Once again, It seems I am the last to know…. Last Saturday morning, precisely February 22, 2014, I trundled down to the local fly shop to schmooze a bit. I was as usual met at the door by one of the men of the shop who with every courtesy under the sun, got a chair and sat me down in the front row of some festivities that I knew nothing about, but were to astonish me. And, because of my broken-down hearing, I could understand not a word of what the young man was saying as he sat there, portentously, in front of a banner that repeated over and over “PFA” and some silly slogan about a fly. The event, surrounded by a perfect swarm of young people intent on what this guy in some sort of fly fishing uniform was proclaiming to the ever-present video camera, went right over my head.
I don’t think I ever have felt so “out” of anything and so, in a moment of official pause, I escaped to the front of the store. Here I caught my host at the shop and asked just what the hell was going on!
He told me that this was the “signing” for the first season Tour of the new PRO FLY ANGLING, an organization to do for trout what
Bassmasters has done for warm water fishing and what the PGA has done for golf: instituting national tours of professionals competing for prize money.
All these young people, having been “accepted” for the first tour later this year, were here, in this fly shop, to sign on.
Immediately the question arises: Is competition like this good for fly fishing? Since last Saturday, I have learned that many object to the idea—and often vehemently.
Opponents generally agree that competition has nothing to do with our sport, which is bucolic and solitary in nature.
So, what am I to think? My first rush is to resist the idea as alien to everything I have known in seventy-five years of throwing flies. Now after those many decades, my fishing days are over. I can’t safely do it any longer. Hamlet had it exactly right when he taunted Polonius with his “most weak hams” My hams will no longer do the job, and so I must just stay home and blog like this about it.
In my initial moment of proud disdain of this PFA idea, I forgot what has always been my responsibility: to encourage the young. Never to disparage them out of hand. Let someone else do that, if they must.
Anyhow, why should not fly fishing be competitive? Everything else is. Think of the great and distinguished fishing competitions in Ireland, of the match fishing in England. Think of the fly casting competitions that have been with us since the coming of the knotless line and guides on the rod. We compete in every thing we do.
Everything we do for pleasure—for sport—someone ends up wanting to cash in on, even make a living off it.
And there is always the dream, or fantasy, of “celebrity”. If it is a madness of contemporary life, how shall we blame a talented young fly fisher for wanting a bit of the glamor? I know; I was there, dreaming that dream of being a famous fishing writer and directing a flawless production of a classic drama. I was ready to compete. And all these years later, I can still feel the drive to blog the blogest and to be noted.
So, why not have the PFA!
Which is not to say that something like this can’t go wrong. Like the aspiring writer who begins to sound like a Kreh rather than a Gierach, the dangers are there to be avoided.
For instance, I understand that manufacturers propose specialized tackle for these competitive tours. I have not mentioned that each competing pro is accompanied by his “caddy” who carries and services all the angler’s gear, keeping him fishing constantly. I’m loath to see a caddy with all manner of bizarre equipment that might insult a trout.
And then there’s the critical issue of use of the water. What’s to be done about the regular fisherman on open public water who happens to be in the way of a Pro as he ploughs up the creek, his caddy in his wake?
I have found that young anglers are apt to forget how and by whom their fishing has been fostered and preserved. They tend to be narrow in the range of their social thinking. I have found that they understand private property well enough, but public property? Hardly. The PFA should strive to be good for public values. I hope they will.
And I hope against hope that these competitors will try to talk the talk of their sport decently and turn away from the vulgarisms and fast talk that we hear replacing the great tradition of English in angling discourse. Let them be decorous.
I hope to that they will dress seemly for the videographers who will never be far behind.
I would remind them that they turn fly fishing into a spectator sport at their peril.
And dare I hope that they will not forget, and will want to hear from the likes of me, how once we fished….
Most of all, I hope that when, in their competitive zeal, they encounter my ghost on the water, they will not try to push me off it.