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updated: 7/27/2011 8:21 PM

Don't let costly stereotypes price you out of the fishing fun

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You don't have to agree with me, but it would certainly be nice if you were open-minded about fly fishing.

I truly love this aspect of fishing, so much so that fly casting is a constant part of my angling routine.

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But unfortunately there are numerous downsides.

Too many fishermen have this crazy idea in their heads that fly fishing is far too difficult to master. They also believe the sport is for rich snobs who never use anything else except high-priced fly gear and expensive clothing with fancy company labels and logos affixed to the breast pockets of vests and shirts. Those perceptions are basically true, and yet there are many of us striving to eradicate those judgments.

Most of my fly fishing centers on bluegills and bass on local ponds and rivers. I also make occasional trips to places that only allow or urge fly fishing for species such as bonefish and trout.

So here's where I believe the problem sits with the way fly fishing is marketed.

The major, high-end fly reel and rod companies have done practically nothing to encourage youngsters and beginners to enter the sport. I say "practically" because there are a couple lone rangers with smart-minded executives who realize the sport will die if the new people are left standing on the shore.

I can only think of two major companies that came out with affordable rod and reel kits that walk anglers through the startup process, helping make all the language used in the instructional books and videos easily understood.

And yes, I have expensive fly rods as well as the bargain "sticks" made by South Bend and Cortland.

And here's something for you to store in your vault of treasured information. A fly reel used for panfish and bass is nothing more than a line storage device. Some of the less expensive models do not have drag systems, while the top-dollar jobs have super drags designed for bigger and faster moving fish.

During a recent trip I overheard several anglers at an airport having a heated discussion about fly gear. One guy claimed his expensive chest waders adorned with the name of the high-end company were the best money could buy. I snorted in disgust when I heard that. Another in the group bragged about his $400 reel and how easy it was for him to bring in a 13-inch trout. That's ludicrous.

The fishing tackle industry in general has been singing the blues for years as to how sales are way down. Of course there are a few companies doing well, selling their Chinese and Korean-made wares. But again, I ask the magic question, why have they (the companies) given up on making their stuff in the good, old USA? And they will tell us they can't afford the manufacturing costs here.

Baloney!

In my opinion the fishing tackle industry, like much of American-based manufacturing, has been operating on the greed factor, whereby a company will make something for 20 cents and then sell it here for a monstrously exaggerated retail cost.

It seems like generations ago, the fly fishing segment of our sport supported the whims of those who traipsed off to those far-off, hard-to-reach places searching for exotic species of fish the common guy didn't even know existed. Some of the companies designed rods and reels that could haul in fish the size of Moby Dick and beyond. The price tags on that gear was about as much as a house payment. And the equipment sure sold to those select groups of characters who must have used $100 bills as kindling to start their Bora Bora campfires.

The geniuses who design the reels and rods get failing grades for their inability to draw beginners into the fold. But if by chance the fly companies ever wake up and smell the coffee, they can then brag to their spinning and casting cousins about just how often they run to the banks with truckloads of profits.

What does all this mean for you? Well for a start, you'll be able to get in to the sport without forestalling a vacation.

You'll also thank me sometime down the road for twisting your arm for getting you into one of fishing's greatest side roads.

• Reach Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and be sure to catch his outdoors radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1280-AM.

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