One day back in 2008, I received a phone call from a Rodbuilder who was visiting Texas on business for several days. He wanted to know if there was a local lake or river nearby, where he could go fishing after his business dealings were through, before he had to return to his some state of California. At the time I was fully self employed and was able to arrange my schedule to suit my fishing needs, so I offered to take him down to the coast and pole him around the flats to chase Redfish for the day. A few weeks later he arrived in town, and after his business dealings were through I picked him up to make the drive south. We got to know each other quite well during the two hour trek and to be honest, it was really quite an enjoyable trip. The one recurring theme, however, was his many visits to remote locales to fly fish for exotic species. Tarpon in Costa Rica, Bonefish in the Seychelles, Permit in the Marquesas, GT, Rooster Fish, ...you name it he had done it. He additionally dropped all the right names in the industry and wore all the right high profile (read expensive) brand name fly fishing specific clothes donned with the manufacturers logos. My gut feeling was that this trip was going to a lot of fun. It's always nice to put a well seasoned, experienced and capable angler in front of fish when they have the skillset to take advantage of what the Texas coast has to offer.
As usual, the wind was howling in its normal diabolical fashion. We launched the skiff, and ran a few miles to a large flat that has several abandoned channels running through it that were dredged many years ago for energy exploration. It's a beautiful spot...shallow, clear, grass bottom, a textbook flat that in terms of beauty, rivals anything in the Florida Keys. I staked out the boat as he got situated and rigged up his gear. Like clockwork, tails started popping up along the edges of the channels. I unstaked the boat and pushed up on a pair of fish that were really on the feed.....tails high and happy as we say down here. As I positioned him about fifty feet out, he began to cast. I'm not exactly sure how to describe what happened next, but suffice it to say it wasn't indicative of someone who was a well-traveled, jet setting, expert big game fly angler. For most of the morning, he stayed tangled up in the fly line cursing like a sailor. His loops were as wide as an airplane hangar, and if my memory serves me correctly, he almost fell out of the boat twice. Despite the circumstances, we did end up landing a few fish. He had a great time, and in the end, I guess that's all that matters. The thing I found most intriguing though was that his apparent lack of skill didnt seem to bother him in the least. It occured to me later on the drive home that he would probably go back and tell all his angling buddies how he had "hammered" the Redfish down in Texas, and was on to the next bucket list destination.
I bring this story up because there seems to be a fairly sizable contingent of the fishing community that appears to be more intent on living a certain type of "lifestyle" that impresses people, than actually putting in the hard yards to develop the skills to BE what they claim to be. I've discussed the afoementioned event several times with my good friend Capt. Freddy Lynch who has thirty plus years on the pole as a full time professional saltwater fly fishing guide. Freddy's position is that this is far more the norm than it is the exception. In fact the running joke between Freddy and I is that whenever I start to throw errant or inaccurate casts he'll bark at me from the platform "you're starting to look like the rest of my clients". I am convinced that at the root of this is the problem is a mal developed ego. They buy all the expensive gear and all the latest fashionable angling related garments with all the big name logos . Maybe even read enough to be able to spew a bit of technical jargon about fly patterns, but a lot of it is just fluff, without a certain level of skill to back it up.
Early on in my career in product development, I discovered that it was very hard for me to go buy tackle at a big box retail store. During a given visit, the well-intentioned sales clerks, as their jobs require were constantly trying to cross-sell me on a new piece of tackle. Often it was a rod, and during the sales pitch, they'd drop terms like modulus, strain rate or scrim, not knowing that for 11 years dealing with these properties was what I did for a living. I could tell they had no grasp of the actual concepts, and most of the time I was able to politely decline their offer and walk away. But, In the interest of full disclosure, I too on occasion have succumbed to the dreaded psychological disease of ego-mania and would sarcastically ask "would that scrim be woven glass, carbon veil or a unidirectional graphite helical core?" Which of course resulted in confused looks, stammered sentences, and more importantly bad feelings on both sides of the transaction.
At some point, I would bet that we all have succumbed to our ego's desires. And not surprisingly, it seems to be the most prevalent in male-dominated activities...go figure. Thankfully I have a group of "friends" who aren't afraid to tell me where to stick my well-intentioned advice when my ego rears its ugly head". And in all honesty, I have been humbled enough over the years by the fish themselves, that I don't find myself in need of a reminder from any human about what a "know it all" jerk I'm being. The fish, after all, are the great equalizer in this sport, and they'll tell you often enough if you can get your ego to shut up long enough and listen.
Hope you all have a great week