Fly fishing retailers were quick to recognize the potential of the internet for reaching customers and expanding business. Today, a fly shop cannot be truly competitive if it fails to present itself to digital anglers - as eager for online shopping as they are for an evening spinner fall. This phenomena has proven problematic for the local fly-shop that caters to a relatively small group of semi-loyal, resident bug chuckers. Unfortunately, loyalty does not pay the bills, and oftentimes it is a quality that lasts only so long as the span between discount rod sales on Cabelas.com.
Perhaps the greatest impact of the Web on bug chucking has been in its unique ability to connect people who may not otherwise meet, and allow them to share not only their ideas, but also their water. I must admit that I am extremely reluctant to share my rivers and streams (mine in the sense that their meandering currents are as much a part of me as is my too thick mid-section or too thin hair) with people I haven't known but through an online forum or social media. I am suspicious by nature, and I do not trust relative strangers to respect or appreciate the water as I do. If I am honest with you (and with myself), there is also a certain degree of selfishness at work. This may be one of the great failings of my character, but each of us knows that there's just no changing a bug chucker's nature.
I mention all of this by way of illustrating just how significant is the moment when I ask you - my cybernetically connected brother of the angle - to join me for a day on the water. Understand that on those first few outings, I will not take you to my favorite water. I may not even take you to one of the rivers I fish with both enthusiasm and regularity. What manner of fly flinger would I be if I simply handed the grail to someone who may be - regardless of appearances or reputation - a non believing heathen? I need to get to know you beyond the limits of email, Facebook, or this blog. I need to trust your character the way I trust in the morning's hatch or an afternoon spinner fall. That is to say that I need to know - with absolute and crystalline certainty - exactly what is happening even when I am not on the water.
A large part of that trust comes from your willingness to reciprocate kindness with kindness. An invitation to fish with me should be matched by an invitation to fish with you. This is more than simple courtesy (although it certainly is that). This is and has been protocol ever since we bug chuckers first began to compete for dwindling resources, ever since we began to keep secrets from each other. Quid pro quo. If I risk a revelation, will you do the same?
Know that if and when you do take that risk and invite me to fish with you, I will understand the import of that invitation. I will treat your secret as if it were my own secret, and I will never betray your confidence. I will never betray your water.