"...Many of us fish to get away from people and the technology and things that remind of us of modern life. [But] there is something to be said though for sharing these experiences with people and connecting on a level with another person that shares our passions."
I grew up an only child in the 1990’s on 20 acres that backed up to one of the most famous tailwaters in my home state of Northern California (not officially a state, more of a mindset, so for the detail oriented it is just plain California). I started really getting into fly fishing in high school. I had fished, and fly fished my whole life, but not until my sophomore year in high school did I realize that maybe this fly-fishing thing was my path. I really had been pushing hard for professional baseball player or grunge/indie rock heart throb, but the cards were not falling in my favor, so I took the hand I was dealt and rolled with it.
Part of being a teenager is balancing the will to rebel and develop your own sense of identity with finding people to do it with. My thing was fly fishing and this was before the internet, social media, or really any sort of youth movement in fly fishing. When I think about new people coming into fly fishing today I feel like a bitter old man. Hearing people complain about not having people to fish with, or friends who fly fish makes me want to get up on a soap box and lash them with a verbal assault about when I use to walk 20 miles up hill both ways in the snow to the river and my fishing buddy was whatever bird or critter showed up on the bank on a given day.
I hold back from jumping up on my soap box the more I have thought about it, as I think beginners have almost the same issue that I had, but in reverse. While, I scavenged books from the library and hung in the back of the local fly shop picking up any piece of information I could, currently there is an over flow, if not glut, of information out there about fly fishing. Like most things in our world the internet and all of its off spring like social media, YouTube, blogs, have made the path to learning, finding people to fish with, and progressing in the sport just as challenging. While I had to search for water in the desert now people have to swim through an ocean to find the single drop of water that suits their need – there is so much information out there now how does anyone find what they want or need?
Fly fishing has always been a tough thing to “get into” as it is a solitary sport that requires a huge hard drive of experience and knowledge to be successful. In generations passed this was earned on the water, through massive amounts of failure and experiential learning. There was no short cut, and because of that fly fishing was a small club that was for the most part a niche hobby. What use to be a solitary sport people did on their own though has become accessible and attainable for all in the modern era helping all aspects of our sport grow.
"Do a lunch time fly tying session with people ounce a month, do a fly tying evening, gear swap, beer and flies night…just a reason for like-minded people to get together and talk fishing, tie flies, or share ideas."
If you are a new angler and looking to get into fly fishing you are living a renaissance of our sport, and finding a group or a tribe is as easy as it has ever been. When I was a kid I met my first fly fishermen, outside of seeing them on the river or fly shop, at my local fly club. Now that is the historic avenue for “getting into fly fishing”, but let's be real, fly clubs have a certain demographic and when I walked into my local club 23 years ago I brought down the average age by at least 30 years. Furthermore, most anglers don’t want to dedicate the time to going to a fly club meeting and standing up when they ask if there are new members etc. I have nothing against fly clubs, but they are not for everyone and really service a fairly narrow demographic in our sport and world.
Most people are on some form of social media at this point and if they are not I imagine they are not the kind of people that want company on the water or a new fishing partner anyway. There are all sorts of Facebook groups associated around fly fishing and more importantly fly fishing specific regions or water sheds. By simply typing in “Fly Fishing (insert river, watershed, lake, creek, what ever” into the facebook search bar you will find all the posts with anything regarding that as well as you can click “groups” at the top of the page to see if there are any groups in facebook associated with it.
You can either join the group and get social, or stalk the group online-stalker-style and see what you can learn or pick up. You can also search hash tags on both Instagram or Facebook and try to find posts or chains of posts about what you are trying to learn about. I personally search hash tags on Instagram all the time to find interesting people posting stuff or people that are posting about various locations. I have even met some people I consider good friends over social media doing this.
Yes, you do have to weed through the veil of the computer or phone screen to get a “real” idea of people though. Social media paints a pretty unrealistic picture at times, ask anyone that has tried online dating. One suggestion I always give people is if you meet someone cool on social media before you sign up for the full day of fishing together including the car ride there and back, go have a beer with them. Do a little preliminary meeting and feel the person out a bit. There are very few people I would voluntarily spend a car ride with and share a boat or river with all day so pre screening is key in my life.
I also think good fly shops build communities around their shop now a days. A small boutique business like a fly shop cannot survive in the world of online retailers and big box stores by just turning the open sign and stocking the shelves. Good fly shops have active social media accounts online, host fly tying nights, bring in presenters, guides, manufacturer reps, and even host get togethers at various bars or out on the river.
A few shops locally around my neck of the woods do some amazing things for their customers. One in a fairly urban setting hosts lunch talks from guides, product reps, or even shop staff so customers can come in on their lunch hour, eat some food, and get some info on something cool. Another shop I know that is lucky enough to have a river run through town put together a summer fishing competition in the vein of a rec league on a given weeknight each month. Like a bowling league for fly fishermen. Maybe your fly shop doesn’t do this already, but you could always ask if you could host it. Do a lunch time fly tying session with people ounce a month, do a fly tying evening, gear swap, beer and flies night…just a reason for like minded people to get together and talk fishing, tie flies, or share ideas.
I know one group locally in my area that just meets at a local bar and ties flies one night a month. Each guy brings some materials and they drink beer, tie flies, watch a game, and hang out. Informal get togethers like this are great ways to meet new people and get together. Low pressure and easy to back out of if the group or people are not your style.
Meeting new people is hard, and finding good fishing buddies is not easy even today with all the ways to do it. Furthermore, many of us fish to get away from people and the technology and things that remind of us of modern life. There is something to be said though for sharing these experiences with people and connecting on a level with another person that shares our passions. Get out there and find some people in your neck of the woods and learn something new and make some new friends – don’t be the weird cagey guy on the river with no friends. He is the first guy that gets mentioned when weird things happen around town.
Get to Know More About Hogan:
Hogan gives back to the fly fishing community as a board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and marketing director of Cast Hope, a non-profit with the mission of getting kids outdoors through fly fishing.
In addition to being a proud Hatch Reels pro, Hogan also works with Scott Fly Rods, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, StealthCraft Boats, Airflo Fly Lines and Echo Rods along with being a Simms ambassador and Fulling Mills contract fly tyer. Hogan is also a connoisseur of fine ales and fermented grains, a home gardener, a die-hard San Francisco Giants and Notre Dame football fan, member of the rock band Royal Oaks, and a husband to an amazing wife and mother, as well as a father to two young boys.