Ridiculous hats and goofy waders are so yesterday. Not content to lurk in the shadows, only to emerge once in a while to demonstrate our fly fishing prowess through the actual act, it seems that public pronouncement of our affliction is the trend du jour.
Branding is “in.”
It used to be that it was the tools of the trade that identified fly fishermen — rods and all kinds of gear stacked in the back of the vehicle, maybe the driver sporting a logoed hat or jacket, an ash tray full of used-up flies and split shot, and a cooler of local hop juice. Now it’s decals, displaying one’s choice in rods, reels, fishing guides or philosophies.
Some might argue that the number of decals equates to experience and perhaps skill level. True or not, the fact that more than a few fly fishermen care enough to display their predilections on the back window of anything from a ’78 Chevy Stepside to the latest Range Rover offers an opportunity to decipher a sort of shorthand that can reveal a bit about the personalities you might meet the water.
While fly fishing brands will forever be debated with great intensity, “tribal affiliation” decals announcing a favorite brand — usually Sage, Orvis, Ross, Abel, and the like — broadcast a general level of cash outlay for gear. Thankfully, there is no proven direct correlation between the expense of the gear and angling ability. (I did well enough with a $100 L.L. Bean rod/reel/line combo to be encouraged to continue down the path of
financial ruin fly fishing enlightenment.)
Fly fishing decals make a declaration. “Zero Limit” is just such an oft-seen decal (also seen on t-shirts). This isn’t an argument; there is no discussion to be had. These pronunciamentos are designed to end, not start, conversations. (I, however, will gladly fish waters near a parking spot in which most of the vehicles sport this decal, subscribing to the thought that “The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back…”)
There also are more benign messages signaled by decals announcing a favorite guide service or club.
A basic outline of what decals can mean:
- More Expensive Brand Name** (Sage, Ross, Orvis, Simms, etc.): “Sure, I may not be catching as many fish as you, or even the biggest, but I look better doing it.”
- More Affordable Brand Name (Redington, St. Croix, Cabela’s, White River, Etc.): “I don’t need no stinkin’ brand name, I got skills.”
- Any Guide Service: Don’t make eye contact with these people. Seriously. They want you to ask about XYZ guide service, then will proceed to regale you and anyone within earshot with the 151st, hour-long retelling of their best day fishing ever.
- Fly Fishing Club: Friendly people, who, when they don’t get out to fish often enough, live vicariously through others’ fishing reports.
**In all honesty, in response to economic conditions, most manufacturers now offer more affordable gear, but the premise remains sound.
A better indicator of who you might meet on the water may well be found in the number of decals. In many cases, this simply may be a sign of the owner’s pride in being part of the sport. However, in some cases, the quantity of decals may serve as a warning.
A 2008 Colorado State University study concluded that drivers who place bumper stickers and other decorations — or “territory markers” — on their vehicles could be 16 percent more likely to engage in road rage. These decorations “…predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,” said researcher and psychologist William Szlemko in a Nature News interview.
So next time you’re wandering down to the river, take a look at he vehicles parked in the lot or alongside the road. Count the number of decals on each one.
You’ve been warned.
* Credit to Bill Engvall for this post title.