A Yuba Rocket....or "1/2pounder"?
Does the hackneyed "back-in-the-day" refer to pre-2000 or post 2000?
Today I read a blog post by fellow angling friend/guide; Jon Baiocchi. It was a thoroughly informative post on new-age and old-day fly rods relative to their dynamics, preferred selection and methods used.
In the intro Jon recollects his early days of fly fishing with his dad and the gear they used. It reminded me of an article I'd written for the Spring 2012 issue of the now-defunct Sierra Fisherman magazine. Some of you "old-timers" will relate. Here is the article; sprinkled with attempts at humor...sans images:
A Time Perspective on Fly Fishing
For those of us who have been fly fishing for a few decades, there is a point in time when we realize we are of the “older generation”. Our fly angling psyche has changed; influenced by the introduction of modern methods, concepts and gear. With the mid-90’s advent of the Internet, the learning curve for those of us very experienced or novice is now quicker and steeper. We grizzled fly anglers accept this …maybe reluctantly…and recognize that our passion has been and will continue to be a dynamic sport; although some things may remain constant in our minds.
During the ‘70’s there were few concerted attempts to tweak or enhance what was learned when we initially entered the sport; the exception being some classic, fly fishing books. The ‘80’s provided an up-tempo in the print media, and the increased use of the Internet during the late-90’s and into the first decade of the 21st century provided us with limitless, easily accessed information and purchase opportunities. As a consequence, there has been a decline in fly fishing specialty-shops. There are now only a few small, “brick and mortar” fly shops, those survivors able to compete with the on-line and huge mega-sports stores.
Below, hoping to provide a brief historical perspective on the evolving changes that have occurred during the last few decades, are some general comments of our mutually-shared sport. “New school” participants….and this is a relative moniker…may appreciate what we “old-schoolers” or “booth-strappers” have witnessed over the years.
My first waders had attached boots and were both bulky and clumsy. “Stocking-foot” waders made an appearance during the mid-‘70’s. They were either seamless, solid rubber or seamed, water-proofed nylon; weighing mere ounces. With the former we experienced sweaty walks and wades, most especially during the heat of the summer…they did not breathe! I had a rubber pair with many repairs; I looked like a walking, worn-out and heavily patched inner-tube. The seams separated on the nylon ones after only 4-5 outings. There were few wading shoes available. They had felt-soles and were made of leather which became very rigid when dry; making it difficult to put-on for your next outing. Now we can select boots made by numerous manufacturers; they are synthetic, light-weight and durable to withstand boulder-scrabbling in freestone rivers. Modern-day brogues have various types of tightening features utilizing wheels, wires, zippers and speed-lacing gadgets.
Common use of bamboo fly rods was a bit ahead of my time. I’ve experienced the progression of fiberglass and the present-day graphite or graphite/boron composites. My first fly rod was a 6-weight, “glass” 8-footer. Then I was gifted the first production graphite rod, which hardly bent being as stiff as a broomstick. You will notice I’ve intentionally avoided discussing two-handed rods.
Fortunately the rod designers became more sophisticated. We then could select a “taper” that fit our casting style and preferred type of fishing. Simply, the “action” indicated where the rod bent, as in fast (…at the tip), medium (…at the middle, the term used was “parabolic”) , and slow ( …at the butt). Currently, I see no need to decipher all the marketing and engineering jargon such as “torsional stability”, “damping” with “nano-sized silica”, all encased in an “advanced modulus positioning system” Geez, I merely want to fish and not launch a fly to the moon. Our prime concern, simply, is how the rod flexes, loads or bends to accurately and efficiently cast the line and fly.
It seems like fishing vests are no longer de-rigueur. At times I feel like a Neanderthal when I put on my “guiding” vest…it easily weighs 20+ pounds! The trend is obviously towards being a minimalist. We now can use devices such as slings, chest-packs, waist-pouches and lanyards. They are ergonomically designed and may include water devices, D-rings, clips, Velcro fasteners, loops, straps, and in-built nooks and crannies.
Long-time fly anglers remember most fly reels being from three producers. For trout angling we either had a proletariat’s Pheluger 1494 Medalist or Scientific Angler System One. Having the money we could splurge for an English-made Hardy Princess or Perfect.
Currently there must be close to 100 reel makers at all price-points. Some salt-water reels cost as much as my first VW “Bug”.
Flies, hooks and fly tying have evolved. In the past there were few synthetics; mostly natural feathers, hairs, furs and wool yarns. The current plethora of non-natural ingredients used at our vises and in patterns commercially produced are endless. There was one major hook producer, providing a limited style of hooks. We now have the privilege of selecting from several firms with an endless array of hook designs; weights, bends, points, thickness and gaps…for both freshwater, saltwater flats, estuaries and deep sea. Depending on a fly tier’s temperament, fly designs can be simple and quick to tricky and time-consuming.
I recall two basic fly line shapes: a double-taper or a weight-forward. They were full-length at 90’ or 30’ shooting-heads. The line floated or sunk, the latter having 3-4 sink rates. Now there is a bewildering amount of different fly lines that are available in a kaleidoscope of colors…some of them blinding. They are designed for very specific angling situations, whether used in fresh or salt environments. Advertising, packaging and catalogue descriptions can be so esoteric that one almost needs computer analytics before making a choice.
A last category of fly angling needs is an all inclusive group that is marketed as accessories. It sort of sounds like high-end jewelry, but; I call them extraneous paraphernalia or “danglies”. My first “nippers” were essentially finger-nail clippers, which hung on my vest by a string (…flashing brightly in announcing my presence to every trout in the immediate area) or placed-in an often-forgotten-pocket. Attachment devices have evolved into an array of retractable “zingers”; some of which are inconspicuously built into our outer-wear and gear packs. Some of us carried heavy needle-nose pliers or surgical hemostats for de-barbing hooks. We now have many choices which incorporate multi-function features: hook-eye clearing , cramping-on weight, and scissors for cutting hackle, hair or leader materials.
The list of gadgets continues and entails paste and powdered floatants, indicators, weights, hook-hones, thermometers, knot-tying aids, nets, tippet dispensers and fly boxes. The common denominator is that now there are many options; most of which were unavailable decades back.
My intent here is to not create “revisionist” history. This very loose chronology of fly angling developments are my recollections only, I’m sure I’ve missed some. If so, please drop me a note to refresh my memory.………..Frank R. Pisciotta
A Yuba "Drip & Grip" Spotted RainBow