Personality Profile: Lou Rossi

This month I’m pleased to introduce a new feature to the newsletter, the Personality Profile. The purpose is to bring to the foreground, using an interview format, those people who make and shake our sport. The first interview will be with the founder of the Salty Flyrodders and one of the two first inductees into the Salty Flyrodders Hall of Fame, Mr. Lou Rossi. Lou resides in Connecticut and spends time in Palm Springs Florida to harass fish in the winter. Lou has held a number of positions with the Salty Flyrodders including a six year term as president.

At what age did you begin fishing with a flyrod and was it fresh or saltwater?

I started fly fishing at age 22 in fresh water.

What were some of your favorite spots to saltwater flyfish in the early days?

In the early days my favorite spots were Shelter Island and the North Fork. That’s why the first conclaves were held on Shelter Island.

Who were some of the flyfishing personalities that you enjoyed reading about when you began in this sport?

The most prominent personalities I enjoyed reading about were: Art Flick, Lee Wulff, Lefty Kreh. They later became personal friends and we enjoyed many fishing trips together.

What prompted you to get involved with the Saltwater Flyrodder’s of America in the mid 1960s? What was the impetus involved in the creation of the “Salty” Flyrodders of NY? And how fast did it take off as far as interest to join from the general public?

The impetus involved in the creation of the “Salty” Flyrodders was waning impetus and decline of the salt water flyrodders of America. I felt the sport could have an exciting future, so from the original chapter # 6 of S.W.F.R.O.A., I created a new corporation to be known as The “Salty” Flyrodders of N.Y. The interest generated was immense and the club grew due largely to the publicity created by the Shelter Island conclaves and aided by a good crop of Weakfish, Bluefish and Stripers in the early years.

What were the early conclaves like, before saltwater flyfishing became such a visible and public sport?

The early conclaves were very popular. We had great speakers: Mark Sosin, Lefty Kreh, Chico Fernandez. All former S.W.F.R.O.A. clubs participated. The Connecticut club, The N. Jersey Club, The Rhody Flyrodders The original So. Jersey club with Capt. Colvin. All showed up at our conclaves. The camaraderie and fun was unforgettable, with many prominent people attending. Eric Leiser, Matt Vinciguerra, etc.

The late eighties and early ninety’s seems to be the time that saltwater flyfishing began to take hold along the North East Coast. What do you believe were the factors that attributed to this early popularity?

Mostly because many books and articles were written on the subject. When we first started there were no books. In fact the first Salt Water Flies book was written by a former member of the “Salty” Ken Bay. The books and videos created interest by the manufacturers to tap a new market with better rods and reels. I remember Lefty and I fishing with 1498 Medalists before Seamaster came on the scene.

Flyfishing has as a matter of course became highly commercial. It has sparked the largest growth in rods, reels, fly lines, tying material, clothing and even the travel trade, compared to other areas of sport fishing, My question to you, as someone who has been following this evolution from the very beginning, do you think this mass marketing will in the long run, help or hurt the spirit of the sport?

Fly fishing has become highly commercial. This has produced great advancement in rods, reels and lines but has killed the spirit of the sport. In fact most speakers refer to fly fishing as an industry. People start thinking that $750.00 rods are magic rods that will make them great casters, where good instructions and $100.00 rod will do. They also are led to believe that a $600.00 reel will automatically land them a big Tarpon, instead of learning the techniques. Everybody wants to be an instant master and the industry is telling them that money will do it.

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