe about how things were SO much better "back in my day". Let people experience the sport on their own, educate them, but downtalking and calling for the ban of the training wheels that bring many people around to our world. After they enter and fall prey to our flavor of kool-aid they usually learn other ways to challenge themselves, and better methods too. Go ahead and run them off though, that's the way to increase participation in the very sport you rely on for income. Smart.

  2. I should probably tell him that, instead of you, huh?

    1. This is a public forum too. And you know how it is- I really appreciate the comment.

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