Friday, December 18, 2009

How to write a Fly Fishing Article

How to write a Fly Fishing Article

By the Classic Angler (Who can’t get published, so he should know)

Ah, the rejection letter. I just love them.

“Dear Mr. Helm,

After reviewing your manuscripts, we feel that they do not fit with our needs at the present time. Good luck with future writing and please keep ‘Useless Angling Journal’ in mind. You should also consider suicide.”


Bob Flob, Executive Editor


So here in a nutshell is my tongue-in-cheek guide to successful writing for today’s sporting magazines…

Write with a formulaic style: Man vs. Beast, or I went to this exotic place and caught big fish, or this is how I nymphed ‘em up, etc. Make your writing as close to everyone else’s that it is hard to tell the difference.

Under no circumstances should you allow your creative side to take over. Wipe any sentimentality, romance, existentialism, aesthetics, or self-examination out of the article.

Make frequent references to specific products in your article. “I could really cast a mile on the Henry’s Fork using the Sagorviloomiston XTPS 9’ 6 wt. It was balanced perfectly by the Rosovison sylk-drag large arbor 3400 xsr.”

Mention area lodges, businesses, guides, outfitters, restaurants, shuttle-services, etc. by name in the article. This sells advertising.

Make heavy use of pictures. After all, given the choice between words and pictures, pictures win every time.

Keep your articles under 1,500 words. Anything over that and people fall asleep.

Fail to mention that in return for the publishing of the article, you were flown into the exotic location you wrote about and literally molly-coddled into a fish.

Include photos of flies that work. Make certain that they are all commercially available so that advertisers can sponsor the magazine.

Include a glory shot of a huge fish. It does not have to be the same river or body of water you are writing about. It doesn’t even have to be on the same continent.

Make frequent references to Hemmingway.

Remember that your target audience is people that move their lips when they read. The fact that higher educated and literate individuals tend to take up fly-fishing should not carry any weight.

Make use of fly-fishing clich├ęs in your writing: Tight loop, hopper-copper-dropper, pigasaurus, slab, etc.

Write everything in the first person singular. Use ‘I’ as every other word.

Make the guide that you are with the hero of the story. Portray him as some sort of angling godling blended with battle-scarred war veteran. His eyes should be ‘steely’, his arms ‘rope-like’ and his personality as rough as the river. He should never blink. He should know every fish in the river by name.

Either play down your own ability, becoming a buffoon next to the guide and other anglers, or exaggerate your prowess to expert status. There should be no middle ground.

Nature should always take a back-seat.


Here for your reading pleasure (or not) is the perfect article.

Mike’s steely eyes and steady hands guided us through broken pelvis rapids in the upper stretch of the Big Silver River. Guiding on the river every day for the last ten years, Mike is part owner of Silver River Outfitters. There were rumors of steelhead and salmon so big that Zane Gray would have a heart attack. As we floated down the rapids in the morning mist, I imagined myself as Hemmingway’s Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea, hopelessly locked in a death struggle with the fish of a lifetime.

We were throwing a Bumpqua mouse pattern at the edges of seams with excellent luck. Catching all these big fish made me hungry, and I looked forward to the sirloin steak, lobster bisque, and fine merlot that would be served at the Silver River Overlook restaurant that evening.

Ken hooked into a monster in a rapids and as his Lamroson large arbor 348 sang, he made his way down river, his Primms boots anchoring him solidly to the gravel…..

Blah, Blah, Blah


The question that always strikes me is whether the demise of print magazines is due to a lack of interested readers, or if the dumbing down of the contents to attempt to appeal to a younger audience with a smaller attention-span is actually accelerating the disinterest.

Chicken and the egg?


  1. If magazines published writings worth keeping, they would market them in a book to the people who cared. Most mags are made to read with your pants off.

  2. Anon. Funny!
    Tragic thing is that they used to do just that. I own some wonderful compilations. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Pants off? Damn I have been doing it wrong.

  4. I just read an artical the other day ,I was hoping to read about center pin reels .There were pictures of the rods and reels .I started reading and it was just about some guys making a trip from canada to michigan to chase steelhead in the winter .It was the stupidest artical Ive ever read . I couldnt imagine why the editor had even put it in the magazine .Oh and the guy wore a visor hat with no top in the winter (really ).
    Ive met one of these artical writers ,I caught a fish when i was on a trip with him .he took pictures and was really nice on the trip . then i saw him at a meeting ,im a nobody ,he couldnt even say hello .People are self centered and have to put themselves on top .Me im just going fishing ,keep writing Erik ,your good and fuck the magazines they are full of A holes anyway !

  5. Anon. A man has to have emergency TP, and these rags are worth about that much. A bit too slick for daily use though.

  6. Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    Fuck em brother. Fuck em all....I've decided that we must draw the line and stand up and say FUCK YOU wen it's time. No more Mr. nice Caihlen.

  7. Good to see that there are like-minded folk out there...
    The mags really ARE that bad. Jeez.

  8. id say this much ,I want to read stories ,not here about some guy and how he caught this huge fish or how he has mastered casting ,I want to here about saving fish habitat ,what gear works ! Not an article about a rod or a reel that im going to spend money on that once I get out there gives me problems ( like ross reels with bad drag systems ,momentum )It goes like this if you get a sponser they pay for your trip ,so you up their product ,some of these products are crap!!!!!! We should be able to talk about this .500 dallors is alotg of money to spend on a reel only to have it fall apart .I guess if i was just mindless ,it would all make sense ,but magazines suck ,they become brand loyal . I want to know what works ,Id love to see one magazine talk about all the little that is created by fishermen ,who leave crap on the banks all over the place ( then wounder why no tresspass signs get put up . Seriously the fly industry is a mess and make alot of crap out there ,i dont even want to know what Ive spent on things ,just to find out it didnt work .We wounder why we are in a recession ,a good reel that works costs 800 dallors ,you can buy a chiness one for a hundred ( they work ) sorry for the long post but im sick of the way things have become !

  9. I'd like to read your original article, if there was one :)


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