A Fly, by any other name . . .

When is a fly not a fly?

I suppose the answer is different for each angler.  The answer is probably most important to the enforcement officer who reads the angling regulation book and is checking our your gear streamside.

I laugh at some of the arcane debates about whether this or that fishing lure is a fly or isn’t.    Having taken part in these debates/discussions for years I have, of late, become disinterested in ever, ever, doing so again.  Never.  Done.  Finished.  Period.  Did I say no more?

One last time, for laughs only, here is my take on the fly versus non-flies issue.  My opinion.  Pure silliness.  Agree or disagree as you wish.

These are not flies. A hard plastic bead pinned on a leader with a toothpick.  A molded lead-head jig hook draped with marabou, fur, or hackle.  A jig hook with a big honkin’ brass bead lashed on the shank (instead of a molded lead head), adorned with fur or feathers – yes, this is still a jig no matter what the regulation book says.  A soft plastic egg or egg-cluster glued on a fly hook.  A hunk of yarn overhand-knotted to an octopus hook or tied in an egg-loop.  A plastic rubber worm.  A spinner.  A hotshot.  A gob of salmon eggs.  A ghost shrimp.  A big fat worm.

These are flies. McGinty Bee.  Royal Coachman.  Bucktail Caddis.  Wooly Worm.  Mosquito.  Grey Hackle Peacock.  Green Butt Skunk.  Thor.  Boss.  Comet.  Clouser Deep Minnow.  Griffith Gnat. Polar Shrimp.  Babine Special.  Langtry Stone.  Female Coachman.  Jay’s Green Rockworm.  Steelhead Simplicity.

I’m a fly fisher and fly tyer.  I’ve also fished all sorts of gooey baits and shiny metallic lures over the years.  I don’t feel superior because I choose now only to fly fish. I just head for the river, completely content to fish my silly little flies.

Today, I might pick up a Spey rod, tie on a pink string-leech, and let it swim and wiggle through a run, anticipating a tug on every cast.  I remember the same anticipation of dead drifting a pink rubber worm through he same run.  I laugh at myself.  I’m fly fishing.  I’m happy.  It’s all in my head.

We need to devote our energy to saving the rivers and the fish we care so much about instead of arguing about whether the way each of us fishes is more or less sporting.

Some other time, though, we should talk about whether certain types of hooks, lures, baits, flies, and C-4 causes higher mortality rates on released fish, and what we want to do about it.

Now, that should be a fun blog post!


4 thoughts on “A Fly, by any other name . . .

  1. As Jeff Mishler has so often reminded me, it’s about fishing on our own terms. Those terms are subject to change without notice depending on our priorities and who we are fishing with. These days my priority is to grow as a fly angler. It’s such a stellar challenge, and each fish is so special. But there are days when I just want to put a slab of springer on the grill, and on those days the challenge of fishing conventional tackle effectively can be just as rewarding as flyfishing.

    My favorite distinctions in this debate: molded jig heads can’t be flies, no matter how much time and care goes into their production, but the same thing tied with dumbbell eyes is suddenly a fly. Or if I use a bobber when I’m nymphing instead of a thingamabobber, I’m gear fishing. We are such incurable nerds!

  2. I like the way you think. Amen brother. Its fishing for pete sakes.
    Flyfishing isn’t superior, it’s just a lot more fun at this stage of the game. ADP

    1. Hi Andy. Yes. It is truly crazy making when people start slinging mud at each other because they fish differently. A friend at a public meeting recently was accosted by an angry man who got in his face (figuratively) and demanded to know “how” my friend fished. The implication, which the man really believed, was that if my friend was a fly fisher he could be dismissed as an egotistical, arrogant, elitist. Or something like that. My friend, who happens to fish all sorts of gear in addition to flies, was sharp enough to recognize that the other fellow’s challenge was irrelevant. But there are people out there who believe that “fly flickers” or “bait slingers”, as “classes” of anglers, can be categorized and understood simply on the basis of how they choose to fish. My experience has been that there are great people and not-so-nice people who fish everything, and it is a waste of time to make assumptions ———

      Andy, thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. Let’s see if we can spread the word.


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