Saturday, August 30, 2008

I hate eggs

I have a few pet peeves regarding fly fishing for steelhead, and one of the tops has to be egg or glowbug fishing. It is bad enough that the standard Midwest approach to steelhead involves raping gravel for spawning fish, but the lack of any skill involved with drifting glowbugs nymph style through foot-deep water while sight fishing drives me nuts. Fly fishing is a grand sporting tradition brought over from England. Like many other sports of gentlemen, it is designed to be pleasing and difficult. It is not about the number of fish caught, but instead the angling experience. Sitting on the bank after a hard day of fishing with a newly met friend and sharing a sip of single-malt is as important to us as catching a fish. Egg fishing is the antithesis of this. It requires no skill, nor does the fisherman need to actually know how to cast or even to read water since they are essentially standing on top of the fish and flinging splitshot and yarn.
The other part of my detestation comes from running a flyshop and having to answer the inane question "What color of eggs are them fish bitin' on today?" at least twenty times a day. I really tried my best to explain the technique of swinging flies to fish in runs and not relying on sight fishing, but to little avail. I stocked the shop with a wide variety of patterns such as traditional hairwings, but very little sold other than eggs or egg-sucking leeches. Blech!
One of the contentions that I challenged anglers with on a daily basis was the fact that there are few real steelhead rivers where shallow flows and boxed up fish make egg fishing like this possible. If one just continues to drift glowbugs, one will never learn anything, never learn to read water, never feel the true take of a fish versus lining it. The glowbug angler will be consigned to ply the gravel beds of the little Menomonee river or fish at one of the falls with all the other goons. Try to fish the Deschutes like this and you will be lost! Alas, it will never change. Every year at the flyshop I talked to fishermen that seemed to really be into steelhead and flyfishing, only to see them on the river flinging 15 foot casts and flailing the water. Globugs will do that to you. When I saw them, I would usually slink off into the bushes to avoid them following me.
The other problem with glowbug anglers is that they rarely move at all. Spotting spawning fish, they will cast away in the same 20 feet of water for hours. They necessitate that anglers that are fishing runs and moving downstream after every cast have to get out of the water and walk around them.
I had a conversation with Raineys flies in 2006. They wanted to know what patterns would appeal to Midwest steelhead anglers. I didn't want to sound cynical, but there it is. I told them eggs and egg sucking leeches out sell any other fly twenty to one. As fly purveyors try to compete for falling business, they are bringing out new patterns for steelhead every year. Many of these are flies that are sure to catch fish, but have an annoying trait; they contain eggs!
Egg-sucking leeches are joined by egg-sucking skulpin, and even some stoneflies sport eggs. I guess that is one way to get anglers to buy flies other than plain egg patterns, but it just seems like prostitution to me. I can't wait until I see the first egg-sucking speyfly. When that happens, expect to find me living in a small unibomber-style cabin on the side of the river and muttering to myself...

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