One of the things, —the main thing actually—he claimed to be upset about was how overcrowding and overfishing are ruining Texas waterways. He cited trash piling up as one example. On this point, I don’t disagree. And he attributed that, almost solely, to folks “lighting up spots” in books and on that forum. On one of my posts, of a client with a nice common carp, a buddy of his chimed in with #STOPNAMINGRIVERS. To which I replied “That river is 106 miles long—good luck finding that spot.”
First, let me say that I am not a fan of folks pinpointing specific fishing spots in public forums. To be clear, that’s not because I’m some Golem-like character who thinks of them as my secret “prrresssssciousssess.” It’s because I believe doing the homework necessary to find your own fishing spots, including the times you try places and strike out, are just as important a part of a fly angler’s growth as learning to cast or learning what flies to use. It also does a lot to educate you about how to read water and learn where and how fish hold and feed. It’s about exploration and discovery…and about learning to enjoy the journey along the way. As my heckler pointed out, TX already suffers from lack of public access. I’ll certainly give him that. And as a result, while I don’t really feel like naming a river is the same as blowing a spot, I can easily refrain from listing rivers on my posts. Done. Besides, if folks want to know the rivers I guide, a quick click over to my website is an easy enough way to find out.
But there is an elephant in the room that, I wager, has contributed WAY more to the current, often trashed, state of many of our fisheries. And it’s not social media group members burning spots. In case you hadn’t noticed, we are in the midst of a “recreational revolution” spurred by “the pandemic,” a malady that has so permeated the lives of our global citizenry, we no longer have cause to say its name when making reference. Case in point? I’d say I get a call a week from someone who either wants to learn to fly fish or who bought a combo sometime over the past 2 years and needs help learning how to use it. In fact, I’ve heard many colleagues say that the surge they are seeing in demand rivals the one brought on by “A River Runs Through It.” Or, as most in the industry refer to it, “the movie.”
As a professional guide, I can’t say that it isn’t good for business. But personally, I’m a little bummed myself to see more humans than usual at some of the spots I know well. And I can tell you, based on my experience in Colorado, West Virginia, and the PNW in 2021, it’s not just here in TX. That’s one of the reasons I’m working hard to negotiate with private landowners…so that my business doesn’t put any more pressure on public access points than necessary. Float trips also help spread out the fishing pressure.
Now, back to that call asking for lessons. Yeah, sure, I’m going to answer them by saying “sorry, the Royal Fellowship of the Fly Fisher is not accepting new members so I’m going to have to turn you down.” No, I’m going to understand that they will fish—or at least try—with or without my help. Given that reality, I’d rather teach them. Technique, for the sake of their own enjoyment. Etiquette, for the sake of all of the other anglers on the river, including myself. Respect, for the sake of the waterway and of nature as a whole.
It’s undeniable that these days there are A LOT more folks wading and paddling TX rivers…rivers everywhere…with fly rods in their hands. And no amount of lamenting about it or pining for days gone by when you saw no one else at the river access is going to change that. Some will try it a few times and then that shiny new combo will gather dust or end up on marketplace along with that treadmill that was finally going to get them into shape. But others will keep fishing, and no matter how much you hate it, or them, they won’t stop. And here’s another newsflash: they have no less right to be on that river than you do. The fact that you’ve been fishing for years doesn’t give you VIP status at the river. So, for your own mental health, go fly fishing and get over yourself. (Incidentally, if that statement made you a little angry, you’re the person I wrote it for.) 😉
I heard it said once that people don’t take care of what they don’t love and they can’t love what they don’t know. So one of my personal missions is to take people out into the marvel that is TX Hill Country, draw attention to its beauty, educate them about these places, and then endeavor to inspire them to respect and protect them. In this moment of time that feels like the best that I can do. I guide and instruct because I am in love with both our waters and the fish that call them home.
PS – If I’ve made statements here you would like to challenge, do so. I welcome the potential growth your perspective might offer…to me and others. But please be civil and respectful. When we communicate in a way that shuts people down, we have created an echo chamber and defeated our entire purpose. Thanks.