Not too long ago, while perusing my local fly shop, I came across an individual who preached to the lovely lady working the register about how the only type of fishing he does is “on the fly” and the only fish he thinks are worthy of pursuit are “Trout, Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon”. I listened from a distance for a couple minutes before I eventually got sick of listening to his dissertation on the “sporting qualities of fish”.
I have heard and read many folks classify fly fishing as snobby, elitist and describe it as an “old boys club”. However, I have to say that throughout my years as a fly fisherman, this was the first time I ever experienced someone who represented this stereotype. Before I go any further, I would like to say, that I do not know this gentleman and I do not wish to pass judgment on his character. However, I felt that these statements were worthy of a soapbox stance on my end.
Admittedly, I am primarily a fly fisherman and I primarily pursue trout. Hands down my favorite type of fishing is chasing native brook trout in the mountains on dry flies, short rods and light tackle. But, with that being said, I could not disagree more with the statements of the man in the fly shop. I now choose to spend most of my time on the water fly fishing. But I wasn’t always that way and that may change in the future as I evolve as an angler and person. Some of my fondest fishing memories were created using spinning gear and/or live bait. Chasing smallmouths on small creeks with texas-rigged worms is a blast. Night fishing for channel cats on warm summer nights with a friend is something that I dearly miss. And it doesn’t end there. Drifting for fluke, tossing top water for largemouth or musky, trolling for walleye, searching for schooling bait during striper season, wade fishing for blues off the surf…the list goes on and on. All of which were cherished experiences essential in my fishing career, and essential to the angler growth I’ve experienced thus far. In the early stages of fishing, it is incredibly important for the angler to stay interested in the sport and to have fun while engaged in it. Otherwise, fishing will not be a priority for long. And on a semi-unrelated topic, I also believe that the more fun one has while fishing, the more passionate one becomes about fish and fishing. Once the passion arrives, the concern for conservation follows shortly thereafter.
I didn’t start fly fishing until I was in my late teens, and even then it took me years to catch my first trout on a fly. Had I not developed a previous passion for fishing through non-fly fishing methods, I would not have had the patience to stick it out. In a sense I owe my transition to fly fishing to those methods frowned upon by a small number of “snobby fly fisherman.”
My point is this, all fishing is worthwhile so long as you enjoy it. Try as many different types of tackle set ups as you like – fly, spin casting, bait casting, hand-lining, noodling, whatever. And pursue as many different species as your area and budget allow. Once you have put in enough time on the water and gained enough experience, you will start to narrow your search and find your fishing niche. But until then, don’t worry about it. And certainly don’t let someone else tell you what kind of fishing you should be doing, because clearly that person has forgotten the reason why we picked up a fishing pole in the first place.
Robert Fravel grew up in Pennsylvania, where he started fishing local streams and lakes at a very young age. During his college years, Robert spent the summers working as a whitewater rafting guide in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. As an avid fly fisherman and fly tier, he enjoys exploring backcountry streams in search of untouched wild trout waters. He currently works as a lawyer in Dublin, Pennsylvania.