Misconception, a lack of understanding, has become a very great concern for me, especially of late. A corollary of “We preserve what we love, we love what we know, and we know what we are taught” is that we do not value that which we don’t understand.
Those who have the simplest concept of flyfishing usually have some romantic vision of an angler knee deep in a picturesque mountain stream, the flyline in flight, the riffled waters cool and enticing… so when I mention I flyfish for saltwater fish I get a second level blank stare. You can flyfish in salt water???
I have been teaching a free casting class each week for more than a dozen years at a large local big box sporting goods store. Often my students have an upcoming vacation trip planned to some far off, western US location famous for trout fishing and, since they are clueless, they figure maybe a free class might make that float trip go a little better. If they are honest, most are just afraid they will embarrass themselves in front of the flyfishing nut that invited them. So, after I promise them that any fish, in fresh or salt, that will fall to an artificial lure can be caught on a flyrod, they get curious and usually a little more attentive in the class.
But… where, here on the east coast of South Florida, can one flyfish? (They still have that stream in their mind, and we have no mountains for the trout streams in Florida.) Surely, the options must be limited. So, now, when I suggest that we have more options than most other places, once again they look doubtful that I am being straight with them. I have to explain to them that we have bass fishing and freshwater panfish out west of town, and we have the same fish in the manmade canals but to that we have added peacock bass from South America on purpose and bullseye snakeheads from SE Asia, also on purpose but not officially, actually illegally. And in those same canals there are landlocked tarpon and snook. So that fishery truly is a potpourri of excellent gamefish. Then in our nearshore waters we have all kinds of saltwater gamefish, and where the waters are shallow flats, we have the true trophies of saltwater flyfishing: the bonefish and permit. And, of course, we have my favorite: tarpon. Then, if you want to go offshore the options become even more unlimited, up to and including large pelagic species like billfish.
Wow! Now their eyes are wide open, and eventually they ask…”so where do you like to flyfish”? And that is when their complete misunderstanding, and my pet peeve frustration comes to a head. I tell them I like to fish in the Everglades. With seldom the exception, they then proclaim almost disappointedly… “ Oh, so you are a bass fisherman”. It doesn’t matter that I already told them I fish in salt water.
I guess it is not really their fault and I pity their ignorance. The Everglades, as most of the incurious perceive it, is a large slow moving freshwater marsh that fills the center of South Florida. There are only two roads that cross the state through it, and the northern one is a super highway, so much more popular. The high speed experience when crossing on this road is a monotonous expanse of sawgrass as far as the eye can see. And that is what many perceive the Everglades to be.
A few weeks back I became aware that Jazz & Flyfishing had released a new video. Again, as an avid flyangler I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If not, do yourself a favor and stop reading this drivel right now and do an internet search. Now!
How cool are they… both the videos and the artists that make them! The new ones that I saw were The Sorcerer I & II. You cannot believe how alien sight fishing for Artic Char, in calm crystal clear waters of a tundra, is compared to how I flyfish and where I go in the Everglades. But the most interesting, for me, were the unmistakable common traits that thread through all flyfishing. Years back when I became aware of the books by John Gierach I had the same feeling. He is all about trout and trout fishing, which is completely off my radar screen, but he is also a master at capturing the ethos of flyfishing. He resides here in the US, and while I did not consciously recognize it, I might have unconsciously considered our common ground to be a US thing. Sexyloops, Flyfishig & Jazz, and other non US websites have made me realize that this is global commonality that we share. Which I think is pretty cool!
So, back to the Everglades. That slow moving marsh down the center of South Florida eventually makes its way to the sea, or actually Florida Bay, which is a secluded little corner off the Gulf of Mexico that separates mainland Florida from the Florida Keys. Florida Bay is salty, actually a bit too much so, but that is a topic for another time. Between the freshwater expanse of sawgrass and the salty flats of Florida Bay lies an estuarine mixing zone of unimaginable complexity which, at least in my mind, is a beautiful wilderness. And yes, home to some incredible flyfishing. I have found the best way for me to describe it quickly is to refer to it as the mangrove fringe although it is actually one of the many parts, and not separate from, the complex Everglades.
I figure if most of the folks I meet here in Florida do not comprehend this incredible environmental jewel, more than likely those less familiar with Florida, even maybe flyfishers, might not have a good understanding of it either? Which would be a shame.
Since we share the unspoken common language or culture of flyfishing, maybe I can do something about that with this column?
Lets go flyfishing!