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> > Is flyfishing getting easier or harder?

Shawnny3January 6th, 2010, 7:23 am
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Technology vs. pressure - which one is winning?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
SofthackleJanuary 6th, 2010, 7:50 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
That's a good question. I've read that fly fishing is on the decline. It seems that the excitement generated by "The Movie" has died down a lot. The economy hasn't helped either, yet, I continue to see an increase in fly fishing activity on my home water. I'm not sure if this signals an increase in interest and technology. Perhaps it is just fly fishermen are just looking for greener pastures.

Personally, I find it a little harder to wade, so I've purchased a good staff. I'm also trying to limber up a bit so my knees don't bother me as much. I know this doesn't go with your question, however for me it applies.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
TroutnutJanuary 6th, 2010, 8:58 am
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I haven't been at it long enough to notice a trend one way or the other. However, "easier" would be my guess. The new rods, lines, tippets, and tying materials seem to be a lot more forgiving than the materials people worked with 50 years ago.

I also don't think fish get educated by pressure as much as everyone expects. I do think fishing pressure can raise the cautiousness of trout (on both evolutionary and individual-learning time scales) but they've still got to eat. There seems to be a common attitude among anglers that "educated" fish have seen all their usual flies and require something exceptional. I just don't think that's possible: if you add up all the anglers and all the flies that pass by a pool, and count how many times a given fish actually gets hooked by any one of them, I don't think any given fish will have been stung by every major fly pattern in its lifetime... and even if it were, I don't think it could remember that fly for months and identify it. At worst, they might learn to associated certain unrealistic characteristics of very common fly styles (like the impression the hackle of a Catskill dry makes in the film) with being hooked. I think it's more likely that fish become easily spooked by bad presentation, and that they become more selective about abundant hatches... but these things all have limits imposed by the abundance of food and the physical characteristics of the habitat.

In other words, I think there's a limit to how much pressure can affect the catchability of trout in a given stream. Of course, there's also a limit to how much technology can help us catch fish. So I see these two factors not as competing forces pushing against each other, but as independent aspects of the sport that both asymptotically approach their own natural limits.

What might really make fly fishing harder is environmental degradation, which simply reduces the number of fish. There's not necessarily any limit to that.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
OldredbarnJanuary 6th, 2010, 1:21 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608

There are so many different interesting threads in these last responses that I'd like to speak to, but instead I'll respond to your following comment, "It seems that the excitement generated by "The Movie" has died down a lot."

Sometime in the early 90's I was standing in a nice bend in the South Branch of the Au Sable. It was just before evening and usually at this time in the day it would be rare to see any canoes...At least where I was standing at the time.

Almost out of nowhere there appeared three canoes right behind each other. I stepped back a bit towards the bank, since the river was fairly narrow at this spot, as they passed. The first two canoes went by quietly with maybe a nod from the passengers in my direction, but no comments. As the last one made its way past me the guy in the back said excitedly, "Hey! Have you ever read, "A River Runs Through It"? They are making a movie from it...It's really good!"

My response went as follows, "Does it have a chapter in it on what to do after a canoe puts down your trout?!"

Damn! That Spence is a grump!


"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
GutcutterJanuary 6th, 2010, 4:37 pm

Posts: 470
i feel that the answer to the question on the thread - "easier" or "harder" and the answer to the initial post - "technology" or "pressure" are the same. the answer in my opinion is BOTH.
it all depends on to whom these questions are directed.

to us "old farts" there have been marked improvements in "technology" since my first outfit - 7'6" 5wt fenglass with a pfluger medalist and cortland double taper line. my 9'4wt BIIx,lamson lightspeed loaded with rio-grand is far superior to that old outfit.
but i still caught plenty of fish back then - even in "pressured" waters. there were very few "flies only" places so the same folks fished the same places - kinda like today. those fish saw just as many , if not more flies than they do now especially because there were few sources of info. when you found or were brought to a secret place - it remained secret.
yes "technology" has not only brought us graphite and boron but also the internet and the reports such as
"2 pools below the route 66 bridge there were 11 browns and 4 rainbows sipping size 22 dung bugs and i caught 7 of them ranging from 16 to 21 inches on sam's shitty dung spinner tied on a 8'9" leader tapered to 11x"... sadly, there are few secrets anymore.

