John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

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billems
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John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#1

Post by billems »

One type of angler I don't care to fish with anymore is the competitive one. I don't mean the good natured fisherman who off-handedly competes in the spirit of good humor, but the obsessive-compulsive who has to be Number One. Some are open about it. i had one friend I used to fish with confess to me "I have to be the guy who's top rod." I rememeber once doing better astream than he was, and he just vanished and drove home. Another used to fish all the water ahead of me and then end the ordeal with "That was number 10."

In this age of Euro-nymphing and tungsten flies that weigh as much as a spark plug, it's good to read the soothing words of John Atherton, taken from his fine book, "The Fly and the Fish:" "One of the great qualities of the sport is that it is non-competitive. Americans, in particular, some to me well enough supplied with competition not to include fishing as well. The least flavor of the competitive destroys angling's most charming qualities, lending it with petty jealousies, envy and resentments. The angler who is determined to catch the biggest fish or the most of them, by his own determination becomes a competitor and is self-poisoned."

Words to live by, in my opinion. What do you think?

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chsparkman
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#2

Post by chsparkman »

I could not agree more. Fishing with folks like that gets old very quickly. As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate fishing with a partner where mutual generosity leads to a pleasant day on the water for both of us.
...as for us we pin our faith and fealty to the silk-wound hexagonal rod cunningly yet simply devised of its six subtle, individual triangular strips of cane throughout...

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mlarocco
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#3

Post by mlarocco »

Finding a compatible fishing partner can be tough. Fish counters, ultra competitors, the people who post your favorite spot on social media, the person who only talks about themselves, etc.... I think sometimes this is driven by one's own insecurities.

I do compete with one person. It's a quiet competition and the adversary is myself. Been fishing for 5 decades and I still try and improve my skills (casting, reading water, playing fish, adapting to new methods, etc..). Ultimately, one has control who they fish with.

You can always direct those competitive people to https://www.flyfishingteamusa.com/ where they can interact with their own kind. Seems like it wouldn't be much fun.

ted patlen
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#4

Post by ted patlen »

What is a good day? That changes as we age. This is similar to Edward Hewitt's growth of fisherman. First you want to catch a fish, then a lot of fish, then big fish , then a lot of big fish, special fish etc...until you just want to fish. Funny thing about this; Hewitt was highly competitive !

I've seen people change from being highly competitive into fishermen who enjoy the day, any day. Will this happen to this younger, social media conscience crowd who have been weaned upon instantaneous gratification? I hope so.

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prairieschooner
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#5

Post by prairieschooner »

It seems to be the American way: Everything is a competition, and there always has to be a winner.
I spent most of my money on shotguns, fly rods, guitars and banjos. The rest I just wasted. (Apologies to W.C. Fields)

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GrsdLnr
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#6

Post by GrsdLnr »

Obsessive fish counters bug me too. If keeping score is such a big deal to someone, then he ought to be playing some stick-and-ball sport instead of flyfishing.
In our family there was no clear line between psychotherapy and flyfishing...

bluesjay
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#7

Post by bluesjay »

Hi Guys I seem to remember that Arnold Gingrich used a handheld click counter to accurately keep track of his catch. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean he was competitive with others, maybe he just liked to know.

Jay Edwards

AlexP
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#8

Post by AlexP »

I fished 95% of the time alone. The remaining 5% is with my best friend. We are not competitive, I don't count fish much. "Skunked" "A couple" "A few" "A lot"....

I have just spent a week with my friend in Southern Colorado. I fished dries most of the time. He was Euro nymphing most of the trip. He did caught a lot of fish, very effective method, but not for me.

The people described by Billems are not likable characters and I would not associate them with anglers who participate in organized competitions. I think that is a different topic. I would actually argue that the people Billems talks about would not fit well in a national competition team.

