Federation of Fly Fishers:  Great Mission, But Lose the “Conclave” Moniker

_by Kirk Deeter
The other day, I was asked if I was a member of the Federation of Fly Fishers . To be honest with you, I’m not. I should join. The FFF does a lot of really great things by way of teaching people how to cast and tie flies. They have a standardized format for teaching people how to teach casting and, by and large, that’s a good thing. The conservation work FFF does is very admirable and I give FFF credit for publishing a code of angling ethics in five languages.

Yet, I hear FFF people wonder aloud why the organization can’t crack into the younger angling demographic. For one, I think a rigid, standardized, “certified” casting/teaching approach doesn’t appeal to a young angler who wants to free-form it and innovate on the water. Standards for instruction aren’t bad, but the perception that there’s a rule book for casting doesn’t appeal to some people.

For me, the rub with FFF comes down to one word: “Conclave”. FFF’s big annual event (this year, August 31-September 3 in West Yellowstone, Montana) is its “conclave.” What’s in a name?

Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a conclave is:

1: a private meeting or secret assembly; especially: a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals secluded continuously while choosing a pope. 2: a gathering of a group or association.

Now, I know that FFF is going off the secondary definition. And when you go to their website, FFF is obviously trying to be inclusive, offering “fly fishing information for everyone.” The happy rainbow colors on the “conclave” web page seem inviting enough.

But the word “conclave” smacks so much of the stodgy, self-important, exclusive boys club stigma that has plagued fly fishing for years, I think the name alone does great damage to FFF. At a time when the future of this sport depends on cracking through stereotypes, and when young anglers want information more than anything else, any name associated with a “private” or “secret” definition is going to keep FFF hamstrung.

Change the conclave name, and FFF can go a long way to changing perception about its organization and the sport as a whole. Just one humble opinion.