That old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Is malarkey.
A picture is worth jack in today’s social media driven market place. Where an Instagram post of a big smile and a big fish will get you 1000 likes and make you popular. That is great and all. I sift through hundreds of photos that are wanting a like every day. It gets boring seeing another buff covered face with a perfectly placed hat, and a large trout held up for the camera and the interweb to see. They typically have a slew of tags and they have some sort of comment below like: EPIC, AWESOME, WICKED, CRAZY, AMAZING. Its a photo, of a fish, and an angler, with the same type of caption as the last 50. A picture is worth about 6 words and they usually have an undertone of: “Look What I Caught Now Like It.” We are using these colorful words to describe the same mononotous picture. When we should be using those words when we talk about fishing. People think I’m weird because of the way I talk about fishing. I have passion and use rather colorful language and enthusiasm when I talk about what I do for a living. How many can say the same? It’s not corney to use the word amazing and beautiful when talking about a trout or a cast or how one rows a boat. It’s silly not too. What else do we use those words for then? The face of some angler holding a fish up? Please?!
Where is the story?
I don’t see a lot of photos that show off the fish. A trout held up in front of an angler for the camera is about the angler in comparison to the fish. It’s not about the fish. At least to this angler. You can say what you will, but in the end, the grip and grin is a tried and tired way of showing off and stroking some ego. I’ve seen big Lahotians, I have seen epic steelhead, hell I have even caught a few, but what about what made that particular fish unique? The intricate spots on the head that no other fish that day had, or the rose colored plate that stood out among all the other fish, or that one blue haloed spot that sticks with you forever? Or how about the way the rod bent when that big nasty trout took you for a ride? These things are rarely photographed and never highlighted it seems. And while a picture used to be worth a thousand words…what happened to words being worth…well words. Photos will never come close to the power and ability to transform, inspire, and lose one self in that words and language have.
I will take a good fishing story over a fish photo any day. One word I can’t stand is Porn. Now I, like most other men, have to clear my browsing history from time to time. But one thing I never associate my trout with…is porn. It just seems disrespectful. Fish Porn, Trout Porn, Angler Porn, it all seems like a crappy way to promote our sport and the fish that make it so much fun. Porn is porn, not art, no matter what way you look at it. I feel that fish, deserve a little more respect than a photo on some fish porn website. But that is just me, some anglers like that stuff, but don’t expect me to snap a bunch of photos for your collection if we are fishing together. I have a different respect for my fish, and I look for the little things that make that particular fish special, whether it’s the color, the spots, the way it fights, or any other number of things that make each fish I trick or my clients trick, unique. Most clients and anglers don’t even notice until I say something.
“Look at the spots and how they are all bunched together on this trout compared to the last.” Then my clients take a second look. They realize that it’s not just another trout, it is something special, a wild animal more unique and mesmerizing than the last. “Did you see how the trout just kept running into the fast water then dropping into the current and rolling inwards trying to pop off the hook?” And my anglers realize that they had one hell of a fight with a wild animal, yet again helping them see past the A Typical, just another fish for the Facebook feed.
This brings me back to words.
The fight between angler and this trout cannot be described with a photo.
A picture doesn’t describe the way the trout took the fly, it doesn’t explain the anxiety and heart palpitations that ensue when you feel that initial head shake. A picture won’t tell you how crisp the morning was, how the wind smelled heavy of budding cottonwood, or the lingering of campfire smoke on my flannel from the night before while we talked about old trout and secret fishing places. A picture has jack shit on words.
There can be passion in a photo, especially one that highlights the experience, the uniqueness of the fish, or the uniqueness of the angler. But it will never hold a candle to the way it can be described and explored through the written or spoken word. A picture is a lazy way of saying…I went fishing. I go fishing every day practically, if it was as boring as the photos that frequent my Instagram feed look I wouldn’t be doing it everyday. Nor would most anglers. It’s as if we have lost that unique connection that fly fishing has with its fish, no matter the species; we may not necessarily care less about the fish, but we care more about ourselves with these photos. The fish doesn’t make the angler. The angler is made with time, patience, and a good cast. Too many times do I see photos of fish caught to glorify the angler instead of the fish or the experience. When the whole entire reason we fish with this method is because it is unique. What happened to a sweet photo of a wicked loop, or a big bend, or the moment when angler and trout meet? Those photos, they are worth more than a few words below a post. They have essence. They also typically get more likes.
When I can’t hit the river, like now due to runoff, I am not watching the F3T stuff jonesing for a tug, or surfing the interweb drooling over fish I am not catching. As a matter of fact, I am blasted with that stuff all day long on my social media feeds and I rarely even look at or like that stuff now. It’s the same old same old. It’s lame after a while. And your internet prowess because of the 30 fish you snapped photos of while fishing just lose their meaning after a while.
What I end up doing on my days off, is reading. I read new tactics and methods to trick fish. I read stories and blogs. Check to see what my favorite out of state rivers are up too. I also tie. Nothing like working on sets of flies for the next riverside adventure. Plus, while everyone is editing their photos to try and make it look like it’s worth 1000 words, I am filling my fly box, saving money, writing about trout and adventures, honing my skills, and doing the one thing I love most when I can’t be fishing. Talking with other anglers.
I used to frequent my local fly shop regularly to learn from an old timer that eventually became my mentor. Number one thing about fly shops and I’m not the only one to say this: You should never feel intimidated or unwelcome in a fly shop no matter what skill level, sex, or what outfitter you work for. If you do, then your fly shop sucks. I have 6 fly shops on my homewater, and I will only ever be spotted at 3 and even those are getting hard to walk into now. The fly shop used to be where you learned stuff. Now they seem more and more to be like used car dealerships. Peddling the latest fly pattern that’s just based on something that was tied 30 years ago, selling guide trips when the river is fishing like crap, trying to get you into a new $800 Sage or $450 pair of Simms. When you find a fly shop that isn’t like that it’s like realizing you hooked a bulltrout and not just a big whitefish.
When I realized that my local shops had succumbed to the modern age of fly fishing, albeit not to their benefit in the long run. I started hanging out with anglers at the take outs, local bars, fire rings, campgrounds, and my house.
My lady and I have 3 kids, we live the fly fishing guide lifestyle to a T, and we have an open door kinda house. I live right in town, less than a mile from my favorite put it, drift boat parked out front so the world can see, and I have people stop by all the time once the season starts. Just yesterday we had visitors that saw me hanging outside swing in and talk trout for an hour. We almost always have a fire each night, with camp chairs sitting around on our patio, and most nights we have at least one extra person and/or kid hanging around. It’s how we like it. My wife loves seeing anglers come over and how we get into talking about fish, I learn something every time someone stops by to talk trout or just see how things are going. We live a very care free life that revolves around talking passionately about life and the things we love.
That is what draws me to fly fishing. There is a passion that runs through this activity that is unlike any other I have had the pleasure of participating in. I don’t want to see the photo of the brown you caught last year, I want to hear about how you tricked it. The events leading up to it. That quirky gas station you stopped at before you got to the put in. That guide that you met that told you that story. The smell of the woods and the burnt coffee the next morning. Give me sustinence with your fish stories and pics.
God forbid I get a little plot with my fish porn.
Swing by, I don’t just wanna see ya riverside.