Technical Schmechnical, Tactical Schmactical. Just Gimme a Pair of Pants.

When a-fishing I will go, I will pull on my jeans, the ones that are too stained and tattered to wear in polite society; or maybe an old pair of paint-splashed cotton cargo pants, the ones with so many pockets that a search for my car keys becomes a minor expedition; or, if it’s chilly, my navy blue sweat pants. Apparently this is wrong. Apparently I am in violation of the current outdoor activity dress code. L.L. Bean would prefer that I don their Rapid River Technical Fishing Pants, regularly $99, on sale for $39.99. Or, if the weather’s warm and the bugs are few, a pair of their Technical Fishing Shorts, $79. Technical pants? What the hell?

But there’s more. Starting at the top, I might cover my noggin with the Ridge Runner Technical Hunting Beanie, Camo, $29. Moving south, I would pull on the Rapid River Technical Fishing Shirt, regularly $89, on sale for $74.99. And if I am venturing farther from camp than the home pool I should carry my stuff in the Technical Upland Vest Pack, $149.

Without getting too technical about it, what makes their pants technical and my pants, um, untechnical? Doing a sort of side-by-side visual comparison I see that their technical pants have the same number of legs (2) as my non-technical cargo pants, and the cargo pants have more places to lose my keys.

Then there’s “tactical.” One of my go-to trout flies is the tried-and-true Pheasant Tail Nymph. The Orvis catalogue tells me that is so last season. Now I must dangle a Tactical Pheasant Tail Nymph ($2.75) or perhaps a Twin Territory Tactical Midge Emerger (also $2.75) at the end of my Tactical Sighter Tippet (10 meters, $9.99).

The Virtual Angler Being Tactical

Call me old-fashioned (you’d be right, of course) but say the word technical and I see a white-smocked engineer in a lab working on some shiny gizmo. Say tactical and I’m back in the field with the U.S. Army. Neither term invokes images of tumbling trout streams or placid ponds with foraging brookies dimpling the surface.


Nonetheless, numerous angling authors have labeled the pursuit of trout a tactical exercise, starting at least as far back as 1972 when Ray Ovington published his Tactics on Trout. I too, employ tactics, though they’re rather basic: I get in the water and start casting.

But the renewal of that tactic is some months distant. I see by the old calendar on the wall that I’m about to turn to page 12, the page where we find the 25th printed in bright red to remind us that, as P.G. Wodehouse observed, “Christmas has us by the throat again.” I feel compelled to offer my annual bit of advice to those shopping for the perfect gift for the angler in the family: don’t. Don’t, not without consulting said angler, who knows exactly what he or she needs and should be prodded to make a very specific list. As an example, starting in, oh, July (I like to give plenty of lead time) I will give my non-angling daughters subtle hints, such as “Here’s what I want for Christmas: a 5WF weight-forward fly line with loop connector,” and they will order it without having the faintest clue to what the old man is on about.

And please, no technical underwear or tactical trout flies.



Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.