Decline in fly fishing [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Decline in fly fishing

06-21-2008, 06:42 AM
I'm noticing a big decline in numbers of flyfishers in both places I fish, Cape Cod and Andros.
On the Cape, plugging seems to have taken over for flyfishing by and large. I confess, I've taken to plugging more and more. It's got many of the same attractions: plugs are locally crafted and a craft onto themselves, tackle can be prohibitively expensive if you let it, and to me, at least, nighttime plugging or flycasting are comparable (although different) in technical skills, tune to the environment, and satisfaction.
I'm on Andros now and it's emptiest (of bonefishers) since the fall of '01, following a very low turnout spring. In part, this may be do to the 'recession', but it also seems the bonefishing fad has crested. There's no doubt that lodges here aren't making it and guides are taking to other jobs. (Hanks is closing on 6/30, although he might reopen in the fall.)
So I wonder just how much our 'posting' thread has to do with the overall decline of flyfishing popularity, particularly the decline of new folks getting into the hobby. 10 years ago, all these boards were much more vibrant; part of that was the novelty of onlune posting, but there were also a LOT more people inthat initial, excited phase of just having descovered a new fun activity and a place to share it.

06-21-2008, 07:46 AM
I doubt that bonefishing is declining too much-maybe a little beacuse of the economy right now--but I see lots of people going to the Bahamas. This time of the year is out of the prime season for all bonefishing lodges in the Bahamas. Most of them are empty now. Plus, there are more lodges than before, so the anglers are spread thinner. Also, I think people are trying other places besides andros--I know I am after having fished there several times in the past.

06-21-2008, 01:41 PM
[QUOTE=josko]I confess, I've taken to plugging more and more. It's got many of the same attractions: plugs are locally crafted and a craft onto themselves, tackle can be prohibitively expensive if you let it, and to me, at least, nighttime plugging or flycasting are comparable (although different) in technical skills, tune to the environment, and satisfaction.

It is clear to me that it takes more technical skill to consistently produce the same level of proficiency on a cast by cast basis with a performance surf rod than a ten weight Striper rod, relatively speaking. I can much more easily blow a cast to the level of unfishability with a surf rod that a fly rod. Then if you want to throw in a fast conventional reel like a Newell rather than a spinning reel there really is no comparison in skill.

06-21-2008, 06:12 PM
I'm glad to hear you say that, John, 'cause I feel likewise, and I didn't expect it to go over too well on this board.

Vince, there is no doubt in my mind that the number of bonefishers on Andros is approximately a third of what it was in the peak years in the late 90's. This goes just for Andros, of course. I'd also guess the number of saltwatrer fly fishers on upper Cape is less than half what it was in the late 90's.

06-22-2008, 07:06 AM
Let's clear up one thing here. If you get the impression that people on this board dislike people who use spinning gear I think that would be a wrong assumption.
We just prefer to flyfish. That being said I'm sure there are flyfishing snobs just as there are spin fishing snobs on this board. Use what ever you like. It's no big deal.
This site is devoted to flyfishing by the founder of the board . If it's not for you then so be it.
Speaking for myself I can learn a lot about fishing from guys who spin fish. Some of my best friends spin fish. :D FishHawk

06-22-2008, 07:22 AM
FWIW, I don't use spinning gear for plugging.

06-22-2008, 07:45 AM
Josko, in line with your original question...and not to turn this into a plugging or spinning versua flyfishing. I feel or think that unlike some of the other sports that have golf and tennis...which have leveled off...and not really because of the economic have to like fishing in the first place. I have seen many people start out to take Flyfishing lessons who have never fished before...never put a worm on a hook... they take up or explore the sport because of it's novelty... then... when all that work becomes too hard or they lose interest . Many of those who flyfish or spin fish or plug....are fishing like many did with their Dad's or Uncles or family frends for those elusive bluegills with a worm. To be fair and (not caustic as I have been accused of in a resent thread) I am certain there are some who will stick with it because thay grow to like fishing...but the growth had to do with the initial "let's all jump in"...sounds like fun and something to try... then a discovery that they really don't like the basic itself..... and drop out. My late father would take me up to northern Quebec and we would spn fish for lakes and speckled trout, and he would also have a fly rod on the old wooden boat.... when my kids were young, I did not do much fly fishing, but would take them down to Hardings Beach and with my Penn Slammer and chunk mackerel ,stake three rods for bluefish... they played on the beach and they started to grab it was the fishing first ... at least for me......Caviat- just my opinion.

