Friday, July 17, 2009

The death of the quiet sport?

The death of the quiet sport

As I sit here listening to the excellent recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Andras Schiff, I am reading online about the revolution that is sweeping fly fishing for steelhead: the gangsta revolution.

This new irreverent movement has been growing for the past ten years or so, and portrays the sport of steelheading as an X-game adrenaline sport. I have nothing in general against the evolution in equipment, but what bothers me deeply is the tone of the rhetoric. Instead of writing “The mists had barely risen to kiss the tops of the pines as I slowly passed through time and the river”, we have “Yo, Mothafucka, shread that line, bro. Rock n’ roll! Kick Ass dude! Roasted!”

Now I know that times change, and that classical English and our spoken and written language will change with time, but is this what we have come to? Magazine covers with guys in gangsta poses holding fish like they were snow boarding? Fly fishing film tours that are indistinguishable from a Warren Miller video complete with rap music? What happened out there while I was asleep dreaming of the streams? What happened to respect? What happened to appreciation of nature and poetry? Where is the beautiful ballet of unfolding loops? Is it all banished to the wastelands where groups of outcast ‘traditionalists’ sit by a fire like bums, waxing on how it used to be in the ‘good old days’? Has flyfishing become a game of numbers at last? Has it finally become an unrestrained testosterone driven manhood contest? Why can’t these new young guns innovate without trashing everything and everybody that has gone before them?

“Yo, Erik… Dude, get with the times homeboy!”

Really? Why so loud my friend? Why so loud?

Why does the revolution have to be proclaimed from the gutters and alleyways by trustafarians raised in rich suburbs who now have the luxury of being a rebel and keeping it real?

What ever happened to quiet and restraint? To appreciation? To just sit on the bank and love nature? To cast and fish in your mind? To dream. To be a romantic.

Or, has the romance been sanitized out of the sport? Has technology interposed itself and replaced our ability to think, analyze, appreciate, and romanticize? Have we collectively lost the ability of silent thought? Perhaps there are more of us out there than I think. Perhaps it is our silence and appreciation that is being only for a short time eclipsed by the yowling mating call of the wild irreverent rebels. Perhaps they will quiet down in time when they are not chasing steelhead like they were a nightclub bimbo conquest with equipment that is a highbred between bait casting and fly fishing.

Before you go and categorize me as an ‘old stogie’, I must tell you that I have many friends in this new young gun revolution, but to a person, they are respectful of the sport and others.

The fly fishing industry is cozying up to these gangstas too. Pop culture sells fly rods and reels, Pop culture leads more people to embrace the sport as their way to become ‘cool’. But, I ask, at what cost? As the shread movement becomes more widespread and respected in the industry, will those persons who always dreamed of taking up fly fishing be scared away?

Fly fishing used to be a sport that was seen as a gentleman’s sport. A sport elevated over the common not only by the knowledge of its practitioners, but also by its lore, its art, its innate uniqueness and difference from ‘regular fishing’. It had romance, taste, and refinement, and it attracted the sort of anglers that appreciated these qualities. Today, it is becoming a spoiled rich white kid punk sport. What a shame.

Tone it down. That is my advice. As you go dumbing it down, please tone it down, or there will be nothing left to appreciate at all…
Sometimes I feel so alone. Thank God for Bach.

Romance? Appreciation?

Look no further than here. This is what is missing.
From William Butler Yeats (Thanks Shane.)

The Song Of Wandering Aengus
By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


  1. Once again you've said in words what I've been feeling.
    I feel like changing the name of my blog to
    "The Loud, Trash filled Hatchery Pool"
    Our pursuit is not the same as it was a mere 10 years ago.
    Here in the PNW we have a mega internet fishing site named
    The entrepreneurial and exploitive, shrimp scent on her fly, owner will prostitute the north coast resource for make-up money and believe me she needs a lot of it.
    So it's "Rip some lips" all you fish killas!
    Get the steelhead lifter fly set up under your day-glo indicators and kick ass!
    H.L Leonard and Charles F. Orvis must surely be spinning in their graves.