because of the advances in technology, the equipment is much better and getting into the sport has become "easier". sites such as this one can really help beginers get to that next step and maybe let them take this up for life. there are much better ways to learn this sport than the way i did - from a book. there were very few flyshops and no vcrs,or dvds. back then. learning has become "easier".
because so many people are learning and using better equipment and fishing not so secret spots the fishing has indeed in some locations become "harder"
however it is that "harder" that keeps me from going nuts. if it is easy then i don't want to do it. my days of following hatchery trucks to catch a load of fish on a dead drifted honey bug are over and have been for 20 years. but that's how i learned to sight nymph and i am forever grateful to those stockers when i am sight nymphing a 20" wild brown on a pa spring creek. i know how to do it 'cause i earned it.

one of my main beefs with the "seen the movie" crowd is that they don't think that they have to earn it. they can go to shitty sam's flyfishing school and shell out thousands for waders ,boots ,rods, reels, lines,leaders, flies... and then wade directly into my 25 yards of troutstream.
All men who fish may in turn be divided into two parts: those who fish for trout and those who don't. Trout fishermen are a race apart: they are a dedicated crew- indolent, improvident, and quietly mad.

-Robert Traver, Trout Madness
Jmd123January 6th, 2010, 5:46 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
My honest answer is, for me anyways, fly fishing is getting easier. Why? Because I've been doing it now for 25 FREAKING YEARS! I catch WAY more fish now than I ever have before, even with regards to much easier-to-catch warmwater species. Experience and practice have made all the difference for me - I'm just a better fisherman, that's all. I expect that in another 25 years I'll be at least twice as good as I am now - provided my health is still intact! (Probably downright insufferable, too...) In other words, I worked for these fly fishing skills and now they are paying off.

To be brutally honest, substantial periods of unemployment during the past decade have done nothing to hurt my fly fishing abilities...

I don't expect this to be the answer from folks who regularly fish heavily-pressured waters, or those dealing with pollution issues on their favorite old fishing grounds - or those with long job hours that cut into fishing time. Those of you experiencing these difficulties certainly have my condolences. My advice to you is to find lesser-known local spots that still pay off - close by for quick access after work, dumber fish (maybe another species?), and maybe it's been left alone for a while because it's in a park or other natural area. This approach has worked for me throughout my life and has helped me keep my sanity when living in large urban areas with scarce access to nature. I found fly fishing for trout in Atlanta, GA (Chattahoochee River), and fly fishing for bass in KC, MO (Blue River) for example. It's out there, you just gotta find it.


P.S. I am in full agreement with Gutcutter on his opinion of the "wannabe" type with thousands of dollars in gear and no knowledge of how to use it. I can catch ten times as many fish on gear that costs 10% as much. You can't buy fish, you have to WORK for them!!
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
WbranchJanuary 6th, 2010, 6:34 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
While it is harder, i.e., more difficult for me to wade as confidently now compared to forty-five years ago it is much easier to catch big trout. There have been many advances in FF equipment, fly construction, fly tying materials, and technique compared to when I cast my first fly on the Beaverkill in July of 1964.

I can't imagine that there are more, and bigger trout today than there was in 1965 considering I fish the same rivers and streams now as I did then and there has been virtually no changes to those waters, other than natural changes due to floods. Back in 1965 you could go to Cairns, or Hendrickson's, and maybe see a dozen guys during an entire weekend.

Albeit the No-Kill had just begun one year prior but for many years the biggest Beaverkill or Willowemoc trout was 14". My biggest WB trout was about 18". Now I catch literally dozens of 17" - 19" fish every season and quite a few 20" - 24".

The rivers are far more crowded and the fish are far more difficult to catch yet due to the advances in fly lines, rods, and especially tippet material I think it is much easier to hook and land larger trout than it was back in the "good old days".
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Jmd123January 6th, 2010, 10:29 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Louis, I think you are discounting your own experience. You state that rivers are more crowded and the fish more difficult, yet you are catching more and bigger fish. Absolutely nothing to do with being an old fishing fart, I suppose...