06-22-2008, 08:41 AM
One possible reason for the decline in interest in fly fishing (not sure that has been established) may be due to what I consider its steep learning curve. Not unlike golf, it looks easy when watching it on TV. I surf cast for 30 years, but became interested in fly fishing while watching fly fisherman (probably some of the present members) on Monomoy. It looked like a blast. So the next season I went out and bought a basic set up. Then the daunting task of learning to cast. I thought to myself, how hard can it be? So I went out a few times, and learned quickly ( a few clousers in the back of the head) it was not as easy as I thought. I blundered on, too stubborn/cheap to take lessons. So within a month or so, I went back to what I knew and felt comfortable with. But the next season, I was determined, took a lesson, spent time on the water, and slowly gained some skill. Even after 3 years, I still need work on my cast. How many people are willing to take the on the challenge and the time it takes to learn a sport that requires the kind of skill and knowledge to become proficient?


Jim Miller
06-22-2008, 09:36 AM
I think there is a general decline in free time and monies to put towards recreation.
Unlike the 70's,80's and 90's. :confused:
With the economy and cost of living .... our (my) money and time are appropriated more and more to just getting by.... paying the mortgage, feeding the family, getting the kids thru college.
Very tough for me to take off for a weekend and go fishing. :whoa:
Wish it weren't so...

06-22-2008, 09:54 AM
As I contemplate this topic once again, I come up with the exact same result...

I fish for satisfaction and fish are just one part of it. I get tremendous satisfaction out of the demanding process of catching good fish on the fly, (and I am not making any statement on other's likes and dislikes) there is simply no comparison to other means for me, to each his/her own.

I spent many years plugging, live-lining and chunking on the cape and know a bit about it. In fact when I started the fish I encountered were nothing short of frightening to a 90 pound boy on the jetties and beaches. As I grew older my thumb was quite educated at one time even without a mag clutch.

These days for sure there are howling wind-blown days when I am screwed. Sometimes the fish are blitzing 80 yards out. Sometimes both. I take a white stripe but it only makes me want to find a way more than ever as I drive home.

I enjoy fishing side by side with the late fall swimmer plug boys who catch more 40+ than anyone I know (from shore). I think any respect I have earned from them is from the fact that I hang in there, and when I hook up they seem to celebrate with me.

BTW - I haven't fished the upper cape in a while but the lower cape still has a high FF percentage. Maybe because it's so much more accomodating to the wading angler.

06-23-2008, 03:18 AM
The reason for the decline may be the same reason for the recent decline in using revolving spool reels. With the new braids now established the transition to heavy spinning as been significant in the performance surf casting arena. One the light tackle end, 10 to 20 # braid coupled to a modern spinning rod offers and alternative that just was not there for the light tackle enthusiast ten years ago.

06-23-2008, 04:50 AM
Has it declined from it's heyday? absolutely, just look at all the great shops that have gone by the wayside.
I think today to be successful you have to be a little more versatile.
Taking a big fish on Fly is just a little more rewarding for me.

Surf casters are the new fashion-plates of the fishing world dressed to the nines, with every gadget under the sun.:)
Hey.. it's all good just go out and have fun:D

06-23-2008, 12:15 PM
Surf casting certainly seems to have come up with its own response to the high-end fly-gear market in recent years. Maybe its always been there and I never really noticed before.

I used to wonder why a high end fly reel cost so much more than a high-end spin reel until I came across Van Staal and Zeebas! Spin rods haven't quite caught up to the high-end fly sticks in the $600+ range unless you factor in some of the custom wraps. Decent turned plugs are going for well over $20 and the prices some guys pay would make me think twice about even getting one wet :whoa:

I have a passion for fly fishing and just ventured into the 'dark side' this past couple of seasons, coming at it in "reverse order" so to speak, having flyfished for the past 35 years. It does open up a bit more of the ocean but better than that, it gives me another perspective that I find helpful when I go back and pick up the fly rod.

As far as a decline in fly-fishing in general, my sense is the economoy, especially gas prices, is playiung a big part. Maybe my immagination but the Cape roads seem to be a bit quieter compared to last season? I guess I'll find out on Friday :wink:

06-23-2008, 12:27 PM
I am still skeptical that fly fishing has declined significantly. I would love to see some hard stats on this. I don't really see it in my business, and in WNY.

the fact that small fly shops are closing left and right is not indicative of the popularity of flyfishing. Today, there are more options on where to buy fly fishing gear, and it is easier to do so. The internet, e-bay and the big retailers like cabelas and bass pro are killing the small shops. Sure there are less mom and pop fly shops, but look at the sales of the big retailers, and I bet they have gone thru the roof. Just 10 years ago the # of people using the internet was significantly less, and cabelas and bass pro didn't have the fly shop business they now do.

