Many years ago I worked at a public aquarium that was just a short walk from a public fishing pier. About three years before I left that position, I started noticing this guy walking down the road toward the pier at about the same time I was arriving for work each morning.
The thing that made me notice this guy, aside from the half-dozen rods slung over his shoulder, was the fact that he always wore a navy blue sport coat and always looked like he was singing.
I never spoke to him directly but I always thought he also looked pretty happy. Now, maybe he was happy because he had retired from some dull office job and got to spend the rest of his days fishing or maybe he was happy because he had just had a really great breakfast – We’ll never know. But the one thing I do know, is that he always reminded me of a rather famous fishing photograph that still manages to catch my attention even though I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times. It is a picture of Leigh Perkins holding up a small tarpon while wearing one of Orvis’s trademark hopsack sports coats.
And the reason that picture catches my attention is not because I fish in a sports coat – get real – but rather because it exemplifies the idea of what urban fly fishing is really all about — being able to squeeze in a few minutes of fly fishin’ whenever and wherever the opportunity presents.
So, while I haven’t fished in a sports coat, I have stopped to fish an urban lake after a job interview, on the way home from work, before college classes, during lunch, between appointments, after church and while on the way to the hardware store.
I’ve fished in jeans and tee shirt, slacks and dress shirt, shorts, leather dress shoes, flip flops, Hawaiian shirts, turtlenecks, polo shirts, khakis, coveralls, boots and sneakers.
I’ve been asked if I was modeling for a new line of clothes (seriously and hilariously), if I was working a police case, if I was undercover, if I was a tourist, if I worked for the mayor’s office or if I was filming a television show.
The truth of the matter is I’m just a guy who likes to fish and doesn’t have a whole lotta free time to do it and as such, I tend to put substance (read that as, catching fish) over style- if you know what I mean.
Anyway, I sometimes suspect that all the push on specialized clothes that are only suitable for specific tasks and all is as much marketing and advertisement driven as it is practical reality.
Consider, for example, what the history books say on…oh…the American West and cowboys and you will learn that nearly as many “cowboys” simply wore Bowler hats as they did ten gallon Stetsons. Real cowpokes just made due with the gear at hand.
I’m guessing that like so many other things though that the image can tell the story and “the-man-with-no-name” would not have appeared nearly so macho in all those spaghetti westerns had he been decked out in East Coast city duds as opposed to weathered serape and a “real” cowboy hat.
Just so we’re clear, I’m not against practical functionality – waders are a blessings as are many of the fabrics and clothes that wick away sweat and dry quickly and repel insect and so on and so. I’m just sayin’ that when opportunity knocks, I’m answering the door even if I’m wearing Brooks Bros. and a silk tie.
And that’s my point, urban fishin is all about striking when the time allows.
As if to be a subtle reminder that my line of reasoning is not so far-fetched, I flipped open a fishing catalog the other night and there was a picture of Tom Skerritt portraying the Reverend MacLean from the movie version of “ A River Runs Through It”. Lo and behold, his character was wearing a three piece suit (sans jacket) while flyfishing. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Though the image was taken from a movie, it was based on reality and, frankly, it was a reality that we ought to get used to if we deem ourselves urban fly guys (and gals).
So all that to say, the next time your out on the water and you see a guy decked out in brilliant blue, flowery Hawaiian shirt casting his 5-weight merrily away, don’t assume he is some newbie or poser. Just tip your hat and smile and recognize that he is probably a guy who, like you and me, loves this addiction called urban fly-fishin’.
Switch to our mobile site