How Fly Fishing Changed in my Lifetime: Part Three
Alright, I’ve decided to take this discussion one more post down the road. Here goes.
Part Three: Our fascination with “matching-the-hatch” had a profound effect on our sport, but overall the saltwater revolution had an even larger impact. Why? It freed us from our narrow dependence on trout in streams, a dependence that had gone on for hundreds of years and had essentially defined our sport. Amazingly that chain has been broken. Nowadays any fish that would take a fly is fair game. Milkfish in the Seychelles any one? And that desire for diversity bled over into freshwater as well. Today’s freshwater fly anglers hunts more species then ever before, including carp, a species that was scorned not so long ago.
Saltwater fly-fishing had a significant influence on tackle too. For one thing it fostered our present love affair with high modulus, stiff, fast action rods. (Fenwick’s 1974 HMG was the first graphite rod). And because saltwater fish were a plane ride away for most anglers, it assisted in the birth of the travel rod as well. Look around you. The marketplace is flooded with 4-piece rods when 25 years ago they were a specialty object.
Perhaps salt water’s single biggest influence on gear is in fly reel design. When I started in fly-fishing there were only a handful reel manufacturers. And they pretty much all made simple die-cast, spool-in-frame reels. Many had click/pawl type drags (Hardy, Orvis, Young) and a few offered rim control. That was pretty much it. Right now that’s all ancient history. Open any fly tackle catalogue today you will discover that the number of reel manufacturers has exploded. Die-cast construction has been replaced with reels carved from a single block of aerospace grade aluminum. Click/pawl drags have been swapped out for powerful sealed disc drags. Rim control is wide-spread. And large arbor fly reels are the rage. So complete is this tackle transformation that even freshwater anglers feel compelled to use these high-tech fly reels on trout – where they serve no real purpose.
Okay, I’m ready to wind down this discussion of change, but before I do allow me to point out something presently afoot. The changes of the 70’s & 80’s were brought about internally. They arrived from inside our sport. Today, however, fly-fishing faces a major change that has been caused externally. I’m referring to the internet. Yes, the internet has a very positive side in our lives, especially in the sharing of information. (This is post is an example.) Yet it is also causing upheaval. Most notably, the neighborhood brick-and-mortar fly shop is on the road to extinction. Sad that. Frankly I hate to see them go. Don’t you? And the internet is also at least partly to blame for the waning of fly-fishing print magazines. No question there are fading too. (online fly magazines aren’t the same.) By 2012 both saltwater fly-fishing magazines had disappeared. And last spring Fly Rod & Reel bit the dust. Where this will all take us is impossible to fully know, but the internet is a juggernaut to be reckoned with, as is the smart phone.