06-23-2008, 01:45 PM
I think fly fishing certainly had its boom years back in the 90's and it has come back down since then. What we've seen on the retail side is the eventually change from hardware sales to software sales. Rods and reels last longer then flies and tippet. During the boom lots of new high end fly rods and reels were being sold. Now that it's come back down to a normal pace, the only things left to sell are flies and tippet. That's one reason you see fewer shops. Not enough margin in flies and tippet to cover overhead. And let's not forget how many second hand rods are sold on ebay and forums these days which hurt retailers. Here in VT we had a company making snow shoes. For years they were doing great when snow shoeing took off. Then people found other things that interested them and the company was evnetually sold to K2 and the shoes are now made in China. No different then fly fishing. I know lots of people who bought fly rods and then never used them. My brother is a perfect example. A movie came out, his wife thought that Brad Pitt guy was cute and next Christmas under the tree was a new fly rod...which has been used twice

In terms of the sport, I think flyrodders especially on the salt, are a different breed. It's certainly not the most effective way to take a fish. But the challenge keeps us focused and we're still out there figuring out how to cast 50 feet in a 30 MPH wind just for the chance to fight a 40 inch striper on the fly rod. For now, I don't want to catch a fish on anything but a fly rod, but that may change in the future. Some times I don't even care what I catch as long as it's on a fly rod. Plus I feel it will take my lifetime to ever come close to being as good a caster as I'd like to be.

The one thing that startles me is the stark difference in conservation attitudes between fly fishermen and spin/bait fishermen. Most flyfishermen I know take maybe one or two keepers per year. Every spin/bait fishermen I see out there takes their limit whenever possible.

06-23-2008, 02:23 PM
I think John (striblue) is very close to what has happened regarding fewer folks fishing today, which encompasses all types of gear from fly to casting to spinning to trolling. As an example, I am the oldest of 7 and all 7 of us were taken fishing by my parents as we grew up on family fishing outings starting at around age 3. All of us were given our own small casting rod with closed face spinning reel to begin fishing with and all of us were started on small farm ponds in Pennsylvania that were full of very willing to bite bluegills. All of us were also given the opportunity to learn fly fishing as we got to age 5 and older because Dad was and still is at age 81 a fly fisherman.

By the time each of us graduated from high school (4 boys and 3 girls) only 2 of us still fished. Myself with fly gear and a younger brother (Dave) with spinning and casting gear. The other 5 simply quit fishing because they didn't like fishing. Dave rarely fishes these days preferring to hunt, go rifle target shooting, or shoot clay birds with his shotgun than fish.

After another younger brother (John) graduated from graduate school, he took up fly fishing because some of the guys he worked with fly fished and he decided he ought to reconnect to fishing as a way to have some social connections with people who could help his career. John's oldest daughter Kate (now in college) took up fly fishing to spend time with her Dad and found out she liked fly fishing. Now that she is in college and working as many hours as she can during the summer, she isn't fishing (she is going to be a Senior this fall). And my brother John, her Dad, hasn't fishing since Kate went off the college. Not because he doesn't have time, but because he really doesn't like fishing all that much and did it so he and Kate could share time together on the stream.

My 28 year old daughter is another example. We taught her to fish at an early age, she began fly fishing at age 6, really enjoyed fly fishing, and then abruptly quit fishing at age 12 because her friends told her girls don't fish. She hasn't fished since. Her husband Matt doesn't fish and never liked fishing despite his father liking fishing with casting gear in the salt. Matt's brother and sister don't fish either and both said they never liked it. My oldest grandson, age 7, is beginning to ask about fishing since he is in Cub Scouts, but amazingly, Melanie and Matt are trying to talk him out of it simply because neither of them like fishing and don't want to take him.

Out of my own children and my many nieces and nephews, only my 2 sons and my niece Kate like fishing. The other 13 don't like fishing so they don't fish.

Clearly, many people take up fishing for a short time, discover they don't like it, and quit fishing, just as John (striblue mentioned).

As far as what type of gear one uses to fish, I don't care. As has been said herein by others, the type of gear used means very little, what matters is that people get out and enjoy their time on the water fishing. I just prefer to use fly gear.

