Fly Fishing Popularity Soaring With Younger Generations Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

by Jon D. B.
fly-fishing-popularity-soaring-younger-generations-covid-19-pandemic

The sometimes serene, sometimes maddening, and highly skill-centric art of fly fishing is back as a whole new generation embraces the sport amid 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic.

As the son of a fly fisherman, I can attest to the amount of potential – and artistry – this sport inspires. With hordes of younger generations embracing the outdoors for the first time due to COVID-19 and the new reality this pandemic provides, it should come as no surprise that something as unique and beautiful as fly fishing is finding new footing with a whole new generation.

Many nights were spent at my father’s house tying flies with the old man. The lures this form of fishing requires can be works of art in themselves. My favorite of the lot – affectionately known as “wooly buggers” are crafted to be loud, colorful, and appropriately fuzzy – and dad was incredibly talented with these, in particular. He was, too, a hell of a lot more talented a fisherman than his offspring.

I’d like to chock that up to the distinct skills that fly fishing requires. In truth, it’s a sport that requires a patience I don’t possess. For those that do, however, its a wonderful outdoor escape that can prove life-changing.

Fly fishing resurges during pandemic with aid from the pros

If the pandemic has provoked one positive thing – it’s creative ways to spend one’s time. Outdoor activities – such as fishing, camping, and hunting – are seeing drastic upticks in participation this year. What better way is there to responsibly social distance – and enjoy yourself while doing so?

Many anglers within my generation, and the ones after it, are just now discovering this for the first time, too. Fly fishing, in particular, is one of the latest outdoor sports to regain massive popularity.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the upswing, with one quote in particular that illuminates the happening best:

“There are a lot of new anglers, and not as many old white guys out there on the river as there used to be,” laughs Joe Fox. At just 34, Fox is the owner of Dette Flies in Livingston Manor, New York. Fox also notes that – with the uptick in interest – comes matching retail opportunities. “There is [also] much more variety at a customer’s fingertips,” he adds. And he’s right. Alongside interest comes merchandise – and illumination.

Fox says he’s “seeing a return to traditional two-handed rods, which are being adapted using new techniques. Old-school fiberglass and bamboo rods are having a moment, too.”

Would-be fly-fishers: prepare to budget & save

Fox is also among many moguls from younger generations that are revitalizing fly fishing for their age groups. Those without a shortage of money, that is. The sport is… not just expensive – but costly – both financially and as a time-sucker.

Another young (and very well-off) gentleman capitalizing on the resurgence is Former Blackstone executive Chad Pike. Pike is crafting an entire “portfolio of luxury guest lodges and live-aboard boats that are unique to” fly fishing. In the past two years alone, he’s acquired property in the U.S., New Zealand, and Patagonia to capitalize on the sport.

Jimmy Kimmel, while not a youngster himself, is an avid fly-fisherman, too. The talk show host has purchased famous lodges with pro-fishermen to renovate into fly fishing havens. They’ll even feature fishing-based books and paintings from his personal collection.

U.S. Fly Fishing Museum is in on the uptick, too

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The aforementioned “wooly buggers” used for fly fishing in all their loud glory. (Photo by: Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images)

Even the U.S.’s premiere fly fishing museum is in on the uptick in interest from younger generations. The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, in Livingston Manor, New York, has just remodeled it’s entire exhibition space in 2020. It’s a part of their expanded effort to be more accessible to said younger generations – and to feel less alienating.

One of the museum’s board trustees, Cy Amundson, says ” it’s an attempt to make the whole thing readable.” At 44 himself, Amundson is far below the average age for a U.S. fly-fisherman, which sits somewhere in the late 50s. “We mostly pruned [the museum],” he clarifies to The Wall Street Journal. “The place had collected loads of things that had fish on them and got screwed to a blank spot on the wall. [We are] paring down to the essentials.”

With such effort being put forth by the fly fishing industry, it looks like younger fisherman have a welcoming lot ahead. This fisher hopes they possess the patience to master it, too. Otherwise, this resurgence won’t last very long.

[H/T WSJ Magazine]

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