Angling Ascots

It’s no secret, if you pay any attention at all to news in the fly fishing industry, that numbers are down. There are fewer participants than in decades past, and coupled with the trying economic times endless recession and meltdown of the global financial system, that means the industry is seeing reduced revenue. Nutshell: fewer people spending fewer dollars.

One reason for the shrinking market is that the fly fishing industry, admittedly, has a long-running PR problem that it must overcome in order for it to flourish. I touched on this earlier this year with a plea for help from Clint Eastwood. That apparently fell on deaf ears, and so we forge ahead on our own.

Collectively we, and by we I mean everyone who cares about the health of the industry, need to dispel the myth that it’s a sport for the elite, the wealthy, the high-brow. To many outsiders, fly fishing conjures up images of tweed-clad well-to-doers as they delicately present dry flies on fine bamboo rods to lovely trout on British chalk streams, or employ the use of two-handed Spey rods adorned with vintage Hardy reels for Atlantic Salmon on noble Scottish rivers that gave rise to the long rods.

At this pivotal time when the faltering economy is dealing a particularly hard blow upon the fly fishing industry I personally feel it’s irresponsible, if not completely negligent, for companies to be producing anything that perpetuates the image of fly fishing as being an activity for the aristocratic types.

In addition to tweed and Barbour jackets, consider if you will another icon of the affluent: the ascot. What is an ascot? As best I can tell it’s some sort of ornamental neck device worn under a collared shirt, often accompanied by a smoking jacket. Personally I’ve never met anyone who wears an ascot and I certainly don’t own one myself. But I have a preconception of those who wear ascots as being uber-sophisticated wealthy types that saunter about a social stratosphere that is far above my means. Whether or not that may or may not be the case, the presence of an ascot automatically suggests that the person is somebody, even if they may be nobody. Perception is everything.

We all know who Cary Grant was: the consummate Leading Man. A man who wore an ascot.

Nigel Powers looking debonair while sporting an ascot.

Justin Timberlake in synch with an ascot.

Angelina Jolie's famous husband rocks an ascot like nobody's business.

Some unidentified famous guy who won a Golden Globe for Best Ascot.

Another unidentified famous guy, obviously very proud to be sporting an ascot.

An unidentified, obviously very funny guy sporting a killer 'stache and an ascot.

An unidentified but obviously very important ascot fancier.

The preceding photos suggest that even if the person isn’t famous, they certainly appear very successful and give off an aura of elite sophistication because of one thing: the presence of an ascot.  And since perception is everything, the fly fishing industry needs to be mindful about how it portrays the sport and its community members. If an ascot is perceived in a certain aristocratic light, wouldn’t it be prudent of the fly fishing industry to avoid promoting the purchase and wearing of this high fallutin’ fashion accessory?

While difficult to see this Angling Ascot because it's camo, there is no hiding the fact that the man behind it is a powerful, well-to-do angler.

The Angling Ascot can change the image of even a bass angler into a successful, wealthy sportsman.

An Angling Ascot being worn by a wealthy angler, on his way to trade-in his Jeep for a Range Rover.

A full-coverage angling ascot is pulled over this wealthy angler's head but still it cannot provide protection from negative public perception.

I may not be able to do anything about the tailspin of the economy, but you can bet your 401K that I’ll be doing my part not to perpetuate the myth that one need be wealthy and successful in order to participate in the sport of fly fishing. I suggest you join me in not purchasing an Angling Ascot anytime soon, but if you elect not to boycott the Angling Ascot then I urge you to look no further than the Trout Underground for a possible solution at how the industry might be saved using bluegills.


  1. Erin Block

    Genius. And I’m proud to say I own no such things.

    • Kirk Werner

      In time we may both come to back pedal on our initial refusals to own angling ascots as a means of protecting ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays. Tell you what, Erin- you get one first, then I will.

  2. Patrick

    I wholeheartedly support this boycott of ascots, including the Angling Ascot, aka “buff.” I do not think it is not the perception of the need for economic wherewithal that’s the trouble. The Angling Ascot merely feeds the public opinion that the sport is too genteel. Years ago a true fisherman could be spotted by the ruddiness that only comes with sunburn. The difference between guides and their clients was simple: guides sported dark tans, clients not so much. It took muscle to fly fish back in the day, often with unbalanced and heavy fly rods. It took more personal wherewithal to fly fish. You could not walk from fly shop to shore and immediately land a fish. For instance, the care of silk line — dressing the line five to six times before even using it, wiping the line when it began to sink during fishing and drying it after fishing — limited fishing time and dictating maximization of opportunities. Instant gratification has sissy-fied the sport. Only when it again is a tough man’s game, an exclusive opportunity for those with fortitude, will it once more become attractive to new participants. That said, you’ll be able to easily spot me on the water. I’ll be the wimp wearing a buff in the hope that avoiding melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma will allow me to make up for time loss as a spincaster. Even if I’m only fishing for those bluegills.

