Years ago, 2005 to be exact, I was invited by a rod-building client of mine to spend a day with him fishing the area around southwest pass for Redfish and Trout out of Venice Louisiana. I had known this particular individual for several years, as he was a regular customer of mine, and was VERY active on many of the rod-building bulletin boards. I was going to be in Houma Louisiana fly fishing for Redfish anyway, so I scheduled an extra day to drive over to Venice and fish with him.
Upon my arrival, the first thing he did was proceed to show me several rods he had just finished assembling. They were what I like to call "kitchen sink" rods. In other words, custom rods adorned with every conceivable type of decoration known to man. These rods had layers upon layers of decorative threadwork, several types of nickel silver accouterments, epoxy encapsulated grips, inlays, titanium framed guides and probably a few things I am forgetting. My first observation was that the rods were EXTREMELY heavy because of all of the decorative additions, but they were his rods....and who am I to argue. The entire night before the trip, he continued to point out all of the hard work, hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and hours of labor he put into these rods. And with that I could agree, there was obviously a lot of time and expense that went into decorating these rods.
The next morning we arrived at our destination just outside of southwest pass where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. As I rigged up my spinning rod, I noticed my host opening the ice chest to retrieve a box of frozen shrimp that he proceeded to fish under a popping cork. Now I don't have anything against using live or dead bait. In fact, I use it on occasion when the quarry I am chasing cannot be fooled any other way. Having said that, it is a pretty basic way to fish and certainly did not require a custom rod worth well over $1,000.00!!! For the remainder of the day, he demonstrated that he was much more concerned with how fancy his rods were than his actual ability to catch fish.
I decided right then and there I was going to become a minimalist...at least in so far as it pertained to my rod building and fly tying. For the last 17 years, I have purposefully resisted the temptation to engage in decoration just for decoration's sake. I know this probably sounds extreme, but I want nothing to distract me from the act of angling itself.
A few months ago, Capt. Freddy Lynch and I were discussing the concept of minimalism, not only in rod making but also in fly tying. He remarked that he had observed over the years, that the really big Redfish...fish over 20 pounds seem to be turned off, in some cases even spooked by flies with too much flashy reflective material...another good reason to adopt a minimalist philosophy!
I'm not suggesting by any stretch that we should completely abandon artistic expression and decorative techniques for boring, bland, inferior tackle. I am however suggesting that we should, from time to time remind ourselves that it is far less important what our tackle looks like, and far more important that we develop the skill to use it effectively.
Hope you all are having a great week,