Could Brad Pitt make pheasant hunting as popular as he made fly fishing by starring in the film classic, A River Runs Through It?
I've spent the last three evenings fly fishing the shoreline of Bald Eagle Lake for largemouth bass and sunnies on their beds. If you live anywhere near the lake and have heard uncontrollable giggling; well, that was me. I can't tell you how much fun it is to catch a 15-inch bucketmouth bass with a popper tied to the end of a fly rod.
Anyway, a guy's mind wanders as he's trying to cast said popper next to a lillypad. Last night I was thinking about Brad Pitt. Not in an Angelina Jolie or man-crush way, but as he relates to the public's perception of fly fishermen. So here's my theory:
The Premise: When Brad Pitt starred in the film A River Runs Through It, he did for fly fishing what Trout Unlimited couldn't accomplish in decades of solid conservation effort: he brought fly fishing to pop culture and fishing with a fly rod became romanticized.
Support for My Premise: Following Brad Pitt's portrayal of Norman Maclean's hero Paul in the movie, the public's view of fly fishermen has always been positive. Skeptics will argue that fly fishermen practice catch & release more diligently than other anglers and that's earned them the public approval. I say bologna! How many bass fishermen do you know that have a freezer full of smallies? NONE! Others will argue it's the aesthetic beauty of a trout stream and the fly fisherman's respect for that beauty that has garnered the support. Again I say BOLOGNA! Have you walked a pheasant field of waving grasses, hunted a mountain slope for elk, or flushed a ruffed grouse from the multi-colored leaves of autumn? Hunters appreciate beauty as much as any fly fisherman.
Pure and simple, Brad Pitt enabled fly fishing to be viewed in a positive light through the prism of popular culture.
Fly in the Ointment: The flaw in my theory to enroll Brad in pheasant conservation is simple; Brad Pitt's influence on the view of fly fishing has had little impact on the improvement of trout stream conservation. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't see droves of non-trout anglers joining Trout Unlimited or even helping to clean their local rivers and streams on the weekend.
The Point: I'm very proud to work for Pheasants Forever. I know that our chapter volunteers, field biologists, and conservation partners are improving wildlife habitat, cleaning our water resources, and creating hunting opportunities every day. Unfortunately, successful films like The Wedding Crashers give us bird hunters a bad name. We've got enough hurdles in front of us with intensified land use practices, diminishing natural resource budgets, and dwindling hunter numbers that it'd be awfully nice for Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and the non-hunting public to recognize pheasant hunters as the nature loving, give-more-than-we-take, intellectual, and original conservationists that we are. I won't be holding my breath for that to happen though.
No, we don't need Brad Pitt, but it couldn't hurt. 'Till then, we'll continue the fight and hope Angelina takes notice.