Monday, June 18, 2012

Six Species of Fly Angler

Full disclosure, this post is a spin-off (and a poor one at that) of a recent post over on Troutrageous. In this post, the author has read out a laundry list of gripes with fly fishing culture, which has led to some lively discussion in the comments section below the post.  Like a fly fishing Martin Luther, Mike has nailed his complaints to the door of fly fishing's gilded halls, and the feedback has, unsurprisingly, been lively and varied.

Going off on a tangent, I'm doing something that I'm sure has been done before, but if you've ever fished an established pattern, I don't want to hear you complain. ;)

That being said, I've boiled down the core essence of most every fly angler I've ever met, and come up with six distinct archetypes, that nearly every fly angler I've ever met will fall into one or more of them.  Many of them are one type to a tee, but more often, they're a mix of two, sometimes with a a bit of a third type thrown in.  Sometimes it may seem contradictory, but we fluff-chuckers are a contrary bunch.

So without further ado...

1. The Purist

Identification: While the presence of tweed is a dead giveaway, the purist can often be far more subtle.  While no other single feature is necessarily exclusive to the purist, look for Hardy reels, Wheatley boxes, bamboo, and brown leather.  May reek of ego.

Habits: Upstream and dry!  Poo-poohing lesser tactics and anglers.

Care & Feeding: Feed that ego.  Feign ignorance so the Purist can 'enlighten' you.  For special occasions, surprise them with some single malt or pipe tobacco.

If encountered in the wild: Purists have a large blind spot downstream.  Stay downriver, and you're safe.  

Compatible With:  The Purist generally tends to be a loner, though at times finds common ground with the Professor.

Not Compatible With: People in general, though the Extreme Angler is particularly loathsome.

Role in group: If you have a purist in your fishing group, it's likely you hang out with him for other reasons.  Maybe he brings the good booze/cigars/etc on your trips, maybe he's the only one that ties flies...but the Purist's attitude is certianly not his main selling point.

2. The Professor

Identification: The Professor can be tricky to pick out by sight, though a seine, bug net, and other 'analytic' gear may be a sign.  Starting a conversation will confirm, in which you'll hear plenty of latin, as well as terms like modulus, imago, biomass, displacement, and meniscus.

Habits: Fly fishing is a pursuit that rewards careful observation, so naturally, any good angler has a bit of professor in them.  What defines a real Professor is that this observation causes the actual fishing to take a backseat to more observation.  Often, he'll miss the woods for the trees, so to speak, worrying about why the baetis hatch "that you should be able to set your watch by" isn't happening, even as the rest of the group has long since switched to streamers and catching fish.

Care & Feeding: The Professor is fairly low maintenance.  Just be sure that he has access to plenty of bugs and water.  Also, don't mess with his stuff.

If encountered in the wild: Professors are fairly approachable, and so long as you don't doubt or disagree with their theories, you should be fine.

Compatible with: The Professor can get along with anyone that gives them space, though they often coexist best with a Gear Whore.  Often makes a good buffer between a surly Purist and the rest of a group.

Not Compatible With: The Bum, who stymies the careful deliberate nature of the Professor and yet still manages to outfish him usually.

Role in group: The Professor is a valuable addition to any group, familiar with hatches, hot flies, flow rates, appropriate gear, and special tactics of any locale, long before the group would have thought to learn these things.  That being said, as 'the nerd' of any group, they often get more than their fair share of jokes and pranks.  Groups should strive to avoid having more than one professor in their group, however, as that situation can rapidly go south.

3. Extreme Angler

Identification: Spey rod, 6" streamers with 3 hooks and ridiculous names, usually well-bearded, Drake magazine on hand.  Usually has a video camera nearby.

Habits: Exactly like regular fly fishing, except overwrought and brightly colored.  

Care & Feeding: Does not require food.  Keep well supplied with PBR, stinger hooks, SD cards, and heavy metal.

If encountered in the wild: Keep your distance.  Extreme anglers may not be openly hostile, but nonetheless can pose a hazard both to your body (with an errant cast) or your mind.

Compatible With: The Gear Whore, who is drawn in by the sight of new toys, as well as the Weekend Warrior, who doesn't know any better, and the Bum, who wants a beer.

Not Compatible With: The Purist, who lies at the opposite end of the gear, tactics, and philosophy spectrums.

Role in group: The Extreme Angler is the energy and comic relief of any group.  After a long night at the local watering hole, the Extreme Angler is either the enthusiastic impetus, up with the Professor, waking you up by dumping you out of your bed, explaining that he "doesn't get hangovers"....or, he's the one that is suffering so severely from the mother of all hangovers that he is limited to bestial grunting as his only communication for the day, and thus comic relief.

4. Gear Whore

Identification: Looks like a walking fly shop.  Nippers, hemos, zingers, spring-loaded, hydraulic assist net, reel approved for use in the zero-gee vacuum of space...all of this and more.  Away from the water, he is still usually wearing three or more pieces of brand name gear from a fly shop.

