The December 2010 issue of Angling Trade touches on a topic of great importance to those involved with the business side of fly fishing: attracting new participants to the sport. Editor Kirk Deeter talks of some ways people in the industry can grow the sport, and suggests 7 things that must happen in order for this to be successful. I won’t go into detail with the 7 things here (if you want to read all about it, sign up to receive your free subscription (it’s quite good, and an interesting point of view to get a take on the world of fly fishing: from the inside out). But Deeter has some good ideas that include: ensuring the success of next year’s IFTD in New Orleans; aligning the fly fishing world more closely with the American Sportfishing Association and putting the “fishing” back into fly fishing; reconnecting the fly fishing world with the Outdoor Industry Association; doing away with the perception that fly fishing is a difficult endeavor with a learning curve that’s too steep for beginners; increasing on school-based programs such as TU’s Trout in the Classroom and Fly Fishing in Schools Program (which I am embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even aware of until Deeter’s mention of it, which means it’s clearly not promoted enough); reaching out to the bass nation; encouraging fly fishing retailers to talk with one another.
On the last page of the issue, contributor Tom Bie goes on to suggest some other ways that the fly fishing industry might effectively grow the sport. For those who don’t know, Bie is the editor of The Drake magazine, which is regarded by many to be one of if not the coolest of the print magazines serving the fly fishing world. At any rate, Bie voices doubt that reliance on a professional organization or trade group will result in what is needed to really attract new folks to the sport of fly fishing. Instead, Bie says this:
“Also, adding to Kirk’s (Deeter, not Werner, FYI) list in his editor’s letter, there is one thing I’d like to see happen: Since fly fishing has 10,000 freelance writers, all of whom have apparently written a book, I’d like to see these authors start focusing their flyfishing pitches toward some non-flyfishing publications. I’m not suggesting writers stop sending queries to Kirk Deeter, Frank Amato, Joe Healy, Andrew Steketee, Ross Purnell, Steve Probasco, Steve Walburn, Tom Bie or any other flyfishing editor. I’m just requesting that you also query some general interest magazines to see if we can place a few flyfishing stories in front of people not in the choir…let’s bombard them with some flyfishing destinations and see what happens. And if you really love the taste of rejection, send something to Mens Journal or Outside or Esquire. True, they’re a lot harder to get a story in, but if you can pull if off, a half million people will see it. And that would be cool.”
Lately I’ve been struggling with what I want to be when I grow up, but Bie’s words have motivated me. It’s like he was talking directly to me because ironically I’m one of those writers he mentioned–you know, one of the 10,000 who has apparently written a book (actually three). At first I wondered how he could possibly know who I am, and then I remembered that way back in October 2009 I sent him an email inquiry about possibly submitting some work for The Drake. I never heard back. 😉
Well, since I know the taste of rejection (it’s similar in flavor to that of skunk, which is something I’m all too familiar with), I’ve decided to take Bie’s advice and hit up some outdoor magazines that are not flyfishing related. Surely I can demystify the notion that fly fishing is a difficult sport that’s too challenging for beginners. If someone like me can learn to fly fish, anyone with the intelligence of a Labrador Retriever and the dexterity of a gorilla can learn it. Maybe it is The Unaccomplished Angler who becomes the ultimate ambassador of fly fishing to the outside world: someone who is a nobody in the fly fishing world–just a regular, Budweiser and BBQ’d ribs kinda guy. My mantra will be, of course, that thankfully there’s more to fly fishing than catching fish.
So fair warning to you editors of outdoor-related, non-fly fishing magazines: The Unaccomplished Ambassador of Fly Angling will be knocking on your door. Please be gentle with your rejections.