It was inevitable, of course, that tournament fishing would find its way to fly fishing. Like a cancer that spreads throughout any body when left unchecked, the need to bring competition and testosterone supplements to what was once “the quiet sport” was bound to happen after it got a foothold in conventional tackle. The surprising thing, I suppose, is that it took so long.
I suspect that it would have happened sooner, but for the stern looks of old timers at club meetings when the topic was broached. Now, sadly, enough of those old timers are gone, so the spread can occur unimpeded.
Like most insidious ideas, it got an innocuous start.
To my knowledge the Jackson Hole One Fly was the first real tournament of note. And, by cloaking itself in the clothing of “helping” the resource, the scourge was welcomed in.
But all tournaments, whether they are sponsored by something as craven as BASS or by a pure-as-the-driven-snow watershed council, do the same damage.
And the real damage has nothing to do with the fish killed, injured or pulled off spawning beds. This is, as you can imagine, bad enough (early season bass tournaments should be banned immediately) – but the true problem is much deeper.
By making the resource – a fish – the means to an end beyond enjoyment and perhaps a source of food, you have irreversibly cheapened it. It is like conceiving a child for the purpose of having her win a beauty pageant.
And by hiding this behind the notion that you are doing it to help the resource by raising money is absurd. The resource cannot be helped by things that diminish it, and which are, in fact, antithetical to the spirit that sustains it. It is the equivalent of having a wet T-shirt contest to raise money against the exploitation of women.
It simply doesn’t work.
Competition is fine. If you want to see who can cast the farthest, who can tie the most flies in a given period, or who can drop a fly in a teacup – great! That is fine. Just don’t bring the fish into it. They are above it. They have standing on their own and don’t need to serve as a vehicle to win a fly shop gift certificate.
Personally, I think there is enough competition in this world without letting it wreck something that should simply be fun. But, for some people, there is a deep-seated need to measure oneself against others – and, apparently, sometimes a ruler isn’t handy.