The Five Permissions: How to be a great fishing friend

Take me fishing. A simple request, a schmaltzy commercial, a pivotal role. Here are five permissions you can give yourself and your fishing friend to create space for connection.

The Five Permissions: How to be a great fishing friend
A still from the original "Take me fishing" commercial

It's Father's Day.

On Father's Day I'm always reminded of a classic commercial from the 1990s, from an organization called the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. The RBFF promotes the sport and creates a lot of great resources via

Here it is:

Take me fishing, 'cause you're the coolest grandpa ever!

Take me fishing, so I can tell you what a great dad you've been.

Take me fishing, because my wedding will be sooner than you think

Take me fishing, and make me feel 16 again.

Take me fishing, because I miss my boy.

v.o.: Rediscover the joy of boating and fishing. Visit

Yes, it's a bit maudlin. But it's simple and effective.

The key insight?

It's not always the act of fishing that brings joy, it's sharing those moments with others.

Many of the folks who come through our PCC Intro to Fly Fishing classes have similar motivations. They want to learn to fly fish to...

  • able to join a partner in their passion
  • ...experience something new with a family member
  • ...prepare for an important moment like a family trip

Fishing in the family

One of my greatest gratitudes is to family figures who have supported my interest in fishing. My father and grandfather taught me a ton. They were there for me. I still learn something from my dad every time we fish.

If they didn't take the time to pass along what they knew, and put me in a position to learn on my own, I'm not sure I would be as complete an angler today.

But I don't think that person has to be a father, or a grandfather. They can be a relative or a friend just as effectively.

Which means, gentle reader, you can become that person. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you do.

How to be a fishing friend: five permissions

I think most people who speak up and say "Take me fishing" want some pretty simple things. If you can create a space where a few of these things are true, you're doing it right.

Here the "permissions" I try to give both learners (and us teachers):

  • There are no silly questions.
    In fact, the sillier you think the question is, the more wisdom it likely holds.
  • Thus, it's OK to look silly.
    Because you don't know what you're doing.
  • And, it's OK to not be able to do it right.
    Because you still don't know what you're doing.
  • It's OK to say "I don't know."
    Both as the learner and the teacher.
  • It's OK to want to stop.
    Everyone—even with the best teacher—needs to take breaks.

The more you can make these permissions apparent and make psychological (and physical) safety clearly a foundational part of the deal, the better. Make it explicit.

There's an important principle at the core of this. At NOLS and similar outdoor education pedagogies, it's labelled as "unconditional positive regard." Like the article says, it's simply meeting people where they're at.


When I first saw that commercial, I was the initial kid. I needed adult validation and escorting to go places and use sharp equipment.

Now, I'm a father myself. I'm the middle three. (And, well, maybe even the fourth, cause "I miss my boy" in a fraternal "You're my boy, Blue!" sense.)

As a dad, I try and create those same moments for my daughter. Positive memories she can reflect on. Here she is, landing her first fish on the fly a few weeks back:

I could have never been prouder of a scrawny pike minnow than in this moment.

But that's not all. I'm a surrogate Fishing Friend to a lot of different kinds of people. They all have different reasons. Taking the first step to learn to fly fish is them asking Can you take me fishing?

In the course of our time together, we answer the second part of the coda together.

  • Take me fishing...I'm proud of myself when I learn a new thing.
  • Take me fishing...this sport looks graceful.
  • Take me fishing...I need a break.

Creating the space enables them to fill it with their aspirations, and for us to write their future together.


Cataloging all that we have lost:

Shining Sea - Futility Closet
Early European colonists were staggered at the abundance of fish in the Chesapeake Bay. William Byrd II wrote in his natural history of Virginia: Herring are not as large as the European ones, but better and more delicious. When they spawn, all streams and waters are completely filled with them, and one might believe, when he sees such terrible amounts of them, that there was as great a supply of herring as there is water. In a word, it is unbelievable, indeed, indescribable, as also incomprehensible, what quantity is found there. One must behold oneself. More accounts here. “The abundance…

"When they spawn, all streams and waters are completely filled with them, and one might believe, when he sees such terrible amounts of them, that there was as great a supply of herring as there is water. In a word, it is unbelievable, indeed, indescribable, as also incomprehensible, what quantity is found there. One must behold oneself."


