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What Makes LouFly Different?... Asperger Perseveration.

Written by Andy McEwen

Over the past two-ish decades, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of outfitters and guide services starting up in metropolitan areas across the Midwest, regions which traditionally have not been recognized as strongholds in the fly fishing community. This industry growth can largely be attributed to the increasing interest in fly fishing for warm water species, notably Smallmouth Bass and Carp. Although the practice of fly fishing for these species has been around for several decades, it has only been within the past 10 to 15 years that targeting these species has gained considerable traction and acceptance within the broader fly fishing community. This surge in popularity has led to an increase in guide services and outfitters, each vying to demonstrate their ability to take clients out on successful trips. Consequently, this intensification of competition has made it increasingly challenging for outfitters and guide services to set themselves apart within the community. While LouFly is currently the only guide service in the St. Louis Metro Area that offers guided fly fishing trips within St. Louis County, this is not what I believe sets us apart.

Fly fishing for me has always been different than for the vast majority of people who find solace in this incredible sport. I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of 3, started fly fishing at the age of 5, and have spent 15 of my 25 years on this planet as a special education student. I struggled as a kid, teenager, and still continue to struggle as a young adult to put myself in social settings with more than three to five people around. When there are more than three to five people around me at one time it is like I lose all ability to rationally interpret social cues. I can't read anyone's emotions (most people do this through facial expressions and tone of voice), everyone's voice becomes monotone, and I become so overstimulated trying to process what is going on around me that I am unable to effectively communicate with anyone. This is why fly fishing has appealed to me since day one. It allows me to be all by myself floating down or standing in a stream without another soul in sight. Fly fishing and guiding is an activity that is extremely stimulating, while also allowing me to never have to be around more than 3-5 people at a time. It is the only time where I truly do not feel the urge to stim. Given it is the only time when I do not feel the urge to stim, my brain is constantly perseverating on it. It is not necessarily that I want to think about fly fishing constantly, trust me my wife would love to hear me talk about something else, but because for as long as I can remember it is the only non drug induced way to decrease my natural urge to sim. It is not just a sport that I have a passion for or participate in because of the love I for the natural world, but it is a medicine used to calm the symptoms of my Aspergers syndrome. Fly fishing is not a choice for me, but a necessity to be able to function as an adult on the Autism Spectrum in a world of constant overstimulation.

While forming groups and clubs to talk about fishing with others is a great way to network, build friendships, and establish a sense of community, not everyone is interested in interacting with the amazing sport of fly fishing in such a social manner. To anyone who fly fishes that is neurodiverse or suffers from social anxiety, always remember that your social activeness in your local fly fishing community does not determine your skill as an angler or the knowledge that you possess. The best fly fishermen I have ever met are the ones you never hear speak.

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