  2. Erik,

    There is a lot to what you say and it is something that bothers me too. I wrote about this very thing on my blog last year: and it prompted some interesting responses from both sides. What it basically boils down for me is respect. If the new fisherman wants to approach the sport as an X-Game, as long as there is respect for the fish, the fishery and other anglers, (and the heritage would be nice too) I guess that's their choice. Unfortunately, I think that mentality makes it harder to have that type of respect.

    (Shane! As far as inet goes! I figure you can tell a lot about someplace by the ratio of exclamation marks to other types of punctuation! Know what I mean!?)

  3. Amen.

    You certainly are not alone.

    Again, well done.

  4. Erik,

    Pretty much sums it up.


  5. Scott C. Thanks for the info on your blog. Very nice articles and essays, I added a link from my little blog. Thanks again.

  6. Wassup, Dude!

    I bought the license so I get to fish any way I please.

    I'm on my board snakin' the pool and, yo! the trout are smashed.

    And it's all about me and what I want. Screw you. ROTFLMAO.

    (Never underestimate the value of a slingshot and a 60 caliber lead ball as a problem solving device.)

    Chill, Dudes and Dudettes!

  7. Welcome to the "trophy" generation. (all the kids "win" at sports; and get trophies)

    They need to be "on" all the time and can't be quiet, they just physically can't do it. They have to talk or text or talk on the phone or listen to their ipods with their million songs on them. They need to entertained all the time.

    They have the same respect for others as they have for their parents; none. Maybe their parents should have told 'em no a few more times; instead of saying how great they were for doing a mediocre job....

    And this is the great future of America?

    Stand by for heavy rolls when the ship comes about.

  8. yo helmes,
    you see that milf I picked up at 'all the bitches' yesterday. She had me down on my knees and then when I let her go she wanted more. See my pics @ Facebrag.

    Actually 'all the bitches' is one of my all-time favorite names for a fishing spot.

  9. Anon:
    I have made the same observations. Over scheduled, over managed, over the top. No attention span. Don't read and unable to communicate in a formal manner. The television generation meets the computer generation. These are just observations. The judgments reached by analysis of the observations are far more dire.


    No kidding! Some of our names for runs are bigger than life.

  10. i'd actually argue the adrenaline, new speak and urban feel of today's steelhead flyfishing culture is quite the opposite of how you guys paint it.

    it's an inclusitivity fly fishing hasn't seen in years, as opposed to the exclusive nature with which some of you type. it's making this old, white guy thing attactive to folks that might have previously felt alienated by the culture you hold on high. i see more and more women out there, as well as the sub-18 year old crowd. it's killer! (if you like ladies and a younger energy, two things i suspect some of you guys fear.) change happens. just does.

    so maybe it's your path as a self-professed elder to show some respect to those you disdain first. you'd have a far easier time passing on your traditions when folks aren't on the defensive.

  11. Urban feel, exclusivity, fear of change, more women on the river...come on. If you really think this is what that blog entry means....

    Some treat it as art. Art in flycasting. Art in hand tied flies. Art in the equipment. The thrill of the chase. The bigger the challenge the better.

    Not sure how being female, young, old, white, etc changes this.

    Today's 'adrenaline, new speak' isn't anything new. Of course change happens.

    If you have taken the time to read Bill McMillan's forward to Dec's book, do you comprehend what he is trying to convey? Or just dismiss it, mind clenched tight, because the message is coming from your 'old white guy' stereotype?

    In the end the guys that you believe 'disdain' the new movement are extremely passionate about the sport as a whole. As much as the newer side thinks...they didn't invent the sport. There is nothing new in the sport. Just improved.

    It is your loss if you choose not to learn the history.


  12. Well, as an "elder" I like to embrace change. Isn't that a major aspect of living?

    But there is something in me that baulks at calling large trout "hogs" and "pigs". It's an attitude of mind that is the opposite of the experience that, for me, sums up fly-fishing.

    Adrenaline junkies eventually either get bored and move onto new kicks, or they change. The problem is that they damage the reputation of the art at a time of increasing challenge from the anti-fishing lobby.