06-23-2008, 02:39 PM
Most flyfishermen I know take maybe one or two keepers per year. Every spin/bait fishermen I see out there takes their limit whenever possible.

Probably cause most fly fisherman only catch 1 or 2 keepers a year:biggrin: The top 5% catch good amounts of keepers but the vast majority of fly guys do not. Just how it is. It is easy to release fish when you are catching mostly small ones. So far this year I have caught just 5 keepers on fly up to about 37inches but have quadrupled that on spin.

A 40inch 20 pound bass is not too common in the fly world. Those are still schoolies really (ie they travel and feed in schools still while the 30pounders and better do not) and most of us fly guys are extremely blessed if we ever get a 30lb or better fish. Presenting big baits effectively with any sort of regularity has still not been totally solved in the fly world when it comes to large bass. I mean here in providence I could take you to a spot full of 30 pounders on pogies but I have not seen or know of anyone taking then on fly with regularity or at all for that matter. I like the challenge though and am still trying...

I fish both spin/fly and spin is about 25% of how I fish. I usually average 4 days a week so I still probably fly fish more days a year than most.

Sometimes it just makes more sense and it is a lot of fun fishing 4 ounce wood lures in heavy surf or fishing spooks and seeing 20 pounders flipping them around with their tails. I really enjoy it in that case more than I would trying to flyfish in those conditions. I certainly have the skill where I could but it is not the most effective and for me a fish is a fish. I cannot say I honestly feel a whole bit of difference catching a striper on gear or fly. Big tuna is another story though and the fly is the way to do it...

What I am seeing the last few years is more guys swinging both ways. They may be at the canal throwing weighted cordells one day on a conventional and the next day fly casting for stripes in an outlet down the road. It is all good...


06-23-2008, 08:12 PM
I think Flytyer nailed it, and I completely agree that it's not about the equipment. We all find our preferred challenges, whatever combination of species, equipment and presentation that is. Some of us get hooked.

I was done for once I got into bluegills with worms.

06-23-2008, 11:40 PM
The number of kids under 14 fishing last year fell again for the 10th straight year. If anything is causing a drop in flyfishing, that would be what I look at first. Secondly, I'd look at the state of the economy. Fishing is an expensive hobby in general so when the economy is in the toilet, fishing is going to suffer. Third, there was a resurgence in interest in fly fishing about 10-15 years ago. I think a lot of the yuppies that picked it up back then have moved on to their next flash in a pan. "A River Runs Through It" is now 19 years old.

I'm happy to see a decline in fly fishing. Hopefully I won't be bumping elbows as often with shmucks who have no sense of etiquette. :razz:

06-24-2008, 07:35 AM
good point--more room for the rest of us!

06-24-2008, 08:08 AM
Probably cause most fly fisherman only catch 1 or 2 keepers a year:biggrin: The top 5% catch good amounts of keepers but the vast majority of fly guys do not. Just how it is. It is easy to release fish when you are catching mostly small ones. So far this year I have caught just 5 keepers on fly up to about 37inches but have quadrupled that on spin.

That may be true in Mass but most other states have a slot limit in which "keeper" size fish are an ever day occurence on the fly rod. I think there is just a culture of catch and release in fly fishing that has been preached for many years through folks like Lee Wulff and organizations like TU that echos in the saltwater flyfishing world. Most guys likely started out flyfishing for trout. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with keeping fish within the limits of the law, I'm just curious why there is such a stark difference. There was a post on another forum that went south quickly when a fly guy posted a comment about his distaste at seeing pics of guys gaffing big bass and claiming they would be used to fertilize his tomatos. The rest of them jumped on the band wagon and the dreaded elitist word came up. It got pretty nasty and was eventually shut down.

06-24-2008, 09:02 AM
Well I guess RI, CT , MA, NY , NH, and NJ all have the 28" I was talking about. Forgot maine lets you keep the 18inchers...

If the law saws they can keep em there is not much anyone can say in the debate. Personally I would like to see a 1 and done law put into effect which would help some. I also think people should be allowed to keep fish. That is the core of fishing and we should be looking for ways to preserve fishing for all kinds of anglers.

Over generalizing is not a good thing either. I know lots of spin/conv guys who release lots of fish. Most spin/conventional guys will counter that fly guys probably kill as many fish as they keep cause they play with em and fight them like wusses. Both sides has valid arguments in my opinion :biggrin: Not a winnable argument either way I am afraid and just causes problems when people feel they are getting personally attacked.

