I’ve always broken down fly fishing into these three things: Science, Sport, and Art.
The science of it involves the entomology, the nature of the water and its’ surroundings, the fish itself. If we’re able to educate ourselves on species, bugs, habits, weather, and water, we automatically have a greater advantage.
Speaking of advantage—we’re always looking for one. That creates an unspoken (most of the time) competition. Fishing is a sport. It’s us against nature (and sometimes the guy 20 feet away from us). Sometimes we win, sometimes nature (or he) does—but fly anglers tend to bring a more caring, conservation-minded approach to the game.
One aspect that differentiates fly angling from our conventional counterpart is the art. Tying a fly, casting a fly, and presenting a fly is a world away from the utilitarian mindset of “Me catch fish any way possible.” Treble hooks, live bait, a Jedi craves not these things.
There are other things that appeal to the fly angler, though. Things such as the culture. The culture is essentially everything revolving around fly fishing—except for the fly fishing itself.
I, personally, enjoy the culture about as much as I enjoy the act. Let me elaborate:
* Sitting around the fire in camp chairs, wet waders hanging from a tree branch, passing the whiskey bottle, breaking down the day’s activity—or lack there of.
* Discovering a new local breakfast diner on your way to the put-in that has serves the best biscuits and gravy you’ve had since your grandma’s—and the cheapest coffee. All served to you by cheerful waitress that calls you “Sweet Cheeks”.
* Keeping a few high country brookies, firing up the backpacking propane burner alongside the stream, laying the flour-dusted fillets into a little oil, and appreciating that warm, fresh smell and crunch.
* Meeting back at the truck for an end-of-day tailgate pow-wow involving pulling a couple beers deep from the ice and toasting to a day well spent.
* Meeting up with some old acquaintances at the fly shop, bs–ing over a hot cup of coffee about what river’s on and which one’s been worthless, that destination trip you’ve been planning on taking for the last three years, and debating about the effectiveness of different nymph rigs.
* Passing on your knowledge, your advice, your trials, your errors, and your passion to someone new to our world.
Trying to explain to someone who doesn’t fly fish why we fly fish isn’t easy. There isn’t one reason, one sentence, one paragraph that explains it. It has to do with an abundance of interests all funneled into one activity. The science of it, the sport of it, the art of it—and everything else that rotates around it.