Friday, October 19, 2012

An Open Letter from a Dirty Nympher: Redux

I first published this as a response to the article contained at the hyperlink. I still believe every word, and I think it appropriate to republish given the onset of yet another steelhead season.

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
Neither method is more valid than the other, and this is especially true now that the lines are being blurred between factions. Left coasters are increasingly turning to the techniques, which have been commonplace on tributaries to the Great Lakes. Right coasters are often arming themselves with spey rods, and boxes full of the long sweeping hackles and bright colors that were the trademarks of Glasso's flies.

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.

7 comments:

Pat Cohen (smalliestalker) said...

Yessir...I would agree...My name is Pat...and I'm a nympher as well

flypredator said...

Ah, yes, one of the many snobberies prevalent in our fine sport... I will continue to nymph steelhead. Hell, I will even put on some stinky goo when it is really high and discolored. I wonder what they would think of me?

Nushranger said...

Good discussion, but I have to admit that I hate this us vs them business. Whatever floats ones boat or fly is good as long as its legal. Having done both I think consistently getting fish to hit a swung fly on our rivers takes longer to master. I think different people have different likes and preferences like only catching fish on dries vs nymphing fro trout. As long as you like it and enjoy it who cares if one is better or whatever than another. As Rodney King said "Why can't we all get along?"

Shaq said...

I only have one arguement for getting a fish on the swing. It's one I firmly believe in and it's why I don't nymph for steelhead anymore. When you nymph for steelhead, I believe you miss the best part. Everything else is generally the same. Same fight, same hookset, same jumps, same burns. To me, every steelhead pull is different. The subtle stops, the jarring pulls, the 3 bounces, the 8 inches of line pulled from the loop then nothing, each one gives the fight the personality. My question after any body catches a fish is, how was the take. You don't get that often with nymphing. Maybe once a season the rod gets ripped from your hands as the line tightens but that's almost the swing anyways.

BKill said...

Not sure if it's ironic or not, but about 20 minutes after I finished writing this post, I ordered a new two-hander for my quiver.

flypredator said...

Those two handers are pretty handy for nymphing too....

Anonymous said...

great to beat swingers with...