The notion of fly fishing elitism is rooted in the long history of the sport and it isn't going away anytime soon. Way back in the day one needed both leisure time (to get away) and expendable income (for gear) in order to fish and that excluded most sorts except the moneyed. Not that the moneyed were always noble.
In general, most ate with forks and drank their wines from something other than the bottle.
A certain English aristocrat, the Earl De Grey's shooting journals list 370,728 animals, from rabbits to rhinos, killed just for the fun of it from 1867 to 1900. One can only wonder what his fishing journals boasted. But, in general, most ate with forks and drank their wines from something other than the bottle.
American fly-fishing gentry goes back to the 1800's and first manifested with the writings of Thaddeus Norris. It was Norris who defined how the new American must fish. In the early 1900's Theodore Gordon invented the American dry fly and James Leisenring, the American wet fly and nymph. Walt Dette perfected Catskill fly tying and Ray Bergman the lore and tackle story. Lee Wulff explored fly fishing video making and was one of the first to espouse Catch-and-Release. And, any reference to a fly-fishing elite must include Canadian Roderick Haig-Brown, who is still highly revered as a world adventurer (he was among the first to fish and explore Argentinean Patagonia in the early 50's), conservationist, writer and magistrate. If these men were not truly gentry they were at least very great names in fly-fishing.
Today's "aristocracy" - although they will most likely deny it - are the rich-kid, trout bum set; the 'sleep in the dirt/do what you gotta do' world hacking, neo-cinematographic types that re-awakened the great age of adventure angling, exploration and lifestyle. I'm sure a few names come to mind: Owens, Jill, Davey, Wier et al. These men (once boys who did drink their wines from the bottle and ate pasta with Leatherman multi-tools) will become our elite precisely because they did far more than just sling flies and stick huge, beautiful fish. They also offered us the tastes and flavors of the local culture, they enthralled us with images of the ravishing lands and riverscapes they visited, and they did it with style, wit and humor. The very essence of Gentry. - WES:::