Monday, August 24, 2009

The Rest is Noise

Recently, while exploring fly fishing blogs and adding to this sites collection of preferred links, I started pondering what I and others were adding to our sport. Then while browsing further an answer slowly came to me:

The rest is just noise.

Sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? Read on…

The early exposure I had to fishing and hunting literature was by reading back issues of Outdoor Life from the 1960s and 1970s that my father collected and saved. In those days, short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, and adventure tales actually had substance. People actually read back then. Substance and quality were appreciated more than flash, and people had attention spans long enough to digest a two thousand word article. Twitter would have been laughed at.

I remember lying on my dad’s bedroom floor for countless hours imagining what mountains must look like, or what I would do if I were treed by a grizzly. The short stories were imaginative also. They had a way of engaging the reader and drawing him into the story. In my imagination, I traveled the world fishing, hunting, and exploring.

Then I lost track of the natural world as I grew older and pursued other things.

When I took up fly fishing, I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I subscribed to multiple magazines, bought how-to books and destination guides, and began reading John Gierach, Nick Lyons, Seth Norman, Thomas McGuane, Roderick Haig-Brown, etc. Here were real treasures.

After awhile, the magazines began to bore me. There was a conspicuous lack of substance and quality writing. They were all flash, or ‘noise’ if you allow me. The articles began to repeat themselves: “Hopper Tunity!”, “Midge Magic!”, “Five-weight shootout.”, yada, yada, yada… They seemed to be written by the same people that produced motor-sports magazines. Pictures replaced words. I would eagerly turn to an article, misled by the front cover blurb into thinking it was going to be a feature story, only to find some sophomoric and cursory treatment.

So, I dropped the subscriptions, and began to collect old magazine articles from the 1970s again.

Then I began this blog, and discovered like-minded persons out there that wanted and demanded quality. They keep blogs on fly fishing as varied as our fishing is. Conservation, wild fish, history, literary reviews, fine quality gear, river journals, and adventure tales are covered with taste. Here was a whole new world.

Browse down the links on the right side of this blog.

The Quiet Pool, where Shane often covers conservation and details Oregon’s trout and steelhead fisheries. He writes beautifully, and is a traditional angler with respect and reverence.

Singlebarbed, which is some of the most humorous and yet very inciteful writing on the subject.

Cutthroat Stalker, where Scott writes about his favorite trout and their habitat, as well as excellent literary reviews on the subject of fly fishing.

Dr. Andrew Herd’s exhaustive history of fly fishing site. I get lost here for hours at a time.

Colin Innes, who keeps the very important research site Vintage tackle and Salmon Flies of Aberdeen. A source of original research and history painstakingly and lovingly assembled.

Tony, who created the site Stream Thought about fishing and thinking, complete with book reviews, trout science and more.

Eccles over at Turning over Small Stones is an Englishman living in Pennsylvania. He writes deep meditations and observations about our sport.

Jeff Kennedy and his fly paintings and drawings is another site dedicated to fine art. Jeff is a professional illustrator who paints beautifully.

The Angler’s Life List, a site dedicated to wild salmonids.

Tom Chandler at the premier site The Trout Underground never fails to inspire or call our attention to something interesting or important.

These are just a few examples of what is out there somewhere. Each site has several things in common that tie them together. First is quality content. Second would be some artistry. This can be in many forms. The third is respect and passion. On these sites and many others that I have yet to discover, one can find gems of writing, art, philosophy, and thought that are often missing from many other blogs and publications. I found these sites through accident, as well as other blog links, and comments on this blog.

I have not linked to the large commercial fly fishing blogs. I am tempted to, but then comes a post full of foul language, boasting, or some other odious trait that I doubt if readers of The Classical Angler would appreciate. The bigger something gets and the wider the circulation, the more scrubbed over or dumbed down the content has to be in order for it to sell.

So, for those that long for the days when the Art of Angling Journal showed up in their mailboxes, or who cannot wait for the new Gray’s sporting Journal to arrive, these blogs will help fuel your fire between hookups with epic fish. Enjoy.


  1. I don't know anything about fly fishing but I agree with you on the lack of substance in present day writing, whether on fly fishing or other areas of interest. My areas of interest are food and wine and the writing is horrible on both fronts. Only one magazine is worth its weight; The Art Of Eating, all the rest have great pictures and nothing really longer than 1500 words. Attention span shortened, instant gratification now the norm, twits twittering and they are going to be running things in the not to distant future. RUN.

  2. David,
    Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment.

    Alas, the issue is much greater than I would feel comfortable covering in a blog about fly fishing, but youre comments add to the observation that reading of length and substance is substancially on the decline. Newspapers around the country are folding, and in a desperate attenpt to lure young readers, have juiced up and dumbed down the language to the point of using phrases such as "So, like, it might rain later."
    Readers digest just declaired chapter 11.

    It isn't that people are not reading, it is just that they are reading 30 second sound-bites, blurbs, tweets, etc.

    In my opinion, what this is leading up to is that the lack of substantive reading will result in diminishing critical thinking skills.
    That spells disaster. the thirty second tweet is a perfect channel for marketing and jingoism.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Eric. I actually try to pattern my writing after you. We are of a like mind when it comes to the traditions of this quiet sport.
    The abuse of our wild resource is hard to take and I find myself getting angrier as it increases. I can always find the means to get away from the stupidity of my fellow "sports". Maybe it has cost me a fish or two but the peace of mind is more than worth it.
    There is no retreat or respite from a state agency that is managing our wild salmon and trout out of existence though.
    Keep up the good work on this blog!

  4. you are in luck. The magazine you have been waiting for just launched. The Flyfish Journal. Saw an advance copy review on midcurrent. I called the journal office and subscribed, the nice person on the phone said the bulk shipment will ship in less than a month. I cannot wait.

  5. Anon:
    Thanks for the heads-up. It looks interesting. In examining the site, I discovered that it is published by a company that produces a snowboard magazine. I hope they don't forget the 'journal' part of it, and make it a photo montage. I will certainly look forward to the first edition.


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