Stuff like what went down on real time does not help anything. If anything we should be working together not pissing on each other whenever we get the chance. I mean if every time someone put a picture up on the board and immediately was attacked by , you are holding it too far out of the water, you took 10 minutes to fight a 28" fish??, etc etc we would see the same thing happen here.


06-24-2008, 12:10 PM
No I'm not questioning the legality or even the ethics of it, and do not want to start a debate over whether the fish stocks are in good health or not. Generalization was made only from my own observations on the water and have no intent to inflame fly or spin guys. I know there are plenty of spin guys that release keepers. I was just curious as to why the difference. Even in trout fishing we see a lot more fly guys C&R then spin guys. I was just curious as to what the reason for it is on a social level. I'll let the F&W managers deal with the regs. Again, my thinking is that it's just the culture of the two sports but that has to come from some where. TU, magazines, etc.

06-24-2008, 03:14 PM
There is also a line to be drawn between buying gear and fishing. Hey gear can be part of the fun, using a well engineered piece of equipment spin or fly ain't a bad thing.

People may be fishing less overall or just fishing locally which would put a lot less of them on the cape. I don't know if there's a mass movement of fly fishers to gear, maybe. I used gear first and went over to fly fishing during the late 90's so I''m still relatively new to it compared to many of you.

Anyway, I stuck with the fly fishing only for a while and now I enjoy both methods. Hell I've been livelining macks the handful of times I've gotten out. Usually hit a few mini rips in the bay with a sinking line and nail some schoolies to remove the skunk then it's off to the races.

Last time out I was using a floater for some surface action in one of these rips and I've gotta say the fly guys outnumbered the spin crew. The wind was light and made casting enjoyable, I think a lot of folks still fly fish but don't limit themselves or maybe I should say concentrate on that one style of fishing.

Sight fishing aside, the smart ones are fishing at night, maybe you just don't see them..:hihi:

06-27-2008, 10:17 AM
I think it's probably true that flyfishing worldwide has seen a decline since the explosion from "A River Runs Through It".

Beyond the microcosm of the northeast striper scene, the Pacific Northwest has shifted heavily toward Spey fishing in sea run rivers but I wouldn't say the percentages have shifted from gear guys.

Out in the saltchuck there has definitely been an increase in coho salmon fly guys, whereas I had found myself to be the only fly rod at Neah Bay and Sekiu while exploring the area in the 80's - no way now, the saltchuck was busting with fly rodders last year especially the sound. This is an area of increase for certain.

Flyfishing maintains a stronghold in the western trout scene although from what I read there is a sharp decline in participation and some of the shops I knew have shut down e.g. Rocky Mtn National Park area.

As others have mentioned Josko's observations in Andros are different that what I have seen out in the Bahamian out-islands where I don't think I have ever seen a bonefisher with anything but a fly rod even in such remote places as Acklins.

The Florida Keys still has a strong salt FF presence although only a small slice of the overall pie. To the west (Gulf) I presume the recent tournament attention on reds has got the situation pegged so only a few guys here and there will fling the fat line. Further west we don't hear much about the San Juan river anymore and California is gear for the vast majority although the Bay area striper scene is growing and there is a good population of traveling hardcore FF guys living in Cal. Sanctuaries like the Golden Gate Casting Club will keep the torch lit, we need more of those places perhaps one in every state. Maybe we should elect a FF president and get that law passed :)

I don't have finger on the pulse of the rivers in Europe, Scandinavia and Russia but my sense is the fly rod is still king on those atlantic salmon rivers. I can't imagine spin fishing on the Dee, the Spey or any of the famed other rivers in the above areas. I think you'd get beat up by a ghillie (some are quite tough).

FF is king on the atlantic salmon fishing rivers in the atlantic provinces without a doubt. Hmmm I need to save up and get back up to the Gaspe soon.

Globally, I believe flyfishing is still alive and well but just not the vogue thing it was in the wake of Brad Pitt's portrayal of a Montana boy who despite debts to the devil he could never repay, was angelic and pure as the river itself with a bamboo pole in his hand.

06-28-2008, 08:29 PM
Well I guess RI, CT , MA, NY , NH, and NJ all have the 28" I was talking about. Forgot maine lets you keep the 18inchers...

Maine's striper regs:

BAG & SIZE LIMITS A person may take and possess 1 fish per day. The fish may be between 20 and 26 inches total length, inclusive, OR 40 inches or greater in total length.