Fly fishing for me has always been a sport of comradery. It has always been something that I did with friends, a thing that has introduced me to new friends, a passion that has kept us all together even from afar, and a reason for this writing as well. The countless days on the water learning, educating, and laughing with those friends are memories that carry on and come up in conversation as we sleep in hotels and campers instead of the laid-back seats of our beater vehicles. I guess we got fancy, or maybe too old to treat our bodies to the ultimate fish bum lifestyle we all once had, but we always did and still do have one thing in common - the urge to chase fish.
I still have so many great comrades to fish with these days, and in my 13th year of working in a fly shop, I still get to meet more great people regularly. Unfortunately, in my short 21 years of fly fishing, I’ve noticed a change in the comradery within the sport. These days, it seems all too often to find the person who is the best fly fisher, the only one deserving of a spot, and the only one allowed to fish in the state they reside in. This has become one of the modern-day auras around fly fishing, and as a resident of a notorious resort town, I now experience this in the strongest sense. Blame it on social media, increased population, increased interest in the sport, or just an attitude of entitlement that is all too widespread in society today. Whatever the reason, it is as rewarding as a muddy river after a long drive to the fishing hole.
The first time I casted a fly rod, I was with one of my friends who learned from his dad and was willing to take me with him. I’ll still never forget the sight of the first time a wild little brown trout slurped my Royal Wulff from the surface that day. Soon after, a friend of my mom’s took me fishing, having never met me, but was still willing to pass along the tradition. Experiences like those continued as I, along with my friends, fished, learned, and helped others along the way. My learning curve of fly fishing was shaped exclusively by the good people around me, many of whom I still enjoy fishing with today.
Fast forward about 10 years when I landed a job in a fly shop based on the trust of the manager after painting his house, and we find where my fly fishing experience grew exponentially. While working at the Blue Quill Angler, I was fortunate enough to work with and around so many notable names who shaped the sport of fly fishing. It was there I refined my casting with Jim Cannon and learned to Euro Nymph with Steve Parrott and Brian Kelso. The list goes on to increasing my skills in fly tying, getting a chance to compete amongst some of the world champion fly fishers, and breaking into saltwater fishing with Jeff Legutki, all the while soaking up information and doing my part in sharing my own. Come to think of it; I wouldn’t be writing this article for Syndicate Fly Fishing without comradery on the water. I can’t possibly list all the people, books, videos, blogs, magazine articles, etc., but my point is, nobody has done this on their own. We all owe it to the comradery of fly fishing and the yearning of many to shape the sport of fly fishing into something we can all enjoy.
I found myself really contemplating this idea in the latter half of a recent road trip around Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho with my girlfriend and our dog. We started in Thermopolis, WY, where we met friend and fishing guide Andy Bergin, plus his lady, to fish two days on the Wind River and the Bighorn River. That was two days of four people enjoying time spent hot spring chilling, campfire roasting, fishing, and, as a local guide said, “floating at max boat capacity.” Just plain old fun.
Another stop along our journey landed us on the Missouri River via a fly shop visit in Helena, MT. The world grew small there when the gentleman behind the counter was one that shaped the fly fishing schools of the Blue Quill Angler with some of my peers, as well as was one of the people my brothers and friends probably annoyed as kids running around the Ski Patrol building while he was employed there with our parents. After a brief chat about the old times in Colorado, we were on our way to the river with a new wealth of information from somebody who had a wealth of information they were happy to share.
The fishing that day was tough, but we managed a few fish before finding our camp spot for the night. As the sun got low, I wandered out to the boat ramp area and waded a bit upstream from it, as occupying a boat ramp is a great way to break the comradery in a fishing hole. Good thing, too, because some young fish-heads rolled up and dropped their boat in for an evening pursuit. As a friendly gesture and the first step in com-rivery, they asked if they could row around me and above me. As I said yes, they tossed me a beer and went about their evening fish, as did I, now with a fresh sudsy beverage in hand.
I had the chance to catch up with these guys later in the evening to find that they are both employed in the fly fishing industry like myself. Also, like myself, they both share the passion of comradery on the river. I remember one of them saying something like, “this is what it’s about; it’s supposed to be fun,” referring to being friendly on the river.
That statement could not be truer. I can’t count the experiences, opportunities, and knowledge I have gained through meetings like this, which is why I believe in sharing the same. I’m not saying that posting your favorite fishing hole on social media is a good idea, but being friendly to the people you meet there absolutely is. Share a beverage, some flies, some stories, make every day on the river a positive experience for everybody out there, and the sport of fly fishing will continue to be a fun thing for everybody. We all deserve the experience.
You can find these guys in “top secret” locations like the Bitterroot and Missouri rivers in Montana and the Snake River in Wyoming. Check out Lane Blackwood on Instagram @whitefish_taco and find Rob slinging flies and information at Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, MT. Andy Bergin can be found along the Snake River in Wyoming and on Instagram @andybergin. Don’t pass up CrossCurrents Fly shop in Helena and Craig, MT, as great information was passed along there too.