There's a species of fly fisherman among us that is common, yet poorly understood. Their habitat consists of parties, barbecues, and anywhere the beer pours freely. When they are on there own they are hardcore, ardent fly fisherman, often published writers on the sport they love. However if their is a party on the go and it revolves around fishing they have an inclination to pick up a gear rod. Bar fishing for salmon, back trolling, all the way to ice fishing, these ardent fly fisherman quickly trade their meticulously tied flies for a bag of cured roe. You may hear them say, "I'm not a gear fisherman," or "only on extremely rare occasions." These are "social gear heads" -- and there are more of them than you might think.
The hard core fly fishing community often characterized their sport as an all-or-nothing activity, but by our estimates, anywhere from one-fifth to one-third of adults who fly fish occasionally pick up a gear rod. Most people know a social gear head when they see one. They gear fish occasionally, almost always in groups, and more often than not while drinking alcohol. "If I'm out drinking, or hanging out with people who are chucking roe, then I usually get the urge to do the same," says Jon Stewart, 35, from Toronto. "But I might not pick up a gear rod for many months after. I therefore tell people I don’t gear fish."
Trolling spoons is a small indulgence that I sometimes do," says Kat, "sort of like eating too much ice cream."
Social Gear fishing is a trend
While the overall number of bait fisherman in the United States is dropping, the proportion of occasional gear fisherman appears to be on the rise. Government surveys show that the number of crossover fisherman rose 40 percent between 2002 and 2008. News reports and studies have also provided anecdotal evidence that social gear fishing is increasing, especially among young people.
The reasons for this apparent trend hasn't been fully explained. Some suggest that the growing awareness of the stigma surrounding catch and release fishing with roe have people trying to hide the fact they still do it. (which may explain why the social gear heads interviewed for this article didn't want their full names used), and bait bans in rivers and lakes are increasing dramatically.
Mike, for instance, wouldn't be caught dead carrying roe around his fishing buddies. He is a hardcore fly fisherman, but will pick up his gear rod when he knows he won’t be spotted.
Another popular theory is that social gear heads simply don’t exist. The thinking goes, that they are low-level addicts either in denial or on the brink of addiction. It's a bit like the old saying about there being two types of motorcyclists: those who have had accidents and those who are going to. Mike says, “Once you go to the dark side and see how many fish you can actually catch with roe its hard to go back to swinging a fly. The denial theory may be a bit simplistic, however sheds some light on why these fly fisherman are keeping their tendencies to use bait in the closet.
The next time you are having had a few beers with friends, and think to yourself maybe I should drift some roe through that seam, consider this article. Are you a social gear head?