Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Since the inception of The Rusty Spinner, I've been asked many times over why I go through the trouble of maintaining a blog. Why do I burden myself with all the links and videos, with photographs and with writing? Is it vanity or exhibitionism? Do I feed on the little bit of praise I occasionally receive? Am I a collector of followers? Am I self important? Do I hope the blog will somehow magically morph into magazine articles or a book?

The truth is that The Rusty Spinner has been around in this form and others for over a decade - the blog began as a website devoted to the history and chronology of the Orvis CFO series of reels - and in that time I haven't received even one nickel for my efforts. Any reward I've received has been intrinsic and intangible to anyone but myself. Why do it then? When I think about it, the answer to that question almost certainly stems from the years I spent working in a fly shop.

Make no mistake, being a fly shop flunkie is hardly a glorious vocation. First and foremost, fly shop work is retail work, and sometimes no better than making minimum wage in a second hand clothing store that caters to tweens and hipsters. Stop for a moment, and imagine that special hell.

"Where can I find your free range, organic, "Like a Boss" belts?"

"I was wondering ... do you stock Hello Kitty socks in a men's large?"

"I don't believe this, Margot! They're out of henna hair dye."

"Why isn't there a bike rack out front? I ride my little fixie everywhere, and I have to say ... it feels so good to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I'm sure you know what I mean."

"Excuse me ... you seem to be out of "I Heart David Sedaris" graphic tees, when will you be getting more?"

What must it be like to be subjected to that kind of inane patter all day, every day, for less than $10.00 an hour? Just thinking of it makes my ears bleed, and as difficult as it may be to believe there are those days when working in a fly shop - a shop packed with all the latest and greatest rods, reels, flies, and fly tying material - is only marginally better than eight hours of selling black rimmed, lensless glasses to people with 20/20 vision.

"Do these waders come in an antique ivory taupe?"

"Will this line make me cast farther?"

"What do you mean you don't sell nightcrawlers? I thought this was a fishing store."

"Where do you fish?"

"My rod broke ... spontaneously and through no fault of my own."

The single saving grace is that this type of chatter was the exception, not the rule. Most folks - men, women, and children - were relatively well informed and comported themselves with a modicum of sense.

"These waders only come in olive? Perfect. One less thing to think about."

"I wish they'd make a line that casts itself because I just can't double haul with a flask in my line hand."

"I know this is a fly shop - and when I'm alone I'll definitely be back - but right now there are four kids in my car - four kids who want to go fishing. Any idea where I could get a tub of nightcrawlers?"

"If you had only two days to wet a line before you left for home, where would you fish?"

"I broke my rod. Like a chucklehead, I left the freaking thing laying across the truck of the car. Smashed her good. I may have had one too many IPAs ..."

And this is what I most enjoyed about working in the shop. Most of my day - each and every day - was spent talkin' fishin'. My customers and I talked bass and steelhead, trout and pike. We talked tarpon in Florida and kings in Alaska. We talked line and tippet, knots and rigging, double hauls and single speys. We talked about the Spring Hole, the Bat Hole, and a river whose name we never used. Working in a fly shop was my opportunity to be immersed in a lifestyle that I thoroughly enjoyed. When life led me from the shop into a teaching career, the one thing I genuinely missed was the opportunity to chat with like minded folks. Hence ... The Rusty Spinner.

The Rusty Spinner is my opportunity to continue the conversation. This blog isn't about marketing. It isn't about making money or getting free swag for ridiculously contrived and complimentary reviews. The Rusty Spinner is my way of throwing my thoughts out into the ether in the hopes someone might shout back. In that regard, my time spent at the keyboard has been time well spent. I've met folks from all over the world through this blog, including a few who live nearby and have become friends, confidants, and fishing partners.

The Rusty Spinner is my way of remaining on the periphery of a world that I've long since left. Writing about fly fishing is likely as close as I may ever again come to my time in the shop and the conversations I had there. As time passes and technology changes, I suppose I am likely to lose this outlet and my connection to that world. Still, I can't help but think that the time I spend here at this keyboard - uncompensated as it may be - is time well spent. Next to the riffles and pools of one very special river that shall forever remain unnamed, there are few places I would rather be than sitting here ... talking to you.

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