Staying away from "Us vs. Them"
Last updated 1/5/2021 at 7:54pm
If I asked you to name a good old fashioned rivalry it probably wouldn't take you very long to name off a few contenders. Family rivalries like the Hatfield's and McCoy's jump to the forefront at the mere mention of a rivalry. These families had epic grudges and hatred towards one another like few have ever seen. Sports rivalries such as The University of Texas and Texas A&M are historic and tradition rich. The great outdoors has plenty of contenders for great rivalries as well. Gun hunters versus Bow hunters are always entertaining as the debate for who is the better hunter rages continually. Live bait versus artificial is a white hot topic that spurs many a heated debate and an occasional bait camp brawl as well. Boat fishermen versus waders has a devoted and boisterous fan base that is not afraid to speak their mind when defending their positions both literally and figuratively. Here on Sabine lake we have the Texas versus Louisiana battle that always ruffles feathers when the subject of limits and licenses comes up as a topic for conversation. One more great divide amongst sportsmen that runs deep, but is not quite as volatile or potentially violent, is the classic rift between conventional anglers and their flyfishing counterparts. Each side for whatever reason harbors a very preconceived and stereotypical notion of what the other side represents and I live right in the middle of that great divide.
Recently I was fortunate enough to speak at one of the monthly meetings of The Texas Flyfishers of Houston and I brought up the legendary "Us vs. Them" scenario to see where that topic went. Most, if not all, in attendance agreed that in order to promote the sport of flyfishing it was a must for each angler to do a better job of recruiting conventional anglers to the sport. The only way the sport grows is to bring in more people who enjoy the same style pursuits even if they use different methods. The common denominator between the flyfisherman and the conventional angler is that each one wants to put a bend in their rod with a fish on the other end. Period.
I personally take great satisfaction in introducing new anglers to the sport and I have done just that for many years. The initial experience is so important because like the saying goes "you never get a second chance to make a first impression". With that thought in mind I usually wait until I have the best set of circumstances before I even attempt the "conversion". There are a couple of prime times to introduce a new angler to the sport and few are better than late summer and fall when the fish gang up in big schools and eat just about anything that hits the water. The constant bites are just what the doctor ordered so a new angler can get a real feel for exactly what happens on the strike. I usually tell folks this is similar to teaching a person to hit a baseball and putting them in a batting cage because it's no big deal if you miss one when there is another coming right behind it. The last thing I want to do is ask a new flyfisherman to stand up on the bow, make a 1000 casts, and not get bit. Talk about leave a bad taste in your mouth, no thanks.
On most occasions I wait until we have a good setup and a school of fish that isn't going anywhere before I break out the flyrod and offer up a little encouragement. Knowing that the fish aren't going anywhere anytime soon makes the whole experience much less stressful for the newbie and that much more enjoyable for me. Hungry school trout are exactly what the doctor ordered for the first timer, it's the perfect scenario. Seeing accomplished conventional anglers pick up the flyrod and have success immediately is always fun. The look on their face as they discover a new style of enjoying their favorite sport is priceless.
On a couple of outings I've had beginning flyfishermen hit the "Texas jackpot" as a bruiser redfish decides to come crash the trout party and take off with the fly and head to parts unknown. Watching the fly line peel off in the blink of an eye and then the backing begin to disappear often leaves the new fly angler with the wide eyed look of both disbelief and exhilaration all at the same time. Most new fly anglers are really happy to see their line leave in hurry while attached to a redfish but that look quickly goes away once they realize a fly reel doesn't offer up a 7 to 1 ratio for line retrieval. All the work that goes into landing one of those big redfish makes the memory of the adventure that much more vivid and serves to only draw the angler back for more. It's usually not long after that when the new fly angler takes the plunge and purchases some gear and begins to experiment on their own. And so it begins, a new obsession focused on the same trophy.
Now in my little part of the world between the conventional angler and the fly angler there is plenty of room and I encourage everyone to come and "visit". Neither style of fishing is the end be all versions that surpasses all others, it's merely another tool or another club in the bag if you will to enjoy the sport we love even more. I am perfectly happy and content to fish in just about any way from soaking live bait, wading with artificials, sightcasting in shallow water, or casting flies because they all are enjoyable to me and they each have particular advantages that help make me a better all around fishermen.
As far as the "Us vs. Them" mentality goes that so often invades our sport all I can say is that's the worst thing in the world that can happen to outdoorsmen as a whole. The "divide and conquer" theory is being used by those opposed to outdoor pursuits and don't think for a minute that those whack jobs won't try and go after the sport of fishing. Just because a particular group of people uses a different method to legally catch fish we, as a group, need to support each other so the "anti's" won't have a chance. Both sides of the flyfisherman vs. conventional angler can learn from one another and become better anglers as well. I'm not saying we need to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya", I'm just saying before you rule out a style you need to try it first. More often than not you'll be glad you did.