When did fly fishing become the cool thing to do? I remember a time when most fly fishermen were perceived as old men with too much time and money on their hands. However, each year the rivers get busier and the fishermen keep getting younger. I never thought I’d see the day when having no shirt on, waders sagging, and headphones around your neck would be cool while fly fishing. More and more brands have been catching onto the explosion of younger fishermen joining the ranks of the older crowd and have begun creating products and campaigns geared towards attracting them. Seems like there are more hat brands popping up each day, ready to give away a hat to entice you into buying $2000 worth of camera equipment.
For those just beginning their ascent into fly fishing, let me start with saying fly fishing will not make you famous. No one cares about your shitty cell phone photos, and no, Bass Pro isn’t going to sign you to some big contract so you can fly fish for a living. Before you say it, no, having a better camera will not make much of a difference other than you’re going to be out thousands of dollars and hours of time editing photos. Trust me, there are professional photographers or the seasoned photography enthusiasts who may receive some sort of brand deal from the use of their photos, but they are passionate about putting their time and money into something they care about. Yes, I know, you are passionate about taking photos too. But, are you really? Or do you just want to feel the rush of gathering followers and likes? It is the feeling of being in the spotlight you’re chasing, or is it that you actually want to take photos that matter to you and no one else. I will say for the majority of people it is not the latter.
I must admit, I fell into the Instagram fame trap. When I started out in 2015 I was under the delusion that I would get sponsorships as my follower count blossomed. However, that has just not been the case. If I am being honest, I have been sent two free t-shirts and a mug from a wonderful dog company (for using a photo of mine) and that’s it. Seriously, two t-shirts and a mug for hours and hours of work I put in to build my follower count. All the likes and comments amounted to nothing more than being associated with “knowing more about fly fishing.” Other than that I have gotten offers from brands, most of them I’ve never heard of, to purchase their merchandise at steep discounts. I have yet to take any of these offers into real consideration because if you love fly fishing, you will soon find out that you already have too much gear and need nothing more. By the time ten years have passed you will own 8 rods, 2 pairs of waders, wading boots, wet wading gear, 13 filled fly boxes, 6 reels, various packs and vests, and countless other unless items you will never use again. However, you’ll keep telling yourself that you might need that leaky set of waders one day and they will continue to gather dust in the garage.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I’ve seen your photos, and they aren’t great.” Well, you’re right. For the most part I just use my cell phone to take pictures. I did, however, purchase a digital camera thinking that I would use it all the time to take these insane photos for my followers to oogle over. I quickly found that carrying around this clunky and heavy camera was not a priority. Catching fish is what really mattered to me, not the photos and videos I could possibly take with this fancy new camera. Soon the big camera got left at home and I was back to just using my phone to capture memories of various outings.
To add fuel to the fire of all this, social media is very detrimental to the fish. They are being held longer, handled poorer, and die more often all so those perfect shots can be had. Furthermore, Instagrammers are going to greater lengths to catch the more memorable fish or moments by fishing during closed seasons, hooking into fish while they are spawning, or even using bait to attract fish in bait banned areas. As more and more people join this wonderful and amazing sport, we all need to come to a true understanding of why we fish. If you’re looking to fly fish for fame and merchandise, please take up a different sport. Our fish are already stressed to the limit through overfishing, industry, and habitat deterioration. Please don’t be a reason another fish dies just so you could have the perfect shot for the gram.
As a final thought, for those who look up to the accounts with the gorgeous photos and followers through the roof, please remember that being a professional or very passionate photographer does not mean they are great fishermen. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of each shot and not all of what goes on is good. On the other hand, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Instagram can be a great tool. You can meet like minded people who may one day become some of your best friends. Also, it’s a great way to share tips, gather information on the conditions of spots, and to just relax and check out what people are doing. Plus, you never know, maybe Bass Pro just might think you’re their next star.