The alleged weakest generation in recent American history is blamed for many of our societal woes. Everything from laziness to rioting is blamed on these so-called anemic, spoon-fed delinquents who only creep out from their safe places long enough to find a free wi-fi connection so they can whine or complain on Twitter. And yet this is the very generation that is targeted by almost every fly-fishing advertisement, magazine, website, and manufacturer. So what gives? If Millenials are so bad why do most industry ads look like no-one over 40 fly-fishes anymore?
This curiosity digs at a deeper hitch in our sport. It’s the ongoing discussion, debate, sometimes all out fight over the core values in the sport. I am not speaking of the classic battle between dry versus wet or bamboo versus plastic. This is the battle between the anglers who still believe there are secrets to be kept and those that “fish and tell.”
Millenials share information for better or worse, and there’s plenty of both to go around when it comes to angling. Perhaps no argument establishes this division more clearly than the conservation issue. Many anglers search public records to narrow down the field of waters where they may find solitude in the company of a few wild fish. Sometimes these anglers discover that “marginal” waters that were thought to be devoid of natural reproduction are actually teeming with fish. In south-central PA some of the best trout streams hide right under our noses in our own backyards. Sometimes they run through a farm field, sometimes they run under a parking lot.
The decision to work on these streams and “improve” them becomes a hot topic during conservation meetings and in online fishing forums. There are anglers that would just as soon keep them secret and off the radar. In doing so they hope to keep the stream to themselves. They also knowingly jeopardize the protection and potential of the stream for future generations.
So much of the cold-water conservation progress we have here in PA depends on publicly recording the existence of wild populations. This documentation often happens when our severely under-staffed Fish and Boat Commission receives tips and info regarding wild streams. With proper evidence, many conservation groups can work alongside state agencies to secure funding to begin to restore, enhance, and protect our wild fishing resources.
Now, more than ever, it is critical we share info, compare notes and spread the word. This doesn’t mean spot-burning or hot spotting a stream in an online forum or on social media. It means building a community that is inclusive and focused on protecting our coldwater resources from all forms of potential threats.
Millenials may just be in the best position to take on this monumental task and it’s going to be an up-hill fight. But it’s a fight we must take up if we really care about our sport. Millenials may need to kill fly-fishing as we know it to save the sport from itself.