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.