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.
I believe it to be a noble cause, exhausting ones self of all questions on any subject. But sometimes life gets in the way of a purists goals, and when it does we accept it and take solace in the chase or relish the writings of those who made it to the finish line.
Very well written Ard, your definition of a purist differs from the common definition and I like it. Most often a "Purist" or an "Elitist" is considered to be one who believes that their way is the right way. I strive to learn everyday, as most of us do. I don't perfect every style however I like to think that each facet of flyfishing I've explored has taught me something. Some have left a larger mark than others but they've all been worth exploring.
I can say only for me self and that is that I do feel best when I fish browns on dries,every other way of fishing or other species is like sin after that.............................................. .................................................. .................................................. ...........and I sin a lot
1. "A purist is one who desires that an item remains true to its essence and free from adulterating or diluting influences."
2. "a person who adheres strictly and often excessively to a tradition"
Seems to me definition 1 matches well with your thoughts. A concern with the history and tradition of the sport. A respect for the sport, if you will.
It's definition 2 where folks get crossthreaded...other definitions I saw indicate a purist is dedicated to tradition to a fault, suggesting that they go too far with their pursuit and in their dealings with others.
Definition 1 suggests a purist would be a positive influence on their sport, where definition 2 suggests the opposite, at least to me.
I think most people equate "purist" with "overbearing snob" and in some cases they are right. Seems like what you've pointed out is that it doen't have to be that way as long as you treat both the sport and the feeings of others with respect.
I believe I was attempting to demonstrate something intrinsic to fly fishing. A circle if you would, one that has a starting point and will eventually return to that point. I could have served a reader better by using the term aficionado as a sub form of the purist ideology. When a person picks up a fly rod and says "this is how I am going to fish now" they are making a sort of declaration. Those people, regardless of what they fish for or what methods they employ have entered into what we could consider a certain level of purism. Where they then go with their desire is a personal choice made.
I wrote the original post because I saw the term pop up a few times recently. I believe that I am one of those evolving types who is completing the circle, given I live long enough to make it. I say that, because in my experience so far this isn't something that happens overnight. Perhaps I was trying to dispel the definition that may infer; a purist is a snob or something to that effect. Of course there are snobs who fly fish but to try to identify those people would perhaps be subjecting them to an unfair scrutiny coming from persons outside their sphere of existence or social circle. Over the years I have been involved in several things that exposed me to, how shall I say this; people much different than I, that will have to do for now. I had raised some bird dogs, then I went and bought an Elhew Pointer. With this protégé I moved from the rank of the common guy with a dog to the game of Field Trial's. This required that I should have a horse, within the Equestrian community I found another group of people who were living life at another level in comparison to myself. Then there was that brief romance between Falconry and I............... You could be led to believe that you had encountered a snob or 2 inn this group that would make a standard by which other snobs may be judged There I go again, straying from the whole point here!
As I said earlier, when you pick up that fly rod you are making a statement of sorts. Within this group of anglers it is true that some tilt toward a more traditional approach to the sport. Then you've got the blue collar type who have experienced about every aspect of fly fishing that was within their reach before making a choice.
If you run across those type expressions or claims being leveled at members just send a PM to me and I'll help to smooth out the ripples. I myself have made generalizations that have been taken to heart by some members and so understand the fine line we have between decorum and argument here. In fact this thread is best described as an effort to give insight to people as to where I'm coming from and hopefully avoid any further misunderstandings. While information exchange is a large part of the experience in on-line discussions opinions figure into the mix as well. There would be little to be gained by participating in any group if you were not allowed to share an opinion. There are however some topics best left alone if it is clear that an opinion will spark a fire
Ard, I'm not sure I agree with you about what a purist might be, but I do like the
way you think!
I've always felt like a purist is someone who follows along the lines of the first definition that mikel listed. Unfortunately I think there might be a lot of the second definition involved in there as well too many times!
What you've written, to me, is a pretty good description of what a well rounded "fly fisher" might be. Someone who has experienced much of what can be involved in the sport.
I can't say that I've ever met a true purist, but, perhaps I did and didn't know it.
As far as interjecting opinions into the fray. Even within the definitions that mikel posted there could be room for much discussion & opinion. For example, how do we really define the "essence" of fly fishing? Even the definition of the word "essence" has several meanings.
What is adulterating or diluting influences in fly fishing? I'll bet you could get some real heated debate on that one!
What are the true "traditions" of fly fishing? Again, opinions would certainly vary! The traditions of a bass angler will certainly not be the same as those of a trout angler!
There may be some true "purists" out there when it comes to fly fishing, but I really feel that's something that has to be determined in our own minds. I don't think it can really be defined by someone else if another person is truly a purist. Although we all have our own opinions & perceptions about whether or not someone is a purist, I'm not sure we can really accurately determine it.
Fly fishing is like anything else, it's evolved, and there have been changes, improvements & refinements. What is "pure" is subject to debate.