Al Campbell, Field Editor

March 25th, 2002

Have We Really Come That Far?
By Al Campbell

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 my routine.

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

Previous Al Campell Columns
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice