There is a string on the bulletin board concerning 2000 members
on that board and climbing. Wow, have we really come that far?
Even more amazing is the fact that a small percentage of our
readers ever visit the bulletin board, much less join. It's
a visible image of the vision of two remarkable individuals.
Looking back, it doesn't seem that long ago that I met Jim and
Deanna Birkholm (Castwell and Ladyfisher). It was early September
1997, and we were on a shuttle bus between the Denver Airport
and the downtown area where the big fly fishing show was going
to be held. I don't remember who started the conversation.
All three of us like to talk, so it could have been anyone.
Oh well, it isn't important who started the conversation; but
the subject of that conversation changed all three of our lives.
Eventually, one of us got to the subject of being an outdoor writer.
I don't remember, but it was probably me who did the first bragging.
That year I had my first article in Outdoor Life magazine,
and a fairly regular string of articles in Midwest Flyfishing
magazine, plus others. I was (still am) a regular columnist in the
Rapid City Journal (newspaper), with my own column on
the Saturday Outdoor page. I felt pretty good about my
accomplishments, and was more than willing to brag about them
to anyone willing to listen. Looking back, I'd say I was a little
green, even though I had more than enough years of experience
to get over that problem. You'd think I would have cleaned
that out of my system by then, but some days I still act that
way a little.
Jim and Deanna told me they were starting a flyfishing magazine
that would be published entirely on the internet. Cool; we were
all writers, so we had something in common. Another thing we
had in common was the fact that I had never heard of them, and
they had never heard of me. No matter, they said they were
looking for experienced flyfishing writers, and I fit those
shoes. We exchanged cards and talked a few times at the show.
Nothing serious, we just talked and I promised to contact them
after the show was over and I was home and settled back into
I didn't contact them right away, but after a few weeks I decided
I should look into the internet magazine they talked about. When
I did contact them, I offered to write a few articles for them.
Being the blunt and right-to-the-point kind of guy that I am,
I asked how much they paid for articles of a certain length.
When they told me they didn't have a budget that allowed
payments for articles, I nearly gave up on FAOL right then.
I was an "outdoor writer" and surely I was worthy of my pay.
I didn't contact them for a month and had no intentions of
getting involved with a payless magazine, but something Jim
said kept haunting me. He said it was time to "pay back" the
sport for all that it had given us over the years.
For some reason that statement bothered me. It really bothered me.
Was I being selfish? Was it really true that we all reach a point
in our lives when we need to give something back to reach a certain
peace in our souls? I guess it was true for me; I contacted
them again and the rest is history.
A lot of people have come and a few have gone since this magazine
started. A few guys who had plans to get rich quick didn't last
a year. A few more got busy with other things that didn't leave
enough time to hang around a place that showed little or no
financial return. A couple wanted to run the show and discovered
that it wasn't their show to run. Most are still here, at least
to some degree. The ones who stayed realized that Jim was right.
At some point in your life, you need to give something back if
you want to be at peace with this world.
A lot of internet flyfishing adventures have come and gone since
September 1997. The sites that were started with financial gain
in mind seem to have been the first to fall. A few of those
remain, but show some wear caused by a realization that they
will never get rich this way. The few that continue to grow
offer a reality and vision that was evident in this magazine
from the start. They are giving something back. They love
the sport enough to return some of the benefits to those just
starting and those who will benefit from the generosity.
Jim and Deanna are like family to me now; dear friends I love
from the deepest caverns of my heart. I have gained a lot
from the relationship. I have also contributed a lot to the
relationship. Through it all, they have always encouraged me
to grow and reach for the higher mountain top. There are many
mountains in my background that were conquered because they
were there to help me climb them.
They weren't the only ones who encouraged and worked with me
here. Guys with internet handles like Slicfoot, Osprey, Old
Rupe, Mike Croft, Charlie Place, Bearcat, Muddler, QC, Bob
Krumm, pastortd, dryfly, Grizz, Parnelli, qrrfish1, FritzFratz,
Noel, Doug Sinclair, Ronn Lucas, a bunch of writers who write
for Frank Amato Publications, and many others have been there
working beside us. There are some great writers who get
paid for anything else they write, but give back to the
sport here. You might be surprised to read all the names
of magazines and publishing companies who support FAOL.
Like the rest of us, they are giving back and gaining from
the relationship. It isn't a test of character; it's a
demonstration of the character they already have.
So here we are; 2000 bulletin board members and growing. It
hasn't been easy, and it didn't happen overnight, but it doesn't
seem all that long ago when I shook hands with a friendly couple
who had a dream and a vision. And here you are; sharing that
dream and experiencing that vision.
Was it worth it? You already know my answer. ~ AC