After yet another less than fulfilling experience with a major Fly Fishing periodical I find myself pondering the question of “What is the problem with Fly Fishing magazines?”
For the answer to this question maybe I should first take a look in the mirror. Is there something in me that’s the problem? Have I changed? Am I not bringing enough to the relationship? As silly as these questions sound, there is something to them, I believe.
When my relationship to fly fishing and the associated media was young, I was a voracious consumer. I read every “how-to” article that I could find, I wanted to try every new fly that was published, experiment with every new fly tying material.
But after a while my relationship with fly fishing has settled into a comfortable place, like the worn spots on the fretboard of my guitar for the chords of G, C and D. I’ve sorted through the opinions and techniques and flies and I’ve settled on my canon. Sometimes flies have entered the canon because of efficacy, sometimes because of sentimentality or stubbornness – a mix of reason and emotion really. I know what I like and I know what works for me – am I an expert that has reached the pinnacle of fly fishing? No, of course not (far from it), but I’m happy. As a result of this process, much of the offerings in the fly fishing mags, just aren’t that inspiring to me at this stage of the game.
But, I keep picking these magazines up, so I must be looking for something. What is it I hope to find? In a world, where I was the editor of a major fly fishing magazine, what would I publish? Well that’s a tricky question with too many considerations, too much pandering to the masses. Very probably, my ideal fly fishing magazine would not be very marketable to a huge audience – so if commercial success was not a concern what would my ideal fly fishing magazine contain?
Here’s what I’d put in My Ideal Fly Fishing Magazine:
1) Pictures of realistic fish: I don’t know about you, but I don’t always catch hogs. It may be hard for you to believe, but it’s true. All those glossy pictures of ginormous trout with kyped jaws, sagging bellies, and spots the size of quarters just create too much performance anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Let’s have pictures of real fish.
2) Serialized Features: I’m thinking about things like “The History of the Dry Fly” or “Classic Wet Fly Tying and Fishing” or “Fly Fishing Literature: A Survey Through the Ages”. And these would not just be single articles, but they would be serialized for 3 or 4 issues, so that the subject could really be investigated in depth.
3) Regional Monthly Hatch Charts: Not much to explain here, but each issue would contain detailed hatch charts for the major rivers in each region of the country. This would be especially helpful to the traveling angler. Sure you can get this stuff online, but it would be nice to have it in a magazine. I don’t know about you, but I always get so distracted online. I go to the computer to find the current hatches for the Frying Pan River and end up reading recipes for Tomato Ricotta Tart. With the help of local fly shops this should be pretty easy to implement. It could be free advertising for the shops and free content for the magazine, a win-win.
4) Good Fly Fishing Related Fiction: The Magazine would contain awesome fly fishing related fiction. I’m not sure where it would come from, but it has to be out there somewhere. Again this would be serialized over several issues so that the magazine could present nice long pieces.
5) Destination Articles: Destination pieces are some of my favorites these days – it’s information that I can use. There would be at least four destination articles per issue. Even if I don’t plan go to one of the destinations featured, I feel like I could go, which is sometimes sufficient. But, there would never ever be articles about fishing for freshwater Dorado in South America – because I will never ever do that, ever. Never.
6) Fly Fishing Poetry: Because in the late hours of the night, when I can’t sleep, I sometimes imagine that I am a poet, and there aren’t many outlets for fly fishing poetry.
7) More Artwork: I would include more illustrations to accompany articles and less photography than the typical mag. I’ve got no problem with photography – but I love a nice pen and ink, watercolor, oil, acrylic, mixed media, artsy photo, etc. In an age when digital photography has made everyone a photographer (though we’re not all as good as we think) – I’d like to take it back to a simpler time. I want to see the hand of a creator in the visuals. I’d like to see more expression and less pure representation.
8 ) More Variety and More Experimentation: Let’s have more articles by more people, more types of articles, narratives, essays, etc. I don’t need perfection from the writers – just some more variety. Sometimes I think that by focusing on perfection the magazines publish mediocrity. You don’t get great by just being really good at average things. You need to take chances, you need to shoot for the impossible. Maybe you fail horribly and gloriously from time to time, but sometimes you get greatness, or at least something out of the ordinary. At the very least, by publishing more variety – you avoid boring predictability. Maybe, in this climate, the magazines feel threatened and so they’ve retreated to what feels safe – I feel this is a huge mistake.
9) Almost forgot…real reviews: I want actual gear, book, DVD, etc. reviews. I don’t just want to be made aware of new products, but I want honest to goodness critical reviews of media and comparative tests and reviews of equipment.
Well, those are some of my thoughts on what I’d like to see in My Ideal Fly Fishing Magazine. Are these things present in some of the magazines out there? Surely. One magazine is better at this – one is better at that, but I have trouble finding one that is everything together. Maybe what I want is a Fanzine for Fly Fishing – something that is a bit amateurish, but infectiously enthusiastic.
What are your thoughts?