Tuesday, August 17, 2010

These boots were made for wading (and that's just what they'll do)

Like any trend, fly fishing is largely dependent on MARKETING. And, like any other erudite endeavor, it's also largely dependent on being unique and different. For instance, twenty years ago it was all about the tiny bugs - tricos, midges, size 26-30 hooks and 8x tippet. Then it was about the Bone Fish - 9 weight rods, 100 yard casts, sun, sand, margaritas and the threat of a small hammerhead taking your fish. Suddenly Steelhead Fishing was the newest old fad and one had to head back to the rainy mountains, but this time with a two-handed spey rod. Settled into the sport yet? Sorry - to be cool you must be seen in the sand flats and mango groves again. This time for tarpon - no rod needed to hand-line a 6' living fossil with a mouth the size of a Cadillac. A few years ago, I wandered into the local fly shop and was spun tales of the latest trend - nothing about good looking fish out of clear water. Instead, to be a true fly-fisher person, you must fish for carp out of a sewage drainage. Then, ironic hat, bulky glasses, and PBR in hand, you will be the ultimate erudite - the Uber Emo of the sporting world.

Fly fishing is less recreation and more competition. (I know a guy who knows a guy who took a 40" Carpbow Bass, sight nymphing with a 3 weight antique bamboo rod in 'Zam - you know, Northern Zambia, I'm surprised you haven't heard about it, it's been all the fishing rage). If that sentence made no sense to you, then we're probably going to be good friends. If your first thought was "Oh yeah, I know a guy who...." then we're off to a bad, bad start.

Much of the flyfishing marketing does come out of concern for the environment. Another irony, perhaps, seeing as most of the excellent water that supports the Blue Ribbon fisheries happens behind large, bulky dams. The damn dams. But, generally, fly fisherpersons are all about concern for the wild, concern for a sustainable fishery, and the mantra that the 15 inch fish you let go today may be the 23 inch fish you catch next year. (Well, more likely it's going to be the 16 inch fish that some yahoo fishing said size 26 hook with 8x tippet will exhaust to death when he or she finally manages to coax the pin sized bit of feather and fur into its mouth, but that is probably a story for another day.) And largely, I have bought into it. But usually a bit behind the pack given finances. By the time I had a nice set of neoprene waders, the first breathable canvas was making the rounds. Now that I have the canvas, I'm sure that something else is right around the corner.

Much of the peripheral gear for the fly fishing IS very environmentally friendly. Rubber netting to ensure the protective film along the trout won't be damaged. Barbless hooks. Lead-less weight. Eco-friendly tippet (line), mud died shirts, hemp fishing baskets and environmentally friendly fishing waders all find their way into the flyfishing market. And, usually, flyfisherpersons DO protect the environment - mainly because not doing so would mean a thousand lashes with a 8 weight rod.

But now the flyfisherpersons are their own worst enemy. Felt-soled fishing boots - long regarded as the ultimate wading boot are being blamed for transporting didymo - an algae that covers rocks like a brown Kleenex, an algae that also covers the river bottom like wrapping paper - blocking sunlight from the top, and trapping the immature insect larva on the bottom. This algae is alleged to have been spread from British Columbia to the East Coast - all, likely on the bottom of boats and boots of the fly fisher person. And an article, found here in today's New York Times, outlines that some states have taken steps to ban felt bottomed boots all together, striking a huge blow in the carefully coiffed uniform of the properly outfitted angler.

So now what. I finally found a boot to keep me from, ahem, Falling Into Fast Moving Streams, and I can't even use it. I can't use it or I'm not going to be considered part of the Erudite Elite! Now I'm going to have to find the latest wading boot made by Simms, Orvis or Sage with soles in uberizedrubber, or eruditedplastic or whatever the Fly Fishing world will tell me I have to buy. Sorry, FutureFlyFishingSon - college will have to wait. Daddy's got a pair of boots to buy.

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