RATS IN THE BELFRY
The posts about river crowding in one forum and the parallel discussions of etiquette in another I admit to perusing with a mounting sense of rue mixed in equal measure with spittle-on-the-chin knee-slapping hilarity.
A story for you. Several years ago a steelhead website was spawned over on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. The webmaster's clear intent was to take steelhead river fishing and transmogrify it from its historical pedigree of a journey of self-exploration and calculated passion in the manner of Haig-Brown’s writings into a.....a what? Into a full-blown in-your-face take-no-prisoners military-industrial complex, that's what.
With dripping helpings of technique slathered generously with river names, river places, water flows and digi-pix of chest-pounding fishing exploits, the site soon attracted a large group of sycophants, all hungering for more information which magically just kept on coming and coming. No more paying long arduous dues to learn a stretch of river, no more trial and error of technique with the hopes of the big payoff; just point and click and away we go and hey, it’s all free!
The chest-pounding exploits then of course turned to rivers north of the border. Despite coyly dressing up the tepid prose in snickering secrecy so as to pass the smell test of his own kiss-and-tell egregiousness, no matter-- the merry pranksters who read his site back home all eventually caught on to the Zen of where and how and when, wink wink, say no more, say no more.
And what happened? Yes, you got it-- in a matter of two years, the select northern rivers the webmaster chose to focus his devastating “chat” on changed from being places of lose-yourself-in-the-bliss-of-wilderness-adventure to full-blown combat fishing, all a-bristle with Shimano Calcuttas, dawn assaults with pink worms, 4x4's parked out on the gravel beaches, and the trusty digi-cams to keep the masses back at the ranch enthralled in yet one more chapter of The Fluviatile Conquest.
The local guides on both sides of the border went berserk. This guy was giving away information that they normally sold to clients for US$ 250 a day-- what’s up with that? There were threats and counter-threats, slashed tires on boat launches, public humiliations on chat forums-- yes, the full-blown seamy underbelly of the information superhighway.
Do we congratulate ourselves for the smarmy bonhomie and shoulder-slapping chatty comraderie we share as we wait at the top of the hole for the 10 flyboys already in place below us to one-step their way to the bottom before we dutifully and patiently step in behind? The same 10 flyboys who just learned how cool this fly fishing thing was last month on an internet website? The guys who just bought their top-of-the-line spey gear off the same website, learned what hole to go to and when to go there from a post by the guy who sold them the rod?
The Brits, the Norwegians and the Icelanders have already been there and done that, folks. They quietly chuckle watching all this silliness. And we all know what they did to solve that problem.
But one last piece to the story. What, you ask, might be the secret compulsion that would drive a webmaster of a site described above to spew information in the manner described, defying all logic of what fishing and fishermen are really all about? Yes, questionable self-esteem is probably on the list somewhere. But the real prime mover of it all? It’s very simple, really. Can you spell M-O-N-E-Y? It’s pay to play, folks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, no such thing as free information.
Squandering solitude and selling out your bud's secret river spots? If its not part of your advertising budget, just say no!
Yes, I suppose you can always tell a man's convictions by the headwaters of his cash flow. Sad, ain't it?