Next time you're out, ask the young dudes how many they're catching (and how big). And see how many questions they ask you.

To any young dudes listening in: get out there and fish your ass off or you'll never be any good at this. And try to find some old fart who looks like he knows what he is doing and pump him full of questions. That's how I did it...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MartinlfJanuary 7th, 2010, 5:45 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Good points, Jonathon. And I don't mind being confused with WBranch, but for future reference W(est)Branch is Matt. He catches many more big fish than I do, but whenever we fish together, I do ask him lots of questions, and he has helped me catch more and bigger fish. He is very experienced, and I believe that his experience has much to do with his success. --Louis
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Cdcaddis18January 7th, 2010, 6:03 am
Huntington, PA

Posts: 16

Deleted post.
WbranchJanuary 7th, 2010, 6:09 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733

"Absolutely nothing to do with being an old fishing fart, I suppose..."

Not exactly a comment to win friends and influence people. I never considered myself to be an OFF but I guess some young whippersnappers might consider me to be one. To become more than an average FF one must read everything that is out there about fly design, presentation, casting, reading the water, and all the other aspects of the sport. You must also fish frequently and fish hard. I never had a mentor to teach me the intricacies of FF. When I was a youngster of twenty-one years old on the Catskill rivers the older guys who were fly fishers were very close mouthed about the sport. If you asked them anything you were likely to get the cold shoulder or they would give you the name of some bogus fly that you knew they weren't really using.

Sometimes when I see a younger guy struggling with his casting or just having a look of frustration I've gone up to him to offer some advice and more often than not have been rebuked for my efforts. So now I keep my advice to myself and just keep smiling as I'm landing all those big trout.

A couple good fish of 2009. Caught a couple dozen like these in 2009.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
GutcutterJanuary 7th, 2010, 8:08 am

Posts: 470
-awesome and well earned fish. can i meet you on that stream sometime. please...
having only been 2 in 1964 and not yet able to double haul at that age makes me feel less like an old fart...
seriously - don't let a few punks discourage you from trying to help. i have had the same experiences as you but once in a while a guy is really grateful.
i remember an old fart setting me straight in 1979 and those words of wisdom and subtle changes to my casts and drifts have helped me to this day.
a few years later i found out he was george harvey.
All men who fish may in turn be divided into two parts: those who fish for trout and those who don't. Trout fishermen are a race apart: they are a dedicated crew- indolent, improvident, and quietly mad.

-Robert Traver, Trout Madness
WbranchJanuary 7th, 2010, 8:36 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
Hello GC,

I see you live in PA as I do too. Being an OFF I only fish during the week when the rivers and streams I frequent are much less pressured. If you are able to fish Tuesday - Thursday we could get together sometime in the season. I normally start fishing Spring Creek in March when the Baetis begins to hatch. I also like to fish some of the central PA rivers in April as the water warms up quicker on those rivers than it does in the Catskill waters where I prefer to fish.

Send me a PM in April and maybe we'll be able to get together.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Jmd123January 7th, 2010, 2:42 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2611
Louis and Matt, my apologies for the name mix-up. That's why I always sign off with my name...

I just turned 46 in November, and as I said 2010 will be my 25th season (or is that 26th? - started in '85) of fly fishing. I think I might just barely qualify as an OFF. My mentor was a fellow I had as a professor of plant ecology at the University of Michigan Biological Station my 2nd summer there. He didn't so much give me any instructions but more provided encouragement and inspiration. I learned casting pretty much on my own by going out and flailing the water, whether fishing with him or on my own in local lakes and ponds. However, I can truly point to him as my original mentor who encouraged me to give it a try - and keep trying. He was (and still is) a pretty damned good forest ecologist, too.

With regards to fly tying, I took a class at a fly shop 20 years ago - and haven't used a fly that I did not tie myself ever since. Give a man a fish...

