A lot of us fly fishermen not only like to fish the outdoors; we like to fish on the internet, as well. It has become common practice for fly anglers, outfitters, lodge owners and guides to utilize social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote their business or show off their fly fishing skills. I find myself, when I have a down moment or two, perusing the web looking at fly fishing videos, blogs, forums and social media posts. I'm a big fan of being able to personalize your social media accounts to just showing what you want to see. My Instagram page is pretty much all fly fishing and a few things about sports. I'm surrounded by it and I love it. It gives me a place to go reflect on my days on the water and dream about the days ahead.
I often find two types of social media posts when I'm cruising around on the web. There are the grip-and-grin big fish pictures or the pictures focusing on the beautiful scenery and landscape when you're out on the water. Very few posts focus on the average and small fish, but I would say that these posts are generally socked under the scenery posts. Now I didn't say that "nobody" posts the average sized or small fish pictures, but these posts are far and few between.
You see, there are four different things you are looking for as you head onto the water: big fish, lots of fish, scenery or a mixture of all three. On some rivers, I'm looking for big fish. Take the Magalloway River for instance. I know there are trout in that river over 20 inches. I've seen them landed time and again by friends and strangers. I've caught many trout in the 18 inch range, which tells me that there are bigger fish in the river. I'd be lying to you if I said that every time I head up there I'm looking for a fish count, and the "big one" doesn't matter. When I'm in a big fish mood, I don't care if I catch 20 trout all under 20 inches. I just want the big guy.
On other days, I'm looking to catch as many fish as possible, regardless of size. There's something about just hooking up cast after cast that leaves you talking to yourself and saying that today is a really great day. I've hit hatches or spawning periods when the fish are just plain ravenous. You can't keep them off your fly. Now these days don't come along very often. The average day is working hard for multiple hours on the water and picking up a few quality fish. But when these days come along where there's lots of action, I tend to change my mindset from "one more cast" to see if I can entice anyone to "one more fish" because I know that my next few casts will likely result in a hookup. These are days that will be etched in your memory for a long time.
We have some of the most unique and beautiful waters in the world right here in the state of Maine. I seem to find myself staring more at the landscape the closer I am to the mountains. There's something about being surrounded by millions of trees, large mountains (the skyscrapers of nature) and animals that we don't often see, all while pursuing the game fish of our choice. Now, I have clients that say "Oh, I don't care about the fishing, I just want to see an eagle" or "I just want to relax today and enjoy the views". If you really wanted to do these things, you would not hire a guide and you'd just walk up and down the river to view these things yourself. While I understand that they are just setting the bar low for the day and would love to exceed their expectations by landing a trout or two, I know that they're here to catch fish first and enjoy the scenery second. In other words, you find me a person who goes fishing just to look at the scenery and I'll find you a liar!
The older I get (and I know I'm only 30) the more that I'm looking for a mixture of big fish, lots of fish and beautiful scenery. Luckily, if I can't get either of the first two I know that beautiful scenery here in Maine will never let me down. Social media is a great place to post pictures from some of our finest moments on the water. It's great to share these personal accomplishments of the biggest fish you've ever caught or #100fishday to boast about the good day that you've had on the water, but let's not forget that this sport can humble us.
Have I had 50 plus fish days on the water? Yes. Have I caught big fish? Yes, by my standards. You see, as a guide, I'm hesitant to post big fish pictures or brag about the number of fish that myself or clients caught today because those days don't come everyday. On most days, you'll get a fair amount of action if you present the fly well and then still maybe not hook into the big fish or large quantities of fish that you're looking for.
The more we post these big fish pictures, the more likely it is that newcomers to the sport will have expectations of always catching big fish. Catching fish on the fly is not an easily acquired skill and can take years to master. I do consider myself a good teacher and I'm still blown away that I can have clients, who have never picked up a fly rod, learn to cast alright, hook a fish or two or three and play them into my net. It amazes me that this can be done! Think about it. If you were handing somebody a golf club for the first time and playing a round of golf at the same time, what are the chances that they'd shoot a relatively good round of golf? Pretty poor!
All in all, we need to show the realistic side of fly fishing sometimes on social media. Otherwise, we'll have people, myself included, feel a little putdown if we don't go out and hook that monster every time we pick up the fly rod. Live for the moment while you're out there and create lasting mental images, not ones you need to look back at on your phone. I watched a guy the other day fly fishing with his 8 month old daughter in a backpack on his shoulders successfully fly fish and land a beautiful 16 inch brook trout, with no net to boot! This image is not something I recorded or photographed, but it's an image in my head that will stick with me for years to come. These are the pictures that matter to me. Hopefully, you can put the camera down and enjoy the moment while you're out there because you never know if you'll get that moment again!
Aaron Broaddus is a passionate fly fisherman and a Maine guide.