Man, what an exciting time we live in! While 2020 may long be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many will recognize it as a turning point in the angling. This year, hundreds more anglers joined our ranks as the world was left wondering what to do during quarantine. But was it all thanks to the stay-at-home orders?
Throughout the 2000’s, fishing has been evolving quicker than it ever has. New innovations in the industry seem to shock us weekly, even daily, as tackle manufacturers turn to science and technology to produce some of the most sophisticated gear ever. Take, for example, live imaging on fish finders. Never before could fisherman so clearly see what is going on below the surface. For those who use it, fishing is almost turned into a video game. Before you even go to pitch your jig, you can look at your graph to tell which branch on that laydown is holding a one-pounder, and which is holding a four-pounder. Then, you can watch your jig quickly sink to in front of the fish’s face. Before you know it, you’re setting the hook and watching the bass fly upwards towards your boat on the electronics.
While many would argue that inventions like these are cheating and have ruined the sport, just think of how they have changed the tournament game. Instead of having to weed through dozens of short fish to find one keeper, tournament anglers can now search out one specific fish using their electronics. This helps to minimize the impact on fisheries when a large tournament rolls around. More fish in the lake means more fish that are spawning, which means more fish for future generations.
Sure, while it may be fun to go back to the days of Carrie Stevens, when six-pound brook trout were common in northern New England, I think fly fishing has changed for the better. Who before the 2000’s would have heard of euro-nymphing? This style of fly-fishing has taken the world by storm, and for a good reason, too. For years, purist dry-fly fishermen scoffed at the idea of using nymphs, weighted by split-shot and suspended by strike-indicators. Instead, euro-nymphing utilizes heavily weighted jig-style flies and a short length of brightly colored monofilament as part of the long leader. In this way, flies can get to the bottom quickly, and strikes can be detected by twitches in the bright line. Most importantly, fish devour flies fished in this manner. Now, traditionalists and squirmy-worm anglers alike can utilize this deadly tactic.
Then there are innovations that have flipped the fishing world upside-down, making changes to the sport so drastic that it may never be the same. Social media has made fishing more popular and accessible than ever, and it may not be a bad thing. Some whine that social media has encouraged spot-burning, poor fish handling, and unhealthy competition to always catch the biggest fish. Unfortunately, this is true, but every good thing must have some flaws. If you’ve ever taken a look at the fly-fishing community on Instagram, you’ll notice that the central idea is catch-and-release. Social media has promoted this style of fishing in ways that nothing else could. Before the days of social media, any fish you caught would be unhooked and released into the frying pan. Now, influencers inspire people to use barbless hooks, keep fish in the water, and always practice catch-and-release. The sport has become much more responsible, and you can be sure that others on social media will hold you accountable for that.
All in all, I don’t think this year’s boom in fishing popularity was an anomaly. I simply think it was a breakthrough that had been waiting to happen for decades. Fishing may never return to the days of worm-dunking and twenty-fish stringers, but we can be sure that it will continue to evolve as modern technology becomes more advanced. I’m certain I speak for the entire community when I say that I’m excited to see what the next decade holds.