1. Technology- by far the greatest thing to happen to the fly fishing enthusiast has got to be the advances in gear and applications due to advances in technology. From ultra lightweight tools that allow us to get into the backcountry more easily to a weather forecast you can check on your phone before heading out.
2. Carbon fiber- Your Grandfather's fly rod was made of Bamboo… you heard me right. While they’re mainly collectors items now, my father still has one and so do I. The glue used to attach the steel eyelets and butt connections to the bamboo dries out over time, so when you use one you have to be extra careful so that no metal pieces fall off. I have a funny story about this that I will tell later (I promise).
3. Aluminum- have you seen the ten thousand different variations of fly reels? Those large arbor reels they use in the oceans and on spay rods simply didn’t exist fifteen to twenty years ago. Back then fly reels came in one size, as did fly rods. You used that for everything! Or you simply didn’t fly fish. Fly fishermen back then just used their spinning outfit. Reels were not equipped to handle the heavy lines to really pull in that trophy.
4. Fly lines- Huge!! Or should I say YUGE! Advancement in this line of tackle: Weight forward, double tapered, sinking, these are all new progresses. My great grandmothers fly reel (which I still own) still has the original fly line from the 70’s on it. It’s a floating line, no taper, nothing fancy, and it’s probably had 20 feet nipped off of it a quarter inch at a time. Back then if you wanted to nymph fish or use a sinking fly you put a tiny bit of weight on your line ahead of your fly. And the choices of leader material we have now? Amazing!!! This I know because I’ve dug through my great grandfathers tackle box and creel where I found a spool of fly leader, THAT’S IT! No 4x, 6x it was just simply labeled fly leader. To make a tapered leader you had tied consecutively smaller 2 ft. pieces of line together to get down to the size you thought you needed. (You still can today; I just don’t although some still do).
5. Flies- The last time you were in your local fly shop, what was the first thing you saw after entering?? I bet money it was the huge fly assortment in the divided little boxes. There’s the same fly in all different sizes, there’s grasshopper flies tied from foam, there’s teeny tiny little ant flies that make you wonder just who in the hell tied those little buggers?? Back in the day if you wanted to fly fish you tied your own or you had a buddy that did and you bought him beer for some “specials.” Flies like the “royal wolf” and other popular patterns were published in Field &Stream with details like what material to use for the guy that did decide to tie his own (or had to).
6. Waders- today’s fly fisherman has such a dizzying array of waders to choose from, it’s mind-boggling. Maybe this is why I don’t own any!! From insulated, to non-insulated, to felt soled, to full boot, the choices are endless. Back in the day, my father and great grandfather simply wore canvas tennis shoes while fishing and dried them out after returning to camp. Insulated waders do allow for later season fishing as for the shoe selection (what’s best is personal preference).
I could go on further about all the things that we should be grateful for, but quite simply I’m just thankful to be able to fish!!
Until next time!
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