Whenever I think of the word intimidation, I see the scene of the little gangly kid in The Little Giants prepping himself for the game game. Did I just show my age? Anyway, intimidation is something that I don’t see on a personal level in trout fishing too much anymore, and I still search out quarry that amaze and strike me with utter fear, admiration, and fulfillment. But that’s between angler and fish, and every good angler seeks out those fish that haunt them…even without ever casting a fly to them.
Intimidation between anglers…between professionals and novice alike; it used to be rampant in the industry when I first started. Hell my entire initiation into the guide world was through those old school, boys club, F with the new guy, bullshit that turned me off to the whole damn thing in the first place. If you’ve met me you know I’m not like that…aside from the occasional shenanigan or two. As I’ve gotten older, and better at fly fishing and guiding, I guess I’ve risen above all that crap. It annoys me to this day when I see it though.
I see it less than I did but it’s still there. I see it in two places mostly, with newbies, and women. It’s sad really, because these demographics are the two most growing factors in fly fishing right now. There are more young people and more women who participate in fly fishing than ever…EVER. Where intimidation seems to still be a huge issue like most things is on social media. I see it on my Instagram feed and FB stuff all the time. It’s happened to good friends of mine, fellow guides, tiers, weekend warriors, first timers, and Trout bums. It’s stupid and you’re kind of an asshat for doing it…just saying.
I let the fish and the river do all the intimidating I need. Tricky fish will equalize everyone. So will the river. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, how many big fish you’ve landed…the river and the fish don’t care. I’ve put a fly rod in the hand of someone who’s never cast before and had them trick, play, and land trophy sized trout…I’ve done it lots of times truthfully. And it’s a team effort guiding. By the end of the day if I’ve done my job right you can come back out on your own and be successful.
But when I see intimidation on the river or on social media it really strikes me as so out of place in fly fishing. I fish with so many people and I hear stories of not so great encounters that honestly just make me feel for people. I’ve been there. It sucks and it makes you not wanna fish. And that’s the crummy part. Because in a lot of cases where you feel intimidated it’s because you’re unwelcome, and that’s not cool because damnit…fly fishing is a community, and that’s now you treat fellow anglers.
I’ve had conversations this season and just in the past few weeks with people about this very issue. This bullying, because that’s what it is. I always tell my clients if you walk into a shop or talk to another angler and feel intimidated or unwelcome or like you’re not worth their time…find another shop, or walk over to the next angler.
It’s one thing to critique and there is a time and place for it, and there are times when I get heated or upset but it’s all just fishing, remember that. I’ll yell, curse, get on people about setting the damn hook…ya know normal things. But I’ve always felt that fly fishing should be open and welcoming to anglers. No matter the skill level. I strive to make sure that I make fly fishing fun, as a guide I’m there to introduce people to it all, and I want that experience to be wicked awesome. If you’ve done it all before, you know what’s up.
So for those of you out there that feel intimidated, or have been turned off to fly fishing because of it…don’t let that it get ya down. There are always gonna be asshats out there…my rule is let them be asshats. If you feel like you’re getting the ring-around, or you’ve just had a crappy experience, fly fishing is worth it so get back after it. Just ignore that stuff and find fellow anglers that will support you in your pursuit of chasing fish with flies. We all started out somewhere, good anglers will share what they know because fly fishing is just more than fishing.