Habits: Accumulates gear like your truck floor accumulates empty coffee cups.  Usually one of two subtypes: the capitalist, who sells gear as they buy it, and thus 90% of his gear he's had less than 2 years, or the hoarder, who never sells, and has a higher number of fly rods than his age.

Care & Feeding: Asking about that rod he's fishing.  Then turn on your iPod.

If encountered in the wild: Avoid talking about gear at all costs, or defeat with overwhelming simplicity.  Fish a $40 Sci Angler starter kit with the flies that came with it.

Compatible With: The Extreme Angler, as well as the Professor.

Not Compatible With: The Purist, who insists (rightly) that 90% of that stuff is useless.

Role in group: Quartermaster.  Especially if he will sell his stuff cheap.  He's the guy that lets you try the handful of gear you may consider buying yourself, before you buy it.  And if you're patient, in a few months, you can buy it from him for half price.

5. Bum

Identification: Usually wet-wading, the Bum isn't limited to trout by any means, and unlike the stereotypical "Trout Bum", rather than heaping poetic significance on his venture, he just fishes "cause it's fun".  Check for horribly dirty vehicle, flies in ziplock bags, and warm beer.

Habits: The Bum can be found "slummin' it" wherever fish can be found.  Likewise, he can usually scrounge up everything he needs to fish within a moment's notice.  Woefully underprepared in all aspects except fishing, the Bum doesn't seem to be bothered by 10 hours of fishing without a break to eat, getting caught in a downpour with no rain jacket, or running out of 4X and being forced to use 15 pound test to toss dries to brookies.

Care & Feeding: None.  No really.  The Bum is kind of like a stray or feral pet.

If encountered in the wild: If they don't reek, approach slowly, and wave.  Bums are typically friendly, but may try to guilt you out of your granola bar.

Compatible With: As one of the few species that values simplicity and isn't bothered by solitude, the Bum can often get along with the Purist (who in return despises the Bum's heathen ways).  Likewise, the Weekend Warrior often is drawn to the Bum's simplicity.

Not Compatible With: The Professor, who obsesses over the details that the Bum doesn't even realize exist (and if he did know, he'd ignore them).

Role in a group: The Bum is usually the anchor of a group, keeping folks sane in bad times, and grounded in the good times.  Plan a trip to the coast only to have a storm blow in that week?  The Bum did some pre-trip scouting and knows a great little dive bar just down the street, with a pond out back.  Hit it just right for that trip out west and now you're getting spoiled catching cookie cutter 22" trout?  The Bum points out that any one of these fish would be a top 3 fish of the year back home...but bait for the fish you should have been catching on the coast the year before, if not for that storm...

6. Weekend Warrior

Identification: Starter kit rod, pre-assortment of flies from Wal-mart, brand new vest with fold lines visible, white felt.

Habits: The Weekend Warrior defines himself by the questions he asks (So...what are we fishing for again?) and his eternal optimism ("You said the spinners come off late, right?  Well maybe they're just waiting for sunrise..."), he doesn't have a clue, but he's happy to be out in the woods, out with the guys...just out.

Care & Feeding: The Weekend Warrior does require some babysitting, mostly because of ignorance.  Get him set up and fishing before you start.  Have flies and spare leaders ready for him, lest you become his 24 hour tech support every time he breaks off.

If encountered in the wild: If he's with a group, keep your distance and pass by.  If alone, call animal control and get him back to his family, the poor boy is clearly lost.

Compatible With: The Weekend Warrior's upbeat cheery personality will serve him well with everyone save the Purist (who will avoid him like the plague) first.  After some time, the questions and inanity will start to grate on more and more people.  Generally ends up with the laid back Bum.

Not Compatible With: The Purist, and occasionally the Professor.

Role in a Group: Here's the guy that dodged the kids and wife for the first time since the Clinton administration to get out and wet a line with his buddy or buddies.  He picked up his gear at Wal-Mart last week, and still has the plastic on his cork to prove it.he provides a bit of smug comic relief as well as a morale boost in tough times.  He's more of a liability on the water, but becomes a positive presence back at camp, the bar, or the room.
EDIT: After a bit of interaction with another blogger, I've removed a link to his blog from this post. While I don't have any ill will toward the individual, they use their blog/blogs as a platform for rhetoric which I find counter-productive to open communication, as well as manipulating content contributed by commenters in a way that I feel is disingenuous. As such, I wish to avoid any association with or implicit approval of such a publication. As my readers have seen in previous posts here, I am happy to publish and respond maturely to all non-spam comments, and I expect the same from any site I recommend. Thanks for reading, understanding, and commenting!


Rod Blonke said...

Hahahahahahahaha love it! I know all of those people.

Mark said...

I'm sure you can see a bit of yourself in there too, yes? As I typed this, I realized I tend to be a Bum/Professor, even though they're incompatible...which might actually explain a lot...

Howard Levett said...

Oh god, I'm a mixed breed. I see myself in everything but the extremist. Nice writing Mark.

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