Friday, May 18, 2012

On Blogging and Fishing (But Not Necessarily In That Order)

I follow quite a few blogs, 90 percent of which are at least tacitly related to fly fishing. More often than not, I enjoy the time I spend thumbing through the digital pages. Some days are better than others, but all things considered, it isn't a bad way to spend an otherwise fishless afternoon. One of the bloggers I follow recently wrote a piece lamenting what he referred to as, "the insufferable quality" of the writing that many fly fishing blogs share.

I've no way of knowing if this particular writer has ever laid eyes on my blog. If he has then I have to wonder if he finds my scribblings as shallow and insipid as the writing he describes in his post. But I have to say that my experience couldn't be more different from his. I've found there to be some really good stuff out there, written by folks who are both adept writers and seemingly talented anglers. More than anything else, however, the writing is enjoyable to read simply because fly fishing bloggers - at least those I follow - are genuine.

Unlike published authors who derive a portion of their income from writing, bloggers have few extrinsic motivations for doing what they do. Certainly, there are a select few bug chuckers who have figured out how to turn blogging into a business. I commend them for their entrepreneurial spirit, but these folks are far and away the minority. Most bug chucking bloggers have no incentive to write anything that is not personal and spontaneous. They fish because they enjoy fishing, and they write because they enjoy writing. Blogging about fly fishing is simply the inevitable collision that occurs when two interests gravitate toward each other.

And while it is true that a blogger's writing may seem at times amateurish and unpolished, it is also true that a lack of professional finish often appeals to the readers of blogs. As a rule, bloggers are raw. Bloggers are real. Bug chuckers who blog sometimes drop their rods too low on the back cast; they miss too many hook sets ever to call themselves experts. They tie flies albeit poorly, and they tear holes in their overpriced waders. They're every bit like the rest of us.

Contrarily, I think the canon of published fly fishing writing is - for lack of a more suitable word - contrived. So much of it is cookie-cutter, and very much the same as everything else. Many of the fly fishing books we might purchase on or in the local fly shop, read like DIY texts on roofing or bathroom restoration. They lack distinct form. They lack style, and this may very well be because they're so polished and heavily edited. Blogs bring us the unedited, often unvarnished truth.

Please don't take this as a blanket condemnation of professional writers; it is not meant to be. I'd be lying if I suggested that I wouldn't want to earn my living as some writers do. And I realize that the history of fly fishing is rich in literature and the writers who produce such writing. What I am most emphatically suggesting, however, is that blogging and bloggers - many of whom are much more talented than myself - have given us a new means by which we might better learn and appreciate our sport.


Howard Levett said...

Bravo, well said. I expect to pay for polished and for (maybe)entertaining. Personal blogs, the good, the bad and the ugly are real people talking about real life...unvarnished. I like it like that.

Parker James said...

I like and agree with your sentiment. I blog for very much the same reasons that you espouse. It started as more or less an experiment to see how far the tendrils of a blog about dogs and trout would reach and how many folks would see it. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many hits I've had with so little 'effort'. I write mostly because it entertains me. Its fun--and I like a turn of phrase. I have always enjoyed reading a lot. Writing thoughts and experiences down is very much like reading. This may sound funny, but just as the words flow off of the page, the words seem at times to flow onto the page--from somewhere else.
I seldom attempt to write polished, although I believe that I'm capable of it. I think this reflects a bit of rebellion toward some of the things that you mention.
Blog on!

Saltwater Fishing said...

You have to keep your blog real. if not people will read right thru it and eventually stop reading. It's the reality that keeps people coming back. Keep it up!

Bruce Edward Litton said...

You have a wonderfully integrated style. I'm looking forward to your next post, which I should receive by email. I agree on all your points and I commend you for pointing out that professional writing isn't something to reject out of hand. An interesting book is Art Scheck's A Fishing Life is Hard Work. I urge you to read it, if you haven't. He's a fly magazine editor with a great cynicism about the business. But of course, he does it. And he has his reasons. Hope you had a good fall on the Salmon River if you were there this year. I may have read a post of yours on this year earlier, or maybe it was last year.