Monday, February 4, 2013

Examples of Good Fish-Out-of-Water Thinking

I give credit where it's due. Although my most recent post was to call attention to the lack of socially-conscious fishing journalism, several pieces come to mind that deserve mention and serve as examples of the socially aware outdoor journalist. 

(1) This FishCamp piece and Mike Schmidt's response focused on the issue of a 'generation gap' in flyfishing. The authors tussle with the perhaps divergent ways of participating in flyfishing between the 'old guard' and the 'new school' (anglers over 55 and under 30, respectively, I'm assuming). Even though the authors arrive at slightly distinct conclusions, they both show an awareness that the flyfishing population is not a monolith--it is not comprised of a single demographic. Moreover, flyfishing culture varies by generation, which influences how these groups relate to each other. On the one hand, older anglers want to recruit new stewards of the sport and ecosystem, so they target recruitment at young folks. But young anglers bring with them new technologies and new aesthetics which makes them fish and organize in different ways.

The next, next generation

(2) I also recommend Jen Ripple's piece entitled, "The Sex Hatch" in the April 2012 issue of A Tight Loopan excellent and free online fishing magazine focusing on the midwest. Jen made the point that she, as a woman angler, is still only on the river to catch fish--not for men's entertainment. That doesn't mean she doesn't enjoy looking good doing what she and all of us do (standing in a cold ass river)--in fact, she says she wants to catch the best fish and look the best while doing it. She says she is "both intimidating and approachable." What I like about Jen's piece is that she exposes a bit of the experience of being a woman in a male-dominated sport--not just how women and men interact, but how the industry has viewed and (not) accommodated women. And her strategy is unapologetic about being a woman--she isn't going to try to look like a man and just blend in. However, that doesn't mean you should ask her out. 

Fly color or nail color--does one matter more? 

(3) Another socially-conscious article of note was Miles Nolte's "The Harder They Come: Oi'o and Haoles" in Vol. 4, Issue 1 of The flyfish journal. In this story, Nolte alternates between a simple narration of his attempts at landing a Hawaiian bonefish and his internal monologue about the shifting economics, culture, and symbolism of the Hawaiian "paradise." Nolte explores the tensions that the expanding tourist culture and urban sprawl means for the local and native residents, including relations between them and visiting anglers. 

Whose paradise?

(4) Although not always written out, (I applaud you for reading this far, btw) the work by Ken Morrow is important in raising awareness. Ken is the author of The Adaptive Fly Fishing Handbook, and he spends his life helping differently-abled individuals flyfish. His mission statement shows his social conscience: "Reducing and eliminating the historical barriers and pitfalls that prevent or discourage people from enjoying the sport of fly fishing..." Even still, Ken's work is not journalism. How are we to learn about the complications of access to flyfishing for those differently-abled? We need stories that cover Ken and instructors like him, as well as anglers who have faced issues of mobility and ability in their fishing quests. (Ken's site is also responsible for the FishCamp piece I mentioned earlier). 
Logo for The Adaptive Fly Fishing Handbook

(5) Finally, I just read the newest edition of This is Fly, which featured two articles on the impact of Hurricane Sandy to the Northeast coast. These stories do a good job of focusing on communities and how external events can influence fish, ecosystems, fishing communities, and one's own desires to keep fishing.
But seriously, it was bad. 

New socially-conscious journalism can range from first-person anecdotal data, memoirs, perspectives about one's own experiences and identities to analyses of population-level data. Reports such as those done annually by (like this one) are reliable sources for just a task. 

Now go read some of this stuff! 



  1. Thanks for noticing. There have been a number of great articles in recent years about piscatorial therapy programs and adaptive angling, a few of which focused on my work. Florida Sportsman did a major feature article on me a couple of years ago. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychology, TBI, and PTSD did a nice piece on one of my older brothers and I titled, "Brothers With A Mission." And a couple of disability-oriented journalists have penned articles on our institute and my book. We'd love to see more coverage from the main-line fishing publications, but it doesn't happen. The proverbial grip-n-grin and kiss-n-tell articles crowd out social consciousness.

    1. Great point, Ken. And thanks for the heads up about the sources that have highlighted your work. I will always keep my eye out for them. And I realize I need to be doing more socially conscious stuff here more often as well. Until this winter I had been fishing a ton and just wanted to show some fish pics. I need to get my head and blog back in the right place to balance it all out. Thanks again for stopping by the page. Come back anytime!