An Open Letter from a Dirty Nympher
I'm filthy. I'm unwashed. I'm a piscatorial heathen. I should be ostracized from the clan; banned forever from the faithful fraternity of fly flingers. I'm a highsticker. I'm a shortliner. I'm a dirty ass nympher, and apparently, I'm only half a step removed from bait dunkers on the angling evolutionary scale.
Bug chuckers are an odd bunch. Many of us consider ourselves a step removed - if not a step above - other anglers. We like to think that our preferred manner of angling involves more skill than most other methods of putting fish in the boat. It is for this reason, and the propensity for bug chuckers to pass judgment on other anglers, that we are often labeled as elitists. I sometimes think that the term elitist - suggesting that one is of the upper echelon, the hierarchy, the elite - must have been coined by a fly fisherman who reveled in his own snobbery. Any normal person would have used simpler words.
And make no mistake. It is snobbery and pretension to assume that one's way of doing things is the only proper way of doing things, especially when discussing something as subjective as fly fishing.
This pretension has of late resurfaced and come to the forefront of a seemingly perpetual debate about steelhead angling, and the variety of methods employed in chasing this fine sport fish. Some argue that the noble steelhead should be pursued solely with two-handed rods and sparsely hackled spey flies. To do otherwise, these folks contend, isn't worthy of either the fish or the fisherman. Nymph fishermen like myself - especially those of us who use indicators - aren't really fly fishing at all. We're bobber fishing.
Of course, this argument is all so much nonsense. While swinging a fly is certainly less productive than nymphing, it is no more difficult a skill to master. Regardless of the method, one must cast, mend, and drift his or her fly in such a manner as to elicit a pull from an otherwise lock jawed winter fish. This is the essence of fly fishing. On each drift, we hope to raise a luminescent, acrobatic ghost that will burn our drags and run us into the backing. More than anything that separates us, it is this incessant hope that should bring steelhead anglers together, but it does not. Nowhere is this divide more evident than between those folks who are fortunate to call the Olympic Peninsula home, and those of us who cut our teeth on the Great Lakes.
Mind you that the divide separating these warring clans is more philosophical than it is geographic. Both parties claim an allegiance to tradition, albeit disparate, opposing traditions. Northwest steelheading is about the experience. It's about long lines, slow drifts, and a fanciful school of tying that claims Syd Glasso as its progenitor. Great Lakes steelheading is about the blue collar efficiency that characterizes the region, its industry, and its people. Short lines, short drifts, high sticks, and simple flies are the rule.
|A cliche perhaps ... but beauty is in the eye of the beholder|
Ultimately, it's all about the fish. A steelhead is special regardless if it's caught on an Orange Heron or a pink Sucker Spawn. It is special regardless if it's taken from shore or from a boat. A steelhead is special regardless if it's the fish of 100 or 10000 casts.