    • Kirk Werner

      See my reply to Chuck’s comment. That being said, skin cancer is no laughing matter. If I were to ever fish anywhere that the sun is intense, I’d opt to cover my face with a thick layer of zinc oxide instead. It’s too hard to drink and smoke cigars with an ascot covering your face.

      • Patrick

        A little slit for the cigar and a straw would do the trick, I think.

        • Kirk Werner

          Now you’re thinking like a product designer…

  3. TC/Trout Underground

    Ascots aren’t just for the elite, they’re also for the aspirational elite, including those becoming upwardly mobile by robbing trains:

    • Kirk Werner

      So you’re now robbing trains? Do tell…(CIA will appreciate monitoring this conversation).

  4. chuck

    Yeah, the “Buff” may save your life! Trust me……you don’t want cancer! If your lucky maybe all you will end up with is some deep holes in your face where they carved out the cancer!

    • Kirk Werner

      Buff? Is that what those are? Honestly I don’t get out in the sun much (because we don’t have much sun out here). I thought they were fashion accessories. I may get one if they come out with a Goretex version to keep the rain out.

  5. Trout MaGee

    Oh man this was a great post. I especially like the second picture from the top. Priceless. I will continue doing my part to portray the poor fly fisherman. To poor for anything but a fly rod and reel 🙂 Tight Lines.

    • Kirk Werner

      Glad you enjoyed, MaGee…I agree that we should all portray ourselves as poor fly fishing folks whether we are now or not. Outsiders may take pity on us. Of course, in a matter of time we all will really be poor, so no impersonations will be required.

  6. Ian

    The other day I heard the UV resistant very expensive shirts made by a company, whose name rhymes with hymns, referred to as “Guide Blouses”…..

    • Kirk Werner

      Sir, this is an outrage- say it isn’t so! Puffy shirts have no place on a steelhead river, I will say that much.

  7. Rebecca

    I am guilty of a one time ascot infraction. The Bahamas made me do it.

    Lesson learned…

    • Kirk Werner

      Yes, I am aware of your moment of weakness. I wish I had a photo to include in the blog…oh, wait- I do!

  8. cofisher

    I had one once, but in my usual outdoor quick thinking way, I used it for an adult diaper.

    • Kirk Werner

      Ascot or adult diaper? I see potential for crossover- it could be worn around the neck or a bit lower. I guess it all depends.

  9. deanwo

    I vow to forego the ascot, but can I wear feathers in my hair?

    • Kirk Werner

      Dean, you may be onto something…the next fad…grizzly hackle worn as hair extensions? Genius!

  10. Sanders

    I thought an ascot was an adult bib? Anyway, I did buy a buff a while back. I wore it twice, but I don’t think it was meant to be worn with a Pearl Jam T-shirt. But then again maybe it was…

    Well…to beat the ascot blues, I’m going to head down to the local Orvis store, musk up, and buy me one of those $80 trout bum shirts…

    “Image is Everything…” -Andre Agassi

    • Kirk Werner

      I don’t know much about nothing when it comes to fashion, but lately I’ve been thinking of a fly fishing dickie. Not sure where I’m going with this but it came to mind.

  11. Quill Gordon

    I actually know a guy who wears an ascot. Not one of those abominations known as a “buff” either. I’ve even seen him fish while wearing it and, yes, his jacket was tweed. I think the only way to put an end to the nonsense is to take it up myself. People see guys like me wearing an ascot and they will stay far, far away from such things.

    I like the idea of Fishing Dickies very much but it is also the pet name I have for a certain group of anglers I see twice a season …

    • Kirk Werner

      Wow, Quill- you know someone who wears an Ascot? Can you post a photo? 🙂

  12. Wyatt Martin Collins

    Personally, I value the sport of fly fishing and its traditions much higher than the economic success of companies. Fly fishermem have always been a fairly small group and fly fishing gear is comsequently a niche market. I think that is alright; The number of enthusiasts of a given sport doesn’t change the merits therein. What’s funny is that while you said to try to look like a poor fly fisherman whether you’re poor or not, I am doing the opposite. I live in a household below the poverty line, but I make an effort to look like an “old sport” when fly fishing. I put on one of my few nice button up shirts, don my prized beaver felt hat, and carry all of my gear in a wicker creel, all the while fishing with a friend who wears old band t shirts and baggy jeans (and incidentally is more well-to-do than me). It is, indeed, all a matter of perception.

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