30 Year Moments

30 Year Moments

Looking at bits and pieces from three decades.

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
Front Cover 9803-4.jpg


Bring it On

Editor’s past and present concur that Fly Rod & Reel’s most controversial cover was a seemingly harmless image of an angler and his dog gearing up for an evening hatch on Montana’s Gallatin River. That Denver Bryan image, from the March/April 1998 issue, stirred the blood of dog haters at home and abroad. “Dogs,” they insisted, “have no place on the water.” Others presented a defense to the attack on well-behaved canines and spouted, “If you’re not fishing with a dog at your heels, maybe you’re not really fishing.” As the letter onslaught mounted, it became clear that FR&R’s most controversial cover arrived when we ran that placid shot of a common angler and a well-behaved and beautiful golden retriever named, appropriately, Trouble.

This Ain’t Fly
Fly Rod & Reel used to be called Rod & Reel, which left it open to solicitation from conventional angling writers including those who pursued some odd gamefish in peculiar, if not primitive, ways. In our November/December 1979 issue, Joel M. Vance authored an article called “The Gentle Giant” and then proceeded to describe the vicious tactics employed to catch paddlefish, which reach weights of 142 pounds. Vance wrote, “It takes a stout angler to paddlefish, even if he doesn’t hook one. There’s no delicacy to it, no need to tie, for example, clever imitations of daphnia on size-75 hooks. Instead, paddlefishermen rig a stout 8/0 to 10/0 treble hook or two on 100-pound test line with an eight-ounce weight at the end, and using casting tackle that Hemingway might have rigged for marlin off the Cuban coast, they cast and retrieve with lusty sweeps of the rod, hoping to snag one of those big fish as it migrates upstream to spawn.”
Fly Rod & Reel definitely isn’t against chasing exotic, oversized species around the globe, and we’re as quick as anyone to tie a size-2 conehead streamer and five BB shot to our tippet when a hatch isn’t in force, but rest assured, it will be a cold day in hell before the treble hook makes our pages again.

Premature Perhaps?
Maybe we were a little premature when we reported Rio Products as having found the answer to delinquent tippet and tippet spools. In his review in the January/February 1994 issue, Darrel Martin wrote, “The war is over…Rio Recreational Products has developed the Tippetmaster, a tippet restraint system that allows us to extract or re-spool tippet lengths from interlocking spools… Elastic straps cover the tippet coils, to protect them from ultraviolet light. The tippet emerges through a small, brass-grommeted hole in the strap, which has the tippet designation printed on it…If Izacc Walton had thought of the Tippetmaster, he would have saved angling generations from the frustration and trauma of twisted and combative coils of monofilament. Now the war has ended, Who knows what will result from this peacetime dividend.” And yet we tangle….

A Yellowstone Resurgence
It’s difficult to imagine now, but the fisheries of Yellowstone National Park, considered fly-fishing mecca by many American anglers, was on the verge of waste as early as the 1920s and 1930s. In our November/December1979 issue, Paul Schullery wrote a terrific review of the Yellowstone National Park fisheries titled, “A Reasonable Illusion.” That article accurately describes the brink western trout fisheries stood on and how a consumptive mentality was mended toward a future catch-and-release ethic.
Schullery writes, “(Yellowstone) suffered for many years under the commonly held notion that all wildlife herds naturally produce a surplus of animals, and that humankind has an almost moral obligation to harvest that surplus. In Yellowstone this meant… providing sport fishing on a maximum sustained yield basis. Beginning in the 1960s, Yellowstone’s fishing regulations were overhauled so that the resource was given priority, not the angler. The spectacular success, in terms of the improvement of fishing, gave added impetus to a variety of fish-for-fun and catch-and-release fishing areas elsewhere… Harvest, especially in rivers, has become a minor concern of the sportfisherman in Yellowstone. Even in waters where a limited kill is permitted, the no-kill philosophy is promoted.
“And so today Yellowstone has excellent sportfishing, in spite of 2,500,000 visitors every summer,” Shullery continued. “But even more important… fish populations that were for many years depleted have been restored to a level more closely resembling their primitive state and the fish are functioning more naturally as part of the park’s nutrient chains. Sportsmen proudly point to Yellowstone as an example of a nonconsumptive use of a fish resource where fish and fishermen survive in harmony. Yellowstone is widely used as a ‘good example’ of what progressive fishery management can accomplish.” We’d like to think that Schullery’s fine article and thoughtfulness carries on today in Fly Rod & Reel’s pages; we feel a strong obligation to represent fish and fishermen in the perpetuation and enhancement of fisheries located around the globe and aim for that message coming through on our pages.

From Niche Passion to Industry Overnight
Few would argue that fly-fishing was nothing more than an eclectic mix of closet entomologists and absentee husbands before 1994. Then, almost overnight, fly-fishing product sales and industry-wide profits shot off the charts. Why the change from mom-and-pop fly shops to full-scale industry? Simply put, The Movie.
Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It, his vision of Norman Maclean’s wonderful novella of the same name, brought fly-fishing into the mainstream as never before. Corporate offices and the general public took note and all of a sudden—and it was that sudden—fly-fishing was the rage. That was evidenced in our January/February 1994 issue when we reported “Fly Fishing Hip-Deep in Profits.” In that Short Casts article, we referenced an article in The New York Times that noted, “record sales for equipment manufacturers, retailers and organizers of fly fishing schools and trips.” It stated that Sage had enjoyed a “double shift” while Orvis’ and L.L. Bean’s fly-fishing mail-order businesses enjoyed 40-percent increases.
In a July 1993 newsletter, Orvis reported a 35 percent increase in its fly-fishing schools and company president, Perk Perkins, told dealers, “the movie is definitely having its effect. The sudden spike in May and June business was something that even our wildest optimists had not forecast.” The downfall to the movie? Dealers were low on product and had to tell customers that the product would be available… in a month or two. Oh, to have such problems these days.

Getting Fleeced
Also in our January/February 1994 issue, fleece made its first appearance in our pages. Tim Leary wrote, “Synthetic fleece hasn’t achieved its present popularity with outdoor enthusiasts—particularly anglers—on the basis of its fashion appeal. As anyone who plays hard in the outdoors knows, a garment must perform to be deemed exceptional. And synthetic fleece does just that, offering maximum thermal protection with minimum weight and bulk, in a variety of thicknesses, densities and designs.” As an indication of how far fleece had to go in the marketplace, in 1994 only L.L. Bean, Orvis and Stream Line (Stream Line?) offered fleece shirts. Simms and Orvis didn’t even offer fleece vests. L.L. Bean and Patagonia clearly saw the potential of fleece and offered fleece vests, pullovers, cardigans, pants, bib overalls, gloves, hats, neck gaiters and jackets. These days, it’s safe to say that we, as anglers, have all been fleeced.

Cover Concepts
We’ve heard much through the years from readers—some solicited advice, some not—about what makes a winning cover for a fly-fishing magazine. For the most part, you like to see fish, the bigger or more colorful the better. The proof for publishers is what we call “sell-through” on the newsstand. Alas, covers with women anglers haven’t sold well, but then again neither have those with scruffy anglers of the “dude” variety. The classic “grip and grin” of an angler holding a fish has sold okay; close-ups of fish have done the best. However, on the June 2006 issue we tried something completely different…The Snake. Well, we shoulda known—no one likes snakes.….Maybe in the next 30 years we’ll go for a scorpion, or a black widow. We hear Turk’s Tarantula really is a spider imitation. Hmm, the wheels are turning….

For more coverage on the past 30 years of Fly Rod & Reel go to flyrodreel.com.