I know a former competitor, he is a guide and professional tier in Northern Spain and has won multiple international competitions with the Spanish National Team. I fished with him 3 days back in July, he is a great guy. He was pretty happy to see me fishing bamboo with dries all day long. I know that I am mixing topics, but he does not have that competitive mind set described in this thread. But his competition background does make him an incredible guide.

He tied all the perdigons my friend was successfully fishing in Colorado...

Tight Lines

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DrLogik
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#9

Post by DrLogik »

Entering a fishing competition is one thing (casting or fish catching), competing on a casual outing makes no sense to me.

I have an old fishing friend that was like that. He took most things related to fly fishing to the extreme. Had to catch the biggest, the most, be the first one on the stream, etc.

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Bill Terry
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#10

Post by Bill Terry »

bluesjay wrote:
10/19/21 14:20
Hi Guys I seem to remember that Arnold Gingrich used a handheld click counter to accurately keep track of his catch. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean he was competitive with others, maybe he just liked to know.

Jay Edwards
Indeed.

I agree with Atherton and disdain competition in fishing, especially formal fishing tournaments. But I keep a fishing diary, dating back to 1967, and in it I record every fish I catch, what fly I caught it on, what natural the fly was imitating (if any), what equipment I was using, what the weather and stream conditions were, and even what the moon phase was. And I scribble a narrative of the day’s events. This information is useful when I return to a stream years later, and it is often a pleasure to go back and refresh my memory of days on rivers. Often the most memorable thing about a day of fishing has nothing to do with fish.
Ad piscatoribus sunt omnes res secundi.

mlarocco
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#11

Post by mlarocco »

But I keep a fishing diary, dating back to 1967,
Wow. I've tried to do this a number of times but lack the discipline. Must be nice to look back at pasts excursions and strir the memories.

We have a local lake where WDFW has put out angler surveys to try and assess fish populations in the lake. Very few people fill them out.

bassman
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#12

Post by bassman »

I spent several years competitive bass fishing in both week night and series tournaments. When pre-fishing with a friend I hooked a bass around 3#s and it basically skipped across the water and flipped into the boat. My friend looked at me and said, "You've basically given up enjoying fishing for putting fish in the boat.". It was not long after that I drifted away from tournaments and began to use lighter tackle and enjoy the fish a lot more.

I admit I still will do my best to outfish anyone I'm with but it's because I take fishing seriously but I'm not driven to have to catch fish or my day is ruined anymore. Besides, when competitive fishing losing a fish at the net the would have made the difference in winning a tournament and placing 5th would haunt me for days. Now I just call them professional releases or LDRs like Joanibo.

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Bill Terry
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#13

Post by Bill Terry »

When I hook a really big fish, I want to weigh and/or measure it, to know just how big it was. But mostly, if I’m fishing alone, once I get a good look at a fish I try to release it without having to touch it. If I can grab the line or leader about 10 feet above the fish, I can often make it unhook itself without having to net it and without breaking the leader.

When I’m fishing with guides, I let them net and handle the fish, which they do much more efficiently than I can.

To me, good fishing means a lot of action. On my most recent day of fishing, on a heavily fished spot on Colorado’s Eagle River where the fish are super-educated, I had fish bulging for emerging nymphs all around me for three hours. I finally found something they would take shortly before they quit. I had two takes and missed one of them. That was good fishing.
Ad piscatoribus sunt omnes res secundi.

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ctwhite
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#14

Post by ctwhite »

I traded fishing trips with a local guy for years. When it was my turn we'd walk, wade and cast. With him, we'd troll. Good guy, for sure, but his metric for success was dodgy. He had a tally counter mounted to the console of his Lund. Catch a fish, hit the counter. Days were measured by the count. Lame... and boring.

billems
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#15

Post by billems »

Bill Terry wrote:
10/22/21 07:42
bluesjay wrote:
10/19/21 14:20
Hi Guys I seem to remember that Arnold Gingrich used a handheld click counter to accurately keep track of his catch. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean he was competitive with others, maybe he just liked to know.

Jay Edwards
Indeed.

