The question that is being raised by one side is the throwback question of years ago, "Are you better off now than four years ago?"
I guess the voters will decide that question come November, but that similar question has come to mind about fly fishing. "Is fly fishing better off now than four years ago?"
I have to say no. No, I'm not saying that fly fishing is worse off than four years ago, but at best fly fishing has become stagnant and remained so in the last four years.
Google Trends shows there has been a steady decline in the search term "fly fishing" for a good number of years. Looking at the last four years we can see that the decline has continued and looks to be dipping further to the south as time has gone by. Fly fishing is not better off now than four years ago.
How about the price of gasoline? In January 2009 the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.84. Today, the average price of a gallon of gas is $3.84.
I suggest that the price of gasoline has a direct effect on the number of planned fly fishing outings. I'll bet my last dollar that it can be graphed and the results will show that as gas prices increase, fly fishing outings decrease.
The price of gasoline also has an effect on the cost of FFGS (fly fishing goods sold). Sure, I've seen all the offers from sellers of fly fishing gear for free shipping. Trust me folk, there's no such thing as FREE shipping. The cost of shipping is built in the price somewhere along the way. I've been in retail for forty years now and there is no "free".
Is fly fishing better off now than four years ago? In 2010, we watched for 87 agonizing days as the Deepwater Horizon spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. BP, after a terribly shaky start, has made a monumental effort to recover the area, but who among us really know the long term effect on fish and other marine life from this disaster. The Gulf of Mexico fishery may never be what it once was.
What about Pebble? The Pebble mine problem is still dangling over fishing heads like the sword of Damocles. Under the leadership of the current President, the EPA has the power and authority to stop Pebble dead in it's track. The state of Alaska's track record on permitting mines shows they've never been able to say "no". However, Alaska state officials can't seem to make up their mind whether they want the EPA's help or not. Alaska, I'm sorry, but you need to crap or get off the pot. Bristol Bay may very well be your sovereignty, but what you have there is precious to the world.
In 2010, by executive order, the National Ocean Policy was enacted. No, I'm not suggesting this policy is a bad thing, but it would have been nice to have included the angler's voice in the discussion. As it stands, the angler's concerns were completely ignored. Our fishing waters and opportunities continue to dwindle or become more regulated.
Is fly fishing better off now than four years ago and will a change at the White House make a difference. No, and most likely not.
In researching the bios of Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney and looking at their lists of hobbies, neither listed fishing as a choice. Granted, Mr. Obama did make a token fly fishing trip in 2009. I'm sure it played well on camera.
So, what is it going to take to make fly fishing better in the future? Voices! Fly fishing needs to add voices to the art we practice and the way to do that is do add to our ranks.
Fly fishing can add to our numbers by doing several things. First, the big dogs of the fly fishing gear suppliers need to let go of some of those mega dollars they're raking in each year and dedicate it to the cause of increasing interest in fly fishing.
Fly fishing must find a way to make fly fishing cool or rad to the youth of today. I think fly fishing is cool as it is, but my definiton of cool, awesome, rad, or wicked isn't the same as young people today.
One thing that certainly could work is the introduction of fishing or fly fishing to the school curriculum. Oklahoma is currently introducing an "Introduction to Fishing" course throughout the Oklahoma school system.
Then, we need another great and inspiring movie. Nothing in the last twenty years has done more to spark interest in fly fishing as the movie "A River Runs Through It". We need another epic story of fly fishing and life and how the two intertwine.
Maybe there's a chance that Eastwood could be talked into producing it.