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Short Casts

Why Fly Fishing? A new DVD asks, and answers, this very question. By Jim Butler It all started at the Yale Peabody Museum, reall

  • By: James Butler
Why Fly Fish

Why Fly Fishing?

A new DVD asks, and answers, this very question.
By Jim Butler

It all started at the Yale Peabody Museum, really. The Peabody was making plans to display a traveling exhibit from the American Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF), called Seeing Wonders: The Nature of Fly Fishing.' According to Jeff Pill, director of the new DVD Why Fly Fishing, the Peabody curator thought all the flies, tackle, art, and the like were just lovely, but couldnt help but ask, Why fly-fishing?' AMFF trustee Gardner Grant heard the query, and thought it was a good question. He determined that his museum should be involved with making a film that would answer it. Someone referred him to Jeff.

Jeff describes a whirlwind filming schedule'”the plan being to film notable fly-fishers answering the Why' question'”with fish and daylight sometimes not cooperating, but sponsors stepping up the plate to make sure Gardners and Jeffs vision was realized (Orvis, for example, flew the young Revel brothers, on-camera talent for the program, from California to the Catskills, so they could be interviewed there). After five months of intense shooting and editing (in New Yorks Catskills, and in Florida and Colorado), Jeff had a finished program that clocked in at 31 minutes. The film debuted at the Peabody.

That exhibit has closed, but the films available on DVD; sales benefit AMFF. The accolades are rolling in, with reviews invariably positive. As Jeff told me, Gardner Grant said, Maybe its better than we thought.'

I plead guilty to a certain amount of jadedness when I first viewed this DVD. You can only hear so many descriptions of why fly-fishing is the perfect pastime before you cant take it anymore, right? But I came around because, eventually, the warmth of the various Old Sages and members of the New Generation describing their personal reasons for finding the sport so compelling just washed over me, and I began to think of my own reasons. (Ill just say mine are an amalgam of just about everything in this film, plus more, and that they change from day to day.)

My tipping point was this: In the film, Nick Lyons spends some time discussing the vast literature of the sport, describing writers'”anglers'”connection to the fish theyre after, and so their connection to the fishs environment. In Nicks words, the exquisite knowledge of the quarry and the world in which that quarry lives.' To me, that connection to the fishs environment (whether its feeding behavior, insect life, weather, what have you) is a connection to the real world, while a great deal of our everyday lives is often so much window dressing. Which makes fly-fishing important, right?

Then a bit later on, John Gierach says, We who fly-fish think its deeply meaningful until we try to explain why its meaningful, and then suddenly its just fishing again.'

So, which statement is right? For my money, they both are. Fly-fishings great value is the door it opens for us to the natural world. Our society encourages a superficial relationship to the environment; we generally just skim across it (usually on pavement), when were not actively wrecking it. And yet, becoming a stud fly fisher (catch the biggest fish, rip the most lips) seems a pretty lame measuring tape. Deep down, its just fishing.

Which I think is why the answers to the question Why fly-fishing?' given by those interviewed for this film are so varied. Joan Wulff (offers the chance to connect with wild creatures); Flip Pallot (chance to leave normal, everyday life behind); Diana Rudolph (one can form lasting friendships on the water); the Revel brothers (the chance to get to know people you otherwise wouldnt); painter James Prosek (you can exercise your predatory instinct) and Keith Fulsher (with the addition of fly-tying, the sports a year-round endeavor) are just some examples. If youve got a friend or acquaintance who needs an introduction to fly-fishing, this is just the ticket. With luck, and in time, theyll be answering the Why?' question for themselves.

Why Fly Fishing is available through The Book Mailer, 800-874-4171, Jim Butler is the former editor-in-chief of this magazine and of
Fly Tackle Dealer.

Angling Trade Report
'¦On trends in the fly-fishing industry

Simms Fishing is tapping into the demographic of women anglers (one of the growing sectors of the fly-fishing market). Since the company got aggressive with its line of products designed for women, including new wader and outerwear designs for 2008 (, it has seen substantial uptake. Women want tasteful products that are functional as well, and fit is the key,' says Diane Bristol of Simms. The company is offering wader sizes with smaller feet and fitted body shapes. And more form-fitting outerwear styles are available in different hues specifically designed for women anglers.

In any demographic, fly-fishing may never reach the prominence that conventional bass fishing enjoys. But some industry insiders believe that bass tournaments may give long-rod angling a boost. Not only do rod-makers Sage and Scott have new tournament-legal rods for bass (see Bass& Panfish in FR&R June 2008); but a few bass-specific, fly-only tournaments have taken root. Most notable is the Bass-n-Fly Challenge on the California Delta ( Is the day coming when a pro angler on the big stage' of an FLW or B.A.S.S. event wins with a fly rod? Denver Post outdoors editor Charlie Meyers, who has covered fishing for more than 40 years, wont rule it out.

I think the most likely scenario is that, someday, conditions will be right for the fly rod, and some (bass) pro will include it in the (eight) rods he uses for competition,' says Meyers. He or she may not win a three-day tournament, but they might win a day, or make the big catch. And when that happens, it will change the way the '˜bass nation thinks about fly-fishing.'
It seems one trend in a soft economy is for fly-fishers to hit the tying bench more than the river. Steve Fournier, general manager of Dr. Slick, which wholesales scissors and other fly-tying accessories, said, With the price of flies going up, and the cost of gas keeping people close to home, the up-tick at the shop level of fly-tying classes and people tying at home has boomed.' Charlie Craven, owner of Charlies Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, added, The fact is that tying keeps you in the game when you cant play the game, and more people are into it now than I can remember.' Anglers will note a tangible feathering of the nest' in many fly shops by way of increased tying supplies this summer. However, dont wait too long on stocking up on hackle and other materials, as worldwide demand will likely bump prices soon.'”Kirk Deeter. For more insights on the business of fly-fishing, see

Troubles on the Upper Connecticut
The Upper Connecticut River, New Hampshires remarkable fishery, is facing threats from two distinctly different sources. The recent confirmation of didymo (the river-choking alga) below the Lake Francis dam could spell trouble for this rock-bottomed river system. Area lodges have wader-rinsing programs for anglers returning from the river; however, the real danger lies in anglers who fish in the infested waters below Lake Francis and then proceed upstream to sections above the lake. Anglers are advised to carry bleach or a soap solution in a spray bottle, and to rinse their felt-soled wading boots after leaving infected areas.

The other, more insidious, threat to the Upper Connecticut is potential development along 2,100 acres on the east bank of the river below the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire. The owners have said they will subdivide (and develop the land into five- to 50-acre lots) or sell the whole parcel to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, a forest conservation group that manages more than 40,000 acres on 150 reserves throughout the state. The Society must meet the price tag of $2.75 million by June 30, 2008. The impact of a multi-unit development along such a pristine and sensitive stretch of the river'”in the form of siltation, sewage effluent, nutrient loading, altered run-off patterns'”could be devastating. For information on how to help, contact the Society through Susanne Kibler-Hacker at (603) 224-9945.'”Brian Hiller