I have found almost all other fly casters of any age that I encounter to be a friendly and welcoming group of people, happy to exchange information and not at all standoffish or rude. Maybe its where I fish, but I just don't seem to encounter the a-holes and lock-jawed types that others have described here. It is my sincere hope that all of these types of people develope large, unrepairable holes in their waders at the least appropriate times.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
KearlJanuary 13th, 2010, 11:00 am
West Chester PA 19382

Posts: 2
Have just gotten back into fly fishing after 35 years away. I think it's the baby boomerws getting older, more time on their hands and getting back to what they did when they were younger. I started fishing with my grandfather and Father in Potter County during the years 1963-72. Got away from it after that. Was going to take a trip up to Potter County this Spring and was using Tom Dewey's site for a guide. Anyone out there know what happened to Tom Dewey's website, Fly fishing in POTTER COUNTY? It was located at: but not there anymore. I have run into a lot of very nice people on the streams here in southeastern PA
TomDeweyJanuary 29th, 2010, 5:23 am
Posts: 1In response to Kerl's question, "Anyone out there know what happened to Tom Dewey's website, Fly fishing in POTTER COUNTY? It was located at: but not there anymore":

Unfortunately I was given no advance notice by Pennswoods when they decided to delete ALL customer home pages and as a result was not able to smoothly transition it to another host. I tried to notify as many linkers as possible, but some sites don't update their links very well.

I hope to rebuild the site and re-post it soon, probably on Google. I am doing some long-needed editing on it now.

Tom Dewey, Potter County
MartinlfJanuary 29th, 2010, 8:44 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Hi Tom,

Let us know, OK? Glad to have you posting some here.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PatcrisciMarch 5th, 2010, 3:01 pm
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
OMG, friggin harder and harder every year... that's what happens when you get old --- everything is harder (well not everything -- ha!) getting in and out of waders --- tying on that tippet, forget about fishing anything smaller than a size 16! holy crap, and don't you have to pee as soon as you finish lacing up your wading shoes and cinching on the belt of your chest highs?
Pat Crisci
WbranchMarch 5th, 2010, 3:18 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
"getting in and out of waders --- tying on that tippet, forget about fishing anything smaller than a size 16!"

That's very funny! For the last few years, maybe four, when I get back to the car at night after a long day on the river it is very difficult for me to get out of my waders LOL!

I still wear stockingfoot with lace up Simms Freestones. I put a foot up on the bumper first and untie each knot but then sit down in the trunk of my Outback and just kick off the wading shoes and somehow get a hold of one leg and start pulling on the neoprene bootie. I find if I have the gaiter pulled inside out the bootie comes off easier. When I'm done I just sit there on the tailgate and take a breather before going back to the cabin.

I used to wonder why my Dad was so tired after fishing and I'd be raring to go - well now I know the feeling but hope I can continue to struggle at least another fifteen years.

I might have to hire a boot-puller-offer.

P.S. Still no trouble tying blood knots or flies down to a #20.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
OldredbarnMarch 5th, 2010, 4:21 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2608

"I might have to hire a boot-puller-offer." As we age fella I think we should let them guides know, "Man! You want a tip? Tug off my boots!"

Before I fixed my back there were nights in the back of the truck that if someone were to walk by they would of thought I was really getting lucky in there or that guys dying! I was in that much pain.

Here's a positive for you Matt...My stepfather just turned 78 last month. He was out on the ice and went through...He had to swim to a small dock and started yelling for help...The guys he was with finally heard him and took someones hose from their yard and he wrapped it under his arm pits...They pulled him out...

A few years back he was on a frozen small lake up north and the wind blew his bucket away. He took off running and slipped on the ice and cracked a couple ribs...Near the end of that same ice fishing season he was out on the Canadian side... He went to pull the crank on the snowmobile and the cord came out...Somehow he fixed it and he and a young guy with him headed for shore...The ice had shifted and there was a layer of water and thin ice between them and the shore...Under this was the real thick ice...He told the kid to hold on and they hydroplaned to shore...He said the young guy was a little shook up and swore he'd never go out on the big ice again...

Now you know why I only fish with him just enough to keep him from getting mad at me...Took him on the Little Manistee with me last summer...He's a mule! Tony...He's a Dago!

"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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