Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

February 7th, 1999

Of Bridges and Mile-Stones

I really love and value my books. There is a strange connection between them and me. Something I do not actually understand, not at least with reason. Perhaps with emotion I do, I hope you do to. They are miniature-milestones of the things which, over the years, formed and influenced whatever I am today. It is often more interesting to find some old dog-eared volume than to read a new one. Perhaps a sad commentary on some of the current books.

It seems the sport of fly fishing is in a constant circle, re-inventing itself with the generations of those who proliferate it. Ideas imagined, then improved upon, again and again until the original is lost in time and memory. As I read these books, I often find myself in lock-step with the author, following the thought process - as though I was living in his time and fishing his streams. It is a fine way to enjoy time-travel and vicariously envision his world.

The problem with books, especially old ones, is they are most often the views of only one person. Possibly a common belief held at the time of writing, but all too often, a narrow and uncommon one; making the writing and selling of the book a thing of reality. If the ideas were commonly held there would be no use of writing the book, and certainly no sales.

So books have their value and place, but it must be accepted they are a singular thing, and certainly should be considered as such. Also, they are usually about things and ideas past, collected and presented as a collection; instant history, obsolete before the ink dries.

On the other hand, magazines, by their very nature must be current and topical. They are the heart-beat of the fly-fishing community at any given time and place. They thrive on 'how-to,' 'where-to,' and 'when-to' but little on 'why-to.''

'Why-to' is found in books. The stories and features of today's books come from a diverse stable of writers, some clones, some heretics, some just hungry. Nevertheless, today's books better represent a broad spectrum of a cultures, mores and views on our recreation than at any given period. For this they are of a high value. As the books age the value changes to one of a historical nature, chronicling the movement within the sport as it matures. They become the 'dime-novels' and 'pulp-fiction' of earlier times.

And they do not go away. Oh sure, they get discarded, but a few survive in libraries and collections, maintaining the thread of thought between books and generations.

But the Internet is not so. It does not even really exist. It is simply pluses and minuses strung together. The 'web' is ironically, ephemeral at best. Even less, it lives in nano-seconds. As we progress on our head-long plunge down the long information highway, I wonder if we are destroying the means of attesting to things historical. Are we losing the bridges between mile-stones?

To be sure, the web is literally 'lightening' fast, yet will the ongoing series of events which it is parenting be lost? The web is, at this time, surely the truest picture of events common with today. The diversity of the authors promulgating truth and fiction and all things between assure those of us who read the web the fastest, widest view of events in man's history; but at what expense.

The web is simply allowing fly-fishing to re-invent itself at a faster pace. And we feed the beast, both you and I. ~ LadyFisher

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