There are more of us than than the fly fishing magazines realize

Published 1:56 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

I keep running into more and more fly fishermen all the time.

As Genie and I were walking Nola the other day, we spied a small dog a couple of houses down from where we knew she should be. Obviously she had gotten out of the fence her humans had erected to keep her home.

When we got to the house, we spied one of her humans mowing the backyard. Genie went to tell him about the pup, and he came out front to check the gate to the area that he kept her confined to, and sure enough, she had managed to open it.

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He shook his head. Dogs are sometimes too smart for us humans. Then he came out to the street to say hello to Nola and me before going down the street to collect his wandering pup. In an aside, he mentioned that he enjoyed fly fishing and said he often tried his hand at trying to catch a few trout when he and his wife went to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee.

He gave nosy, insistent Nola a little rub down and went to collect his wandering girl.

The next day, a plumber was at the office doing some work and stopped by to reminisce about some of his fly fishing — and other kinds of fishing — exploits.

I keep running into people who fly fish all the time, and this is in the Deep South, the land of the bass boat, where some people make a living as professional fishermen not by catching fish for the market, but by catching more and bigger bass, a game fish, than other fishermen in contests call bass tournaments.

If you are not familiar with professional bass fishing, this is big business, folks, big sport business. There’s also the amateur bass fishing, which to me is really the semi-professional, circuit where folks also make some good money in prizes.

Professional bass fishing may not rival football, baseball or basketball in the money and spectator numbers, but it beats out soccer in this country and, at least in terms of the money, probably isn’t too far behind professional golf.

You go into just about any sporting goods store down here in bass land, and especially the sporting goods sections of the big box stores, and most of the fishing gear displayed is for bass fishermen. Here in the coastal area, you also find a good deal of gear aimed at saltwater fishing.

Fly fishing is way down on the list, if it even is on the list, of items stores stock for fishermen. I can’t even find anything for fly fishing at the local big box store in Picayune any more. It used to carry a very limited amount of fly fishing gear, but I couldn’t find even so much as a popping bug the last couple of times I looked. A big box sporting goods store in Slidell apparently is cutting back on the amount of fly fishing tackle it carries, or so it seemed the last time I was in there looking for something.

I have discovered a big box store that caters to the artists and craftsmen among us where I can purchase some non-traditional fly-tying material.

A store I sometimes visit in New Orleans, especially for traditional fly-tying materials, is devoted exclusively to fly fishing and carries lots of stuff, but nearly all of it is big ticket tackle geared to the person who has the money to travel to trout country, and I don’t mean Eastern Tennessee, and to various areas of the tropics for saltwater fly fishing. I guess the better way to put it, the store caters to the fishermen who go on what I call fly fishing safaris because they often hire guides to put them on the fish.

Yet, here we are, the ordinary fly fisherman who pursue bass and bream and some saltwater fish in areas we can drive to, then wade, on our own. I know this because of the people I keep meeting. A few of us tie flies, but most of us apparently don’t from what these folks tell me when we talk.

I never think to ask these folks where it is they buy their fly fishing gear. I wonder if there is some secret store I haven’t discovered yet. I have to get most of mine from various catalogue sources. Frankly, from what I have discovered about the big box stores in the past year, it looks like I’m going to have to deal exclusively with catalogues, or drive to New Orleans. Maybe my fellow local fly fishermen who don’t go on safaris or otherwise buy the high ticket gear do the same.

I guess that unless we start making a big noise like the bass fishermen we will be relegated to a place of less importance than the cane pole bank sitter and the fellows who run trotlines. I find lots of gear in all the stores that carry fishing gear that caters to those fellows, and I must admit that I am occasionally one of them.

My love for fishing, like that of most fishermen, began with a cane pole in my hands as I watched for a bobber to twitch or be pulled under the water by a bream taking a succulent cricket impaled on a small hook attached to the line that was attached to my pole and to which the bobber was attached. Fishing is such a complicated sport.

Today, I prefer to cast a line carrying a fly and generally watch for the fish to take the fly, and apparently so do a lot of other folks.

I sure do enjoy meeting them and discovering that, even though fly fishing more than most other forms of fishing is a solitarysport, there are lots of folks around here who enjoy it just as much as I do.