Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Things You can't Put a Price Tag On

Tom Chandler over at The Trout Underground makes note of a broad hint in the new Catch ezine that it will soon go from free to a paid subscription basis. It will cost you twelve bucks a year (six issues) to go online and look at all those pretty pictures of places you can't afford to go.

Or is that just me?

I guess there are two issues here. No, three. The first is my own cultural bias--I admit it--against anything that smacks of elitism. I wish the fly fishing world was immune to it, but it sure ain't. Catch seems to me to be appealing to the moneyed crowd for whom exotic destinations and high-end equipment serve as just one more status symbol. It's a kind of country club mentality that puts me off. Big time.

But, maybe that's just fine for some people. I wouldn't want to be accused of "the politics of envy" or anything like that. And that gets us to the second issue. I don't envy that approach to the sport I love. I simply have a different set of values when it comes to why I love it. It starts with the natural world and the fish that live in it. It ends with people like you and me who hear the call of that world and want to be out in it fishing. The experiences we have and the equipment we gather along the way have nothing to do with status. The fishing is what matters; the equipment is simply a means to that end.

Neither are the places we fish chosen for their status quotient. Most of us fish most of the time close to home. We search out our home waters and we learn as much as we can about them and their fish. We immerse ourselves in that world. It becomes a constant in our lives, experienced on an intimate level, face to face and hands on, rather than through the intermediaries of travel agents, lodge owners, and guides.

When we are on an intimate basis with the world of our home waters we quickly learn that we cannot impose our will on it. Rather, we need to be open to what that world can teach us. The more we learn from that world, not just about that world, the more we learn how to connect to it. And one of the most powerful connections is when everything comes together and we catch a fish. And then let it go again.

Along with that learning comes a deep appreciation--even a love--of the natural world and the cycles within cycles within cycles that make up the miraculously intricate Cycle of Life upon which all things depend. Including us, we suddenly see. That changes us. We learn that we are just one part of that great cycle. And we seek more and more not to intrude on it, or exploit it, but to fit into it. For many of us the deepest satisfaction we find on the water is that sense of belonging, of having found the place in all the universe where we fit.

You can find that on Christmas Island, perhaps, but it's important to know that you can find it right at home. And my guess is that if you haven't found it on your home waters you won't find it anywhere.

Finally, when you have found your place--and your self--in the world of fish and their waters, you want to do everything you can to nurture, sustain, and protect that world. It becomes sacred, as life itself is sacred.

That gets us to the third issue. Can Catch magazine charge for its photos and for the view of fly fishing it is promoting? Sure. Go for it. If you believe fly fishing is a commodity that can be sold for a profit, then have at it. There are many who think that if you can't pay for something it isn't worth anything, and that the more you pay for something the more worth it has. I'm sure they'll snap it up.

I won't be getting a subscription myself, though. Instead I'll continue to visit the websites and blogs--and ezines--of those people who love fly fishing for what it is, and want to celebrate it out of the sheer joy of it, and who love to connect with anyone anywhere who loves it, too. There is plenty of that bubbling up all over the place.

Like, for instance, this one:

This is Southern Culture on the Fly. Read the editor's column in which he exclaims that it would be nice to see photos in a magazine of a place where he could actually go and fish. Amen, brother! And notice the price on the lower right hand corner of the cover. Yes, yes, yes! They get it.

There are some things worth far too much to put a price tag on.


  1. I'm not familiar with the publications or the people you allude to. However, the thoughts and writing in your post are excellent. It reminds of the first chapter in Charles Gaines's," The Next Valley Over" His father had fished all over the world but ended up on a bluegill pond in Alabama. I like your take on place. Maybe some day we can sit on the banks of river with a thermos of coffee and discuss it for a few hours.Thought provoking and heartfelt post!

  2. Herringbone: Thanks for your thoughts. Appreciate it.

  3. I guess I should have just said Amen.

  4. Herringbone: I thought that's what you did say. But with some nice details added. Thanks again.

  5. It's interesting that so much of fly fishing media's content is focused on exotic locations when so many folks say they're tired of reading about them.

    Are we in the midst of a kind of economic backlash, or is something else at work? Or are fly fishermen's buying patterns (magazines) revealing their true sentiments?

    In any case, excellent post, and I couldn't agree more. In fact, I'm ripping it off for one of my posts...

