OMG, fly-fishing needs to expand beyond OWG

The first weekend of April brought a real feeling that spring finally had arrived with the annual Duranglers Fly Fishing Festival. The warm weather felt great, and the festival was lots of fun.

Robert Younghanz, aka The Bug Guy, put on two events to educate the rank beginner to the most advanced fly-fisherman about bugs. John Flicks presentation was for those who tie their own flies. He covered spinning and flaring hair.

There were casting demonstrations and representatives from various manufacturers to answer questions about gear. There also was a cookout, and the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour finished the event.

There was something for everyone.

But as I thought back about the event, it seemed as if something was missing. Then I realized that 99 percent of the participants were older white guys (Ill called them OWG). It looked like a meeting of the U.S. Congress.

You might chuckle and say, Thats OK with me. It will give us OWG fewer crowds to deal with. Truly, who wants crowds or new folks to enjoy our sport? Well just fly-fish until the last OWG dies and the sport with him.

Well, its not OK with this OWG. In fact, it causes me great concern. I imagine it also gives fly-shop owners and their suppliers great concern.

Truly, why is fly-fishing not attracting more women, younger people and ethnic diversity? Manufacturers have been making equipment designed for curved bodies, smaller hands and narrow feet, to better fit women and the younger set for some time. What do we do to motivate said population to the streams and lakes armed with fly rods?

I not sure I know, but lets look at the facts.

Fly-fishing is affordable, its fun, its not hard to learn, its a great family activity and, unlike lots of other sports, it can be done till youre really old. Just look at all the OWG who still are fly-fishing.

Some might question affordability and ease of learning.

If a wannabe picks up any number of fly-fishing catalogs and sees rods for $800, reels for $450 and waders for $500, who can blame him or her for stopping right there?

As for ease to learning, have you heard someone say, How do they do that? only to have a fly-fishing friend respond by saying, It takes years to learn how to cast. Who wants to spend thousands of dollars and years of practice to get good at something? (Sounds like golf to me.)

To cure those problems, first direct the new person to the beginner packages retailing for $250. Then introduce him or her to an instructor who can teach basic casts in an hour. Next, if you know people who arent OWG, bring said group into a fly shop. I assure you, fly-shop owners would love to have a diverse group come into their shops in search of a great beginner experience.

Finally, I would have the advertising companies do a better job. I saw only one woman making a cast in the entire Fly Fishing Film Tour. I also checked my most recent fly-fishing catalogs and magazines and noticed only a few women in the ads. Needless to say, there was no ethnic diversity. How can fly-fishing expand if 99 percent of the ads show only OWG?

I love this sport, and I want others to love it. So please, help introduce fly-fishing to a non-OWG. You could be the start.

Reach Don Oliver at durango_fishing@frontier.net.

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