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Fish frugally this year

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By Patrick Straub
Explore Big Sky Fishing Columnist

It’s 2015 and the holiday marathon is over. Most of us are back to our regular schedules at work, compared to the hour or two of “checking in” between casts on the Gallatin or turns on the ski hill.

Perhaps you’re thinking you spent too much on gifts for others this holiday season? Are you asking yourself, “What about me?” or “Where’s mine?” If you broke the bank to give to others, here’s an excerpt from my book, “The Frugal Fly Fisherman,” which offers insight into taking some fishing time for yourself in 2015.

Sparkling rivers. Snowcapped peaks. Far-off saltwater flats. To mention fly fishing is to conjure up images of pristine waters and wild shores. Traveling to these destinations would be great, but most of us simply want to be in a place where water, fish, and fly can all come together, where we can forget the daily grind for a few moments.

For many, fly fishing is a romantic notion. Names like Alaska, the Bahamas, and Patagonia are used to sell rods, trips, guides, and gear, even though most fly anglers will never venture to any of these destinations. Think of it like the shiniest new car in the showroom. Of course we would all love that car, and most of us can even come up with several rationalizations for why we might need it. Some of us could probably afford it, but do we really need it to get to work safely or take the kids to school?

Fly fishing is similar – there are rods made with technology rooted in space shuttles, but are they 100 percent necessary? Absolutely not. Are they fun to fish and use? Of course. Would we all love to have them? Probably. Have people been fly fishing for years without them? Yes.

Before the fly-fishing industry exploded in the mid-1990s, anglers fished all over the world with gear that we would now consider subpar. The rods and reels used to land the first 100-pound tarpon on a fly or to entice the first finicky spring creek trout can’t even be found today. Rods were made from any wood available, constantly breaking and difficult to cast. Flies were similar to today’s, but tied on hooks that would rust after a few uses. And technical clothing like Gore-Tex and felt soles had not yet been invented.

But having access to more sophisticated gear comes at a cost. Whether you’re fishing with high-modulus graphite or Gore-Tex rain jackets and breathable waders, fly fishing’s technological advances have spiked the potential price tag substantially. If you’re fishing on a budget, know how and where to most efficiently place your hard-earned dollars.

But how do you wade through all the glossy advertisements, fishing shows, and Hollywood-esque personalities? By having a “fishing frugal” mindset. Here’s some help:

Beyond the essential elements of a rod, reel, fly line, flies, and a small assortment of terminal tackle and peripherals, everything else is a luxury. And within the self-limitations of a budget lie any number of opportunities that might not otherwise have been explored.

No matter where you live, for instance, there are almost always fishing opportunities within a day’s commute. Many species of fish are closer to home than might be expected. From bluegills to crappies to bass to carp, not all fly fishing has to be with trout or tarpon in mind.

A frugal fly fisherman doesn’t covet information, but instead seeks it out. Fly shops, angling clubs, Internet forums, and other social avenues are available for information, gear, and camaraderie. To be truly frugal, you must invest time in building social connections and developing lasting relationships with angling companions. The knowledge gained can be very helpful and the bonds created are timeless.

In the camaraderie of fly fishermen, you’ll also find reasons to embrace conservation and work toward the restoration of fishing opportunities. There’s no possibility of sharing a beloved pursuit if the venue is degraded – the desire to leave a place better than previously found is essential. There are lots of things you can do like picking up the litter you see streamside. Donate a day of your time for a stream cleanup or join your local Trout Unlimited chapter.

Commit to a big spend every so often. Being consistently frugal has its long-term advantages, and among these is the ability to splurge on occasion. Hire a guide, take notes, and learn a year’s worth of knowledge in one day. Purchase a nice rain jacket that will last a lifetime, and invest in some quality breathable waders.

Lastly, don’t take your fishing too seriously. Life is full of stresses and responsibilities, so fishing shouldn’t be one of them.

If fishing more wasn’t one of your resolutions, relax. 2015 is young and you can still add it to your list. As my fishing client said on New Year’s Day as we cancelled our fishing because of an ice jam: “Its OK, Pat. It’s too early in the year to get angry and we’ve got plenty more days to fish.” He was right.

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisherman,” “Montana On The Fly,” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and with a partner operates a guide service on the Missouri River. This excerpt from “The Frugal Fly Fisherman” has been edited for newspaper style, for print in Explore Big Sky.

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