Millennials and Gen Z Are Fueling a Fly Fishing Resurgence

Escape from phones, connect with nature and make friends? Sign them up.

Fly Fishing in Norway
More young people — millennials and Gen Zers — are taking up fly fishing as a hobby.
Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash

Are you looking for a new hobby? Would you like it to include an escape from technology, escape into nature, DIY mentality, welcoming community and little barrier to entry? You can find all that and more in fly fishing, and according to a feature in the New York Times, millennials and Gen Z are signing up.

Once considered an old man’s sport, fly fishing is “the latest ‘old timey’ hobby to gain a dedicated new following,” writes the Times. According to data from the Outdoor Industry Association, new interest from people aged 18 to 34 helped make fly fishing the fastest-growing fishing category; but that’s not all — gender and racial diversity are on the rise, too. 

“I can’t put my finger on what it was, but about five years back, something changed,” Joe Fox, a manager at Dette Flies fly shop in Livingston Manor, N.Y., told the Times. He’s talking about not just an increase in business, but in new, younger business. However, the Times tries to put its finger on why, exactly, this surge of interest is happening.

Fly fishing guides, retreat owners and recent converts offer various opinions, whether it’s unplugging from your phone, the hobby’s meditative qualities, environmentalism and stewardship, or simply a yearning to have an authentic experience. But it’s not completely about pushing back on modernity and going back to a simpler time, either. The younger anglers are forging their own way in certain aspects.

“The fishing community on Instagram is amazing,” said Jessica McKay, a Gen Zer who touts the social media app as a helpful resource (she applied for, and got, a job as a fly fishing guide without previous experience). Then there’s Tom Roberts, a Londoner and co-founder of Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club, who told the Times he initially saw the sport as “stuffy and elitist,” loved by the “tweed brigade,” until he came across the pond. In America, Roberts found a more welcoming community, one that is now bringing in new generations.

Now, let’s hope younger people can reclaim tweed, too. 

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