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Doug's Rant: The Argument for Wade Fishing

I've noticed the past few years that there are fewer and fewer people wading and fishing our local streams. At the same time I've seen the float fishing business explode in popularity. People seem to like climbing into a boat and letting the guide do all the work. In the most extreme cases, the clients are picked up at the airport, driven to the lodge they are staying at, wined and dined and tucked into bed. In the mornings, they are fed breakfast, driven to the put in where the guide has rigged their rod and reel up and even tied a fly on. As soon as they're settled in the boat, the guide starts rowing. If the guide is good enough, he or she (yes there are women guides and some of them are so good they make me feel incompetent) can put the boat in position so that all the client has to do is to get the fly into the water ten feet from the boat. Then, the client just has to set the hook. I've even heard of a guide back rowing to set the hook when his client couldn't.  

     This can be great fun for the clients, who can take pictures of all the twenty-inchers they boat and show them to their friends but, is it fly fishing? I think not. You can't learn how to read water effectively from a boat. Further, you don't have to be even a decent caster to get fish to take your fly. If you're going to become an accomplished fly fisherman or woman, you've got to hone your skills by wading and learning your craft through trial and error.

     Now don't get me wrong. I love to float. A trip on the Clark Fork or Bitterroot is a supreme treat for me. I float four or five times a year and thoroughly enjoy every trip. But I wade our local streams far more often than I float them. And, over the years, I've developed into a pretty fair fisherman. I'm not advocating that anybody give up floating. I'm suggesting that we'd all appreciate the float trips we take if we waded and polished our skills when we can't float. I've heard quite a few people say that if they can't float they don't want to fish. When I hear it, I feel sorry for the people who say it. They won't ever know the satisfaction of stalking a big trout, making a perfect cast and fighting the fish with your feet planted precariously on slimy rocks. 

      I think both types of fishing have merit. I'm mainly making the point that everybody who fly fishes should pursue both aspects of their sport. If you're like me you'll cherish the floats for the amount of water you can cover and the number of fish you can cast to and you'll cherish your wade trips for the chance they give you to improve your skills. 

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