Age and Sport
The accepted wisdom in fly fishing is that our sport is not attracting young people. Certainly, if one attends a fly-fishing show, the average age of the people walking the aisles seems to be somewhat north of 40.
However, the perception that the majority of fly fishers tend to be at least middle-aged may not be all that new. Despite many miles peddled on my Stingray delivering the Oakland Tribune
, there was no way I could afford fly tackle back in 1967, when I was 12 and an ardent fisher-kid wanting to learn to fly fish. My first fly rod and reel were gifts from my grandfather. Later, in my twenties, I was able to upgrade to graphite only because I was now earning the income that would allow the purchase of high-quality gear. One could reasonably argue that given the cost of entry, both with regard to monetary expense and the time needed to attain competency, fly fishing has always been an activity whose participants usually entered it after, say, the first bloom of youth.
But if fewer fly fishers these days seem to be young, there may be a couple of additional explanations. The first is that 24 years ago, The Movie created tremendous interest in fly fishing, and the reason why the sport now seems “old” is because there are just a lot of us who started back then and stuck with it. Picture the bulge created by a gopher swallowed by a snake. What we’re seeing is something extraordinary, rather than something usual.
However, maybe we truly aren’t attracting young people, whether they’re preteens or teens or in their twenties and thirties. Again, cost is one issue, but I suspect another reason is simply that kids no longer fish as a common activity, and if we’re not fishing when we’re young, igniting that passion, then we’re unlikely to become anglers, and fly fishers in particular, as we grow older and face a wider variety of competing diversions.
This, of course, has implications for the sustainability of the business side of our sport. More critically, it has serious implications for the sustainability of our fisheries and the wild environs within which we seek sport.
What it all boils down to is this: whether with bait or lures or flies, this season, please take a kid fishing. You’ll engage them in an activity that is as old as humanity, that will enhance their pleasure in the world around them, and that may spur them to join the fight to save that world. And hey, maybe you'll even gain a fishing buddy.
Publisher and Editor