Please don't be alarmed with the thread title. I am going to offer some thoughts based on memories and current practice as a source for discussion in this writing.
There are I suppose all and every sort of purist categories within the American fly fishing population. There are dry fly, nymph and wet fly purist's. There are carp, bass, walleye, and pike purists. We have saltwater fly fishers and high altitude small stream fishers who are within their realms, purist's in their chosen ways to fish. Of course there are many more types of fishermen and women and a cornucopia of methods for casting and presenting a hand tied imitation of insect or bait fish. Then you have the cane rod purist, the glass rod purist, even some who prefer silk lines over vinyl, I can't go there
I have ran the gauntlet of fly patterns and of the various methods of presenting those patterns. For every situation there seemed to be some new twist that would require some adaptation if I were to succeed. I have wrapped lead onto my hare's ear nymphs and affixed heavy zinc eyes to my bunny fur comets. I've floated nymphs beneath an indicator, and yes I have snagged fish in an act of desperation for success. Ive tied crayfish and damsel flies, mylar bodied shiners, and scads of feather wing streamers. At some point in my development as a fisherman I've been a purist at darn near every type of presentation I ever discovered. I entered into each camp of technique and tried hard to prefect that method. Alas I have continued to evolve. With each new challenge and technique came a certain level of mastery and in its wake the need for more or another challenge.
It is the evolving fly fisher that I speak of that may eventually discover that the biggest challenge in the game is to return to the roots; the things that aroused our interest in the beginning. When I became curious about fly fishing and began to look at pictures of different fly patterns there was almost a gravity that overcame me and drew me toward this thing. I read some books by some very famous fishing authors and the stories and photos only served to fan the embers of interest that had been cached in my mind. It seemed only correct to read about Halford & Skues, Gordon and Hewitt, along with works by Schwiebert and Haig Brown. Call it general education of a sort but knowing where we came from helps one choose which way to go sometimes. If you jumped into fly fishing because a friend was into it and haven't taken time to research the history of the sport, the tackle, and some of those who helped to bring this to such a prominent place at the table you may want to consider doing so.
So I guess I would submit that a purist is one who has taken the time to not only smell the roses but to examine the thorns as well along their way. I don't suggest that you must cast a certain way to a certain fish to be a purist. I do suggest that you would learn all of the different ways to do so; the new ways, the old ways, and learn them all well. By pursuing this craft in depth and to its fullest you may have something to hand down as the years roll on. Here's a free Ard analogy; Consider learning to be a Fly Fisher as you would being educated in any other discipline. What if your computer went down and you had to write something like this without spell check? Would anyone know what I was trying to say here? Spell check is a beautiful thing and learning how to do word processing is pretty cool too.
If we were talking about posting to a forum instead of fly fishing, a purist would be someone who could get it done without spell check. I guess that's what I think a Fly Fishing Purist is, someone who can get it done the old fashioned way if they have to or if they choose to.
Did that make sense......................