  13. wow ,
    I can say this much im in the middle generation with this ,I hear you on the yoo yo and the like but lets talk about the stuck up snobby better then you of your generation Erik .It comes in the same way ,some of you are good guys and i hope i am .I try to be respectful ,at times i get pissed off over things and could be called something else at times .Shane has his points and so do you and i really like your blogs .It is good to reflect on the past ,it is also good to look to the future .we have come so far .
    Yes we have alot of ding bats out there but your generation was the generation that built dams and took every fish they caught till someone said hey we should let them go !So I say tight lines boys and remember where you came from and how you got here because I know you were bait boys to once .
    Mike Nutto

  14. NM Mike,
    When it comes down to it, the issue in my opinion is attitude and approach. I just see too much stomping and conquering and yelling. Add in adopted ghetto look and talking smack and we see why a reaction occurs. Actually, I am of the middle or forgotton generation myself.

    It should not be about the or a generation gap. Fly-fishing should be the quiet sport, and restraint should play a part.
    BTW, of all the stuff I ever posted on my blog, this post and the humor on Skagititus received the most attention and caused the most fuss. Funny.

  15. I think you might be right there Erik ,i just happened across this one yesterday when i was looking for the quiet pool (which isnt so quiet i might add ) I ws young when i started fishing and it was a quiet sport then somewhat .fishing for some was standing around a hole with your rod in your hand like a circle jerk or something .
    I got lucky and had someone who took me to the quiet places .I caught lots of trout on worms and that was how I was taught .Something about fly fishing took and ive been at it ever since .It is about the challenge now and in all the noise the fish are there .they go through alot and deal with a bunch of cavemen .Ive met lots of them .For me and others it isnt about holding up the fish it is about getting the bite and hanging on for the battle .I do feel the fish deserve more then some neal young song or some hillbilly music in a video .They fight for their lives when you hook them and the more ive thought about it the more it is like heavy metal. I mean if someone hooked you in the lip do you think you would hear classical music.heck no you would be yelling and and doing one heck of a noisey dance ! The attitude that is out there for some is redneck and hillbilly and very caveman like ,with no respect .Just understand there are those of us cro-magnons that like to sit under the tree and be quiet,cast a line once in awhile and forget the yo yo world as long as i can !

  16. One of my younger fishing pals is 20 years my junior, has graffiti clothing, those big ear circles hanging off, and is a mystery to me in what music he listens to and how deft he is with small electronic devices and his constant e-prescense. Yet, he is fishy as hell. Seriously skilled--Regardless of method. a bag on a centerpin or some ostrich plumes being scribed down and across. How many of these guys have you actually engaged with rather than scoffing from afar? Tell you what. The passion cuts thru to the good part, in our case-- all those very substantial borders crumble when our lines are wet or we're huffing down a two track. He respects everything about the fishing experience, including the skunkings we've enjoyed after 4-10 hour drives. I think that respect for people might be a lesson to include with your respect for tradition and the fish. Read the new books before scoffing at thier cover is my suggestion. I would have NEVER interacted with this kid at first sight, now I'm very grateful I took a chance when I first struck up conversation. If you don't embrace change, it will ebrace you by the throat. Don't choke.


  17. "Why does the revolution have to be proclaimed from the gutters and alleyways by trustafarians raised in rich suburbs who now have the luxury of being a rebel and keeping it real?" Greatest line I ever heard! I'm part of the younger guns crowd, I guess. I definitely don't fall into the gansta category, I listen to all types of music from Ravel to Ozzy but I keep it to myself. I might let out a yahoo from time to time but its only due to the fact that I get the utmost pleasure from catching a beautiful steelhead/trout/bass what have you on my chosen methods and flies tied by my own hands. Its sad that many in my "generation" are poor ambassadors for our sport bringing an urban influence along with them. Blogs boasting tall boys of Colt .45 and graffiti painted bridge abutments, but as with anything else the fad wears off and many realize or re-examine why we do this. I know some of you might see me walking down the river bank and think "Jesus did this guy just crawl out of a cave!" Remember the old adage "don't judge a book its cover", some of these guys my have more barbells in their face than tied to the intruder they're fishing but some do have the utmost respect for the resources we all love and admire so much. There will always be a generation gap and I'm sure the same arguments brewed way back when, when flies went from dull drab buggy looking barnyard materials to full dress salmon patterns, it is what it is. Some may prefer a 40" plasma screen where I prefer the ambient light cast by a fire.


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