How Fly-Fishing Changed in my Lifetime: Part two

How Fly-Fishing Changed in my Lifetime: Part Two

Part Tw0: In the previous post I examined how the 70’s & 80’s” brought two significant changes to our sport. The first was a new and very deep fascination with aquatic macro invertebrates. Everything revolved around “matching the hatch”. Yes, we were bug happy to the nth degree. In this post we’ll look at the second major shift – a migration to the sea.

Fly-fishing had long been identified with trout fishing, and more specifically with trout in streams. Yes, salmon were always a small part of the equation, but the quest for trout pretty much defined fly-fishing to its core. That was our bread and butter, our raison d’etre if you like. But by late 1970’s that relationship was thrown into question as anglers eyed the possibilities to be found at sea.

Saltwater fly fishing has fairly long roots, going back at least 100 years. Yet it had remained for all practical purposes invisible, except in the Florida Keys. By the late 1940’s, however,  fly-fishing for bonefish and tarpon crept onto the radar screen – in large measure because of  writer Joe Brooks.  Then in 1950 Joe published his groundbreaking book on the brine Salt Water Fly Fishing. It bombed. Folks just weren’t ready for what Joe had called “willow wanding the salt”. In fact it would take another quarter century until the 1974 appearance of Lefty Kreh’s book Fly Fishing in Saltwater, before the fuse was lit.

When you think of it, its easy to see why fly angler didn’t rush off to investigate the tide. The idea of leaving the sanctuary of a small stream for the world’s oceans was a daunting one. The sea is a far more elemental world, more wind, more waves, and enormous expanses of water to cover. And you couldn’t use your dry flies, your wet flies, your nymphs, or your favorite 4wt. And there were no hatches either. Why the hell do it?

The anglers that made the journey, however, soon brought back tales of adventure, fighting huge powerful fish. They weren’t raving about a 15″ brown trout; they were battling a 15lb blue.  Once the word got out the rush was on. By mid 1990’s two magazines totally devoted to salt water fly fishing were on the newsstand – Saltwater Fly Fishing and Fly Fishing in Salt Waters. Both have since closed up shop, but there is no reversing fly-fishing’s love of the sea. Now the world is the fly fisherman’s oyster, and there is no limit to the variety of fish to be caught in the blue.

Okay, anything next? Well I’m debating on whether to cover the changes our tackle has undergone in my lifetime. Perhaps that will be the next post.

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