Competitive fly fishing isn't for me, but this Q&A with Valerio Santi Amantini, who's won over 20 (!) international fly fishing competitive medals, was interesting to read. A professional prepares and adjusts.

Q&A with Double Gold Medalist Valerio Santi Amantini
The 2024 Masters World Championship took place at Vyssi Brod in the Czech Republic from 19th May to 25th May. Valerio Santi Amantini, who is part of the Cortland pro team, was representing his home nation of Italy and it was to be another Masterclass from the multiple World Champion. The Championship was held on Lake Lipno from a boat and Lake Kvetenov from the bank and 3 sections of the River Vlatava, at Devils Stones, Vyssi Brod and Rozmberk. Valerio was the model of consistency over the 5 days finishing 2nd on each of his first 4 sectors and then 5th on his last sector. He caught 103 fish over the 5 days which was 13 more than his nearest competitor and he not only won the Individual Gold but helped Italy to the Team Gold too. We caught up with Valerio after the event to ask him some questions: 1. Congratulations on a superb double gold medal performance Valerio. How does it feel to be the first person to win 20 World Fly fishing medals and how much practice did you do prior to the event? “Incredible! I still don’t realize that I’ve reached such a milestone. I’m very happy and if I look at the path I’ve made in these years of international competitions, I didn’t imagine I could reach these goals (considering that my first international competition was the European Championship in Tignes, France in 2001). Winning in a country like the Czech Republic that I have always admired and considered the strongest, full of great champions with an incredible amount of fans makes this even more special. I am lucky enough to have a job in my small village of Pont Saint Martin that allows me to train. I have a large river and three streams within two km, as well as having more than 200 alpine lakes in my region. This allows me to wear the waders every day possible after work and go fishing, choosing from time to time the fishing techniques to practice: from dry, to nymph, streamer or submerged. In winter, when the river is closed due to fish spawning I train in the lake from the bank or from the boat. This has allowed me to become a well-rounded angler”. 2. The first day of the competition you were drawn at Lake Lipno from the boat where you managed to catch an incredible 35 fish. Tell us about the tactics and set up that you used? “When I saw the lake draw, I thought I’d look for the fresh stocked fish as it was the first session of the week. My starting setup was Cortland MKII 10#7 rod, the 444 intermediate clear line, with leader and tippet was Cortland Ultra-Premium fluorocarbon and two streamers, one orange and one black. From the inspections I had seen an excellent movement of fish on 3/4 of the lake on the opposite side of the dam. In agreement with my competitor in the boat, we chose to go near the water entrance while all the other boats concentrated in front of the dam. When I started fishing, I realized that the fast intermediate line was too light, so I quickly changed to a sinking sweep 3 and redid the tip with two streamers and a booby. This tactic helped me to catch the 35 fish which resulted in 2nd place for the sector”. 3. The next 3 days you were on the river Vlatava. How did the 3 different sections vary and how did you have to adapt to the conditions?

Upcoming classes

Classes for Portland Community College's summer term are now full. I'm keeping a waitlist for both.

If you've emailed me, I have your name down and will fill any spots that come available in the order I've received requests. If you want to be added to the waitlist, send me a note. I wish the PCC system was a little more capable here. Alas.

You can find more info on classes here. Spread the word if you know anyone who should take either course.

🚧 New on CFS

Here's what's new on the site this week:

Five reasons to start fly fishing
Nobody fly fishes because it’s easy. So why do they do it? Here are five reasons why I fly fish, along with two anti-reasons.

I'm always looking to understand the sort of information y'all are interested in. You can just send a reply to this email and let know.

What sort of coverage would bring more meaning to your fishing?