This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 29th, 2002

Missing Something?

The Welcome mat is always out at Fly Anglers OnLine (FAOL), we never close.

That means the website is always available to you for whatever you may be looking for, or you can join in a discussion on the Bulletin Board - or 'chat' with real people in the Chat Room. All kinds of fishing related things are chewed on in both places, but the Chat Room also delves into all sorts of non-fishing items too.

I've wondered why so many people visit FAOL. Some of it I'm sure is to find specific information, which we have more of than any other website, not to mention print. But it is more than that.

Many family lives are much different than when my husband, JC and I were growing up. Work, kids, the ever present television all take a toll on something you may not have given much thought to. Conversation itself seems to becoming almost a lost art. Most guys 'talk' to their cohorts at work, or in the context of their jobs - but they don't sit down and have conversations with just folks. Conversation is an art. Those who visit the Chat Room make the jump to virtual conversation, which does have its difficulties. Without being able to see the person speaking (or typing in this case) you don't see their facial expressions and one needs to take some care their comments aren't mis-interpreted. It takes a little working at, but the Chat Room does serve to make a connection with like-minded people. People new to the Chat Room often realize that most folks seem to know one another. In some cases that is true, but mostly they have become acquainted just through the Chat itself. Some have fished together, as have some who 'meet' through the Bulletin Board.

What seems to be missing for the readers of FAOL is a sense of belonging to a specific community. I call the 'community' here the Fraternity of Fly Fishers. And it really has become just that. (Sorry you "PC" tyoes, no 'sorority' for you.)

The Fish-Ins are an example of that community. The first one had no name, was not intended to be anything other than a fishing trip to Montana for JC and me. But because we mentioned it in the Chat, we got some emails and phone calls, and to make a long story shorter, 5 people showed up to fish in Yellowstone National Park with us.

Before we arrived home from that trip, Al Campbell and a couple of guys from Rapid City, SD discussed the Black Hills Fish-In. When Al called me and told me he felt the next 'Fish-In' should be in South Dakota I was in shock. "What Fish-In?" Hill City was eventually selected, the motel/campground designated and 35 people showed up.

Ron Koenig decided two Fish-Ins in the west was just too much and he became involved in finding a place in the east to hold the next one. Do you notice here that JC and I were not part of the organizing of these events? They were spontaneous by folks knowledgeable about the region and the fishing there. State College, PA was the home of the 3rd Fish-In and 37 showed up for that one.

Ron Kusse contacted us and said it was a shame the folks had gone to State College when the Catskills were so close. And added after all, this is the home of American fly fishing. Ron volunteered to organize Fish-In 4, and it is where the permanent home of the 'official' FAOL Fish-In would be, at the Delaware River Club on the West Branch of the Delaware on the border between New York and Pennsylvania. Approximately 120 people attended in 2001.

Fish-In 5 will be at the same place, you of course are cordially invited, the information for it is at: Travel Fish-In 2002.

But that isn't the end of it. Some of the folks on the Bulletin Board decided there should be a 'regional' fish-in for the Texas folks. It was at the Rio Resort on the Guadalupe River in Central Texas on April 5-7, 2002. It too was a success, with about 20 FAOL folks showing up, a couple drove long distances to get there, from Minnesota and White Heath, Illinois. I'm told plans are underway for a repeat next year.

Then there is the Idaho Regional Western Fish-In coming up this fall in Lowell, Idaho. It will be Sept 16 - 22, 2002 at the Three Rivers Resort. For information on that one go to Idaho Regional 'FISH-IN 2002'. Dick Lane, ('Fishin injun) came up with the idea for this one, and the fishing should be fantastic. Blue ribbon water.

Can you believe this? Yes, there will be one in the Southeast in in 2003, more on that later.

But it's not just about the fishing. Those who have attended any of these events will tell you the same thing. They probably fished, maybe caught fish even - but it was the comradeship, sharing information, flies, ideas, experiences which made the whole thing special. Sharing a meal, tying flies together, putting faces on names they have seen in the Chat or on the Bulletin Board, casting other rods - and the conversation! Those things shared amongst friends who share a common interest. Surprising to some, folks come to the Fish-Ins who have never been in the Chat Room or posted to the Bulletin Board. Just readers of FAOL who want to be part of it. It isn't surprising to me, I get email from many of them.

And best of all, there are no dues, no fees, no having to "join" an organization. It's just folks getting together.

These Fish-Ins are the embodiment of the community which has become Fly Anglers OnLine. An opportunity to go somewhere and be accepted as a part of that community just because you are there. The common frame of reference is fly fishing and this website. The neat part is it is the readers of FAOL who make the decision to hold a gathering.

Years ago JC's folks wintered in Cedar Key, Florida. Every Wednesday morning a Michigan breakfast occurred at a local restaurant. Folks just got together, had a meal and visited. They probably didn't know each other back