I agree with Atherton and disdain competition in fishing, especially formal fishing tournaments. But I keep a fishing diary, dating back to 1967, and in it I record every fish I catch, what fly I caught it on, what natural the fly was imitating (if any), what equipment I was using, what the weather and stream conditions were, and even what the moon phase was. And I scribble a narrative of the day’s events. This information is useful when I return to a stream years later, and it is often a pleasure to go back and refresh my memory of days on rivers. Often the most memorable thing about a day of fishing has nothing to do with fish.
I admire your discipline with your fishing log. That's the best way to go about progressing in skill and retaining fond memories for the future.

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BigTJ
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#16

Post by BigTJ »

Could not disagree more with the OP’s views on tight line (euro) nymphing. Most people who make statements like this show ignorance of what tight line nymphing techniques are all about. Tight line nymphing doesn’t necessarily equate directly to competitiveness in an individual. And it certainly isn’t about using heavy flies; heavy flies actually equate to fewer fish most of the time. The idea is to use the lightest fly and leader possible to get the proper drift. My most deadly nymphs are size 16 to 20 perdigons that are 0.005 to 0.01 grams fished in 24” of water or less. They aren’t spark plugs by any measure.they are a pleasure to cast. I catch loads of fish out of water people don’t ever bother with or understand trout could even be holding in. Big trout. It’s fun and challenging and doesn’t have to be about top rod. But on the other hand it often turns out this way, intentional or not, because it is so effective. From my perspective articles and and posts like this that diss on tight line nymphing therefore come across like sour grapes.

My main point - don’t knock it until you try it, and please don’t throw shade at it until you really understand it.

I do totally agree that angling should not be competitive and that tight line techniques are for some only employed to catch the most fish. I just don’t think the two are mutually inclusive.
Last edited by BigTJ on 10/27/21 16:19, edited 1 time in total.

GerardH
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#17

Post by GerardH »

In another life, I was a collegiate athlete and a pretty good one at that and continued competing into my early 30s...then I was completely immersed in field trialing Brittany Spaniels and had some field champions in my line, so that took over my life. For various reasons, I stepped away from both. I had a marriage, family, house, and career to maintain and neither were sustainable physically or timewise...so that was the end of my competitive lifestyle.

The intro out of the way, I'm a bit dismayed that there are those who would make a competition out of any pursuit -- including fly fishing. I remember when the One Fly competitions were all the rage, not sure if those are still going on, but I felt it was an abomination. Ditto with the 5-shell bird hunting competitions. A couple of my coworkers were on the pro-walleye tour and it seemed to be the antithesis of what the sport was about -- bad behavior, questionable ethics, cheating, etc. Fly fishing, more than anything else I do in life -- including grouse/woodcock hunting with my Britts -- is a contemplative activity for me where time slows down and I feel better about myself and world. Any semblance of competition destroys the sanctity of what I hold in the highest regard.

YMMV

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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#18

Post by Althehackleman »

I agree, no competition. However being a truthful guy I must admit that my wife and I do have a competition each time we fish together. It’s called “ the fish dollar” and it’s for the first fish of the day. Size does not matter. Species does not matter. The winner is the person that brings the first fish to hand. And they hold the ‘fish dollar’ until the next time we fish when the competition begins again. I held it for a couple months, she holds it now. But we fish a lot and love the shared experiences.
Tight lines.
Al

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Brian K. Shaffer
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#19

Post by Brian K. Shaffer »

BigTJ wrote : I catch loads of fish out of water people don’t ever bother with or understand trout could even be holding in.

Isn't life grand.
" There's no such thing as a fly fisherman wholly satisfied with his casting performance. " ~ Jim Green (1971)
" Just once I wish a trout would wink at me. " ~ Brian Shaffer

Add a single drop of Hot Sauce to your fly reel.

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BigTJ
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Re: John Atherton on Competition in Fly Fishing

#20

Post by BigTJ »

Here are some of the “spark plugs” that really work for me.


Image

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