  6. TC: Appreciate the comment.

    I do think economics plays a part. Almost all the locals here would fall in the 99% category of income, somewhere from the 50% mark on down. They fish because it's a way of life (and, for some, to put food on the table), and they fish at home because the fishing is plenty good at home, and they can't afford to take fancy trips. They're plenty independent and don't need a guide or anybody else telling them how or where to fish. (What outfitters and guides there are around here focus on out-of-staters--or coasties from Seattle.) There's no backlash as such; I just think that the fly fishing industry's war for the hearts and minds and wallets of fishermen has been and still is simply irrelevant to the ordinary folks here.

    Glad you liked the post. Rip away.

  7. I think you're way off base here. Pictures are sent in from all over the world. Not everyone lives here, many are guides who live in these places! When I worked for the phone company I saved my money and took a trip to some of these "exotic destinations" every 4 or 5 years. I was a blue collar union member and I wasn't rich, (nor am I now), but I took overtime when I could, saved my money and treated myself to a trip that I'll remember for the rest of my life! It's called living...some of you should try it, it's a lot of fun!

    Stan Conrad

  8. Hi Guys. Hope you don't mind if I chime in about a couple things. Todd Moen and I produce Catch Magazine in Sisters, Oregon. We are locals and local anglers, in a big way, but Catch Magazine is not a local magazine, or a regional magazine, we are a global magazine. Just like most skiing, scuba, sailing, food and news magazines. The Internet knows no bounds, so it opens up the world quite easily. And, we are a photography/video magazine with fly fishing content. As you know, we are not a How To magazine, although we do give some photo tips. Our essays and videos are really not about fancy, expensive trips. Our readers are from 148 countries so what might seem like a fancy destination to one person, is actually another person's backyard. Tarpon and bonefish to many is the local catch and they dream of catching a steelhead or going on a pack trip into an alpine lake setting. Our contributors are from Scotland, Finland, NZ, Croatia, etc, and as a photography magazine first, we show a variety of photos/videos with the photo/video quality being the key element. I get all the paper magazines and they are great. I see a lot of regional publications and blogs that fill an important niche. Fly tying especially has come a long ways thanks to local blogs. And, about charging 12 bucks for a year/6 issues. In a nutshell, we just have to. There is no way around it. Many other on line magazines are part of a larger organization. We are just two guys who work 60 hour weeks and split $5 footlongs from Subway. As a global publication, our advertisers need a global brand. There are not that many and hats off to Scientific Angler, Simms, Winston and others for helping out. However, all these companies are trying their hardest to make ends meet. They have lost a large segment of the their retail base and the economy has all of us thinking twice about new equipment. They can not be expected to absorb the burden of every paper magazine, every on-line magazine, the film makers, the film tours, sport shows, trade shows, etc. That is just in North America, they also have marketing resources in Europe, Asia, NZ, etc. To maintain and improve the Catch Magazine experience, we are going to share that burden with the end user. It is really just like buying a spool of fluorocarbon or regular mono. If you want fluoro, then you buy it. If you don't, you don't. Todd and I would like to keep Catch free, but it is very expensive to do what we do. If you have noticed, the back pages are dedicated to many non-profits organizations who benefit greatly from the 100,000 plus people who see their logos and click the links. Sorry for the long post, but this is about as short as I can make it. Brian O'Keefe.

  9. Stan: Thanks for weighing in. I like seeing how people in other countries fish their own home waters. Check out "flymage" if you haven't already. I'm glad you could have your trips. I'm sure it took sacrifice and saving. I would love to get to New Zealand some day. I'm not saying people shouldn't take trips to exotic locations; I'm just saying some can't, or maybe don't want to. A balanced approach to the fly fishing experience by the fly fishing media is what I advocate.

  10. For me, the beauty of catch is seeing other places...I've been all over the NW and Canada, East Coast etc and I want to see what the rest of the world has to offer in the way of fish. That's why I sometimes get board with Catch and all the local stuff they have. It's funny to see how two people look at the same thing differently. Oh well, se la vie.

    Thanks for posting my comment,


  11. Brian: Appreciate your comment. I found it helpful. I responded to it at length in a blog post.
    Stan: You may be interested in my latest post as well. Thanks for commenting again.