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Old 06-21-2011, 10:21 AM
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Default Federation of Fly Fishers: Great Mission, But Lose the "Conclave" Moniker

I picked up this thought-provoking piece from Kirk Deeter's blog on Field&Stream today and I would guess we will have many FFF members here on the forums so I am interested in your views on this subject.

Federation of Fly Fishers: Great Mission, But Lose the "Conclave" Moniker
by Kirk Deeter

The other day, I was asked if I was a member of the Federation of Fly Fishers . To be honest with you, I'm not. I should join. The FFF does a lot of really great things by way of teaching people how to cast and tie flies. They have a standardized format for teaching people how to teach casting and, by and large, that's a good thing. The conservation work FFF does is very admirable and I give FFF credit for publishing a code of angling ethics in five languages.

Yet, I hear FFF people wonder aloud why the organization can't crack into the younger angling demographic. For one, I think a rigid, standardized, "certified" casting/teaching approach doesn't appeal to a young angler who wants to free-form it and innovate on the water. Standards for instruction aren't bad, but the perception that there's a rule book for casting doesn't appeal to some people.

For me, the rub with FFF comes down to one word: "Conclave". FFF's big annual event (this year, August 31-September 3 in West Yellowstone, Montana) is its "conclave." What's in a name?

Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a conclave is:
1: a private meeting or secret assembly; especially: a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals secluded continuously while choosing a pope. 2: a gathering of a group or association.

Now, I know that FFF is going off the secondary definition. And when you go to their website, FFF is obviously trying to be inclusive, offering "fly fishing information for everyone." The happy rainbow colors on the "conclave" web page seem inviting enough.

But the word "conclave" smacks so much of the stodgy, self-important, exclusive boys club stigma that has plagued fly fishing for years, I think the name alone does great damage to FFF. At a time when the future of this sport depends on cracking through stereotypes, and when young anglers want information more than anything else, any name associated with a "private" or "secret" definition is going to keep FFF hamstrung.
Change the conclave name, and FFF can go a long way to changing perception about its organization and the sport as a whole. Just one humble opinion.
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Old 06-21-2011, 11:39 AM
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Default Re: Federation of Fly Fishers: Great Mission, But Lose the "Conclave" Moniker

I see the point of the author... The language of the people changes with each generation to some extent. Words take on new meaning and people have different emotional reactions to different words. So as time goes on to keep up with the times any organization would do well to bring in younger members into positions of leadership. It would do even better to ask those same young men and women what they can do to attract more young people. The thing is this will take some bravery as I believe there is fear on the part of the old eschelon of being relegated to irrelevance, because unfortunately younger people often do not give seniors the honor and respect deserved for their wisdom, expertise, and years of service.

As for the a'exclusive boys club," I've spoken and written about this many times. However, I going do so from a different angle than I normally do. In my opinion one of the things that I believe lends to this reputation is that fly fishing unlike bait fishing takes a quite a bit more learned skill and knowlege. Therefore, some people are intimidated by it and others just aren't interested. I must say from the first day I found out about fly fishing as a child of about 10 years old I was intrigued and wanted to learn it. My father on the other hand wasn't interested in it, because of the effort he believed it would take to learn. However, that is exactly what attracted me to it as I've felt as long as I can remember if something is worth me doing on a regular bases its worth learning about and if I'm not interested in learning about it than I won't spend much time on it. Those who find it interesting, but are intimidated by what the see as difficult to learn I think have all kinds of imagined ideas about fly fishing which that are not based on fact. This I think is contributed to by some who are fly fishers who like the mistique of it being more difficult than it really is.

I remember reading books and watching videos on nymph fishing and the way the authors talked about had me feeling so intimidated by the need to get a perfect drift that in my first 25+ years of fly fishing I only tried fishing nymphs one time. Then when I finally hired a guide who showed me once several nymph fishing methods and I was nearly emmiately successful I amazed at how easy it is. I beleive as result of feeling unnecessarily intimidated in my first 25+ of fly fishing my largest trout on a fly was 15" inches. Now as a result of learning to fish nymphs over the past year my largest fish is 17" inches and I've caught numerouse 15"-16" inchers.

In my opinion though the word conclave likely contributes some I think that is as a wise man once said you strain out gnats, but have swollowed camels. In other words focussing on the word conclave is treating a minor symptom that would take care of itself if the larger issues were dealt with, but changing a word will fix little or nothing.
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Last edited by FlyBum; 06-21-2011 at 05:15 PM.
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Old 06-21-2011, 11:39 AM
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Default Re: Federation of Fly Fishers: Great Mission, But Lose the "Conclave" Moniker

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Old 06-21-2011, 04:31 PM
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Default Re: Federation of Fly Fishers: Great Mission, But Lose the "Conclave" Moniker

I believe there are several errors in what Kirk Deeter has posted.

There is no rule book for casting. There is a test to be certified to teach casting. The FFF has said many times that there are many acceptable casting styles but there is teaching system and knowledge base that instructors should be familiar with to teach casting. After one is certified, you can teach as you wish.

Secondly, one need not go to a certified instructor or any instructor to learn to cast. You can free style all you want but the laws of physics will still apply and the rules of fly casting will still apply. You can "innovate" all you want and the certified program does not prevent anyone from doing what they want on the water.

I would ask if dirk would apply the same certification philosophy to the airplane that he flies in. Would he rather the pilot of his commercial jet "free style it" or have a clear understanding and knowledge of aeronautics and procedure?

To argue about what a gathering is called seems very petty to me. If he does not like the term conclave, there are many that would not like he wants it called. Those who attend it or are considering attending it, know what it is because there is an expense to attend. I doubt that calling it by a different name would make a whit of difference. Let us be real. Whether one attends or not depends on what it cost and whether one has the time to attend and not what it is called. It would be like saying I don't like the Burning Man moniker because it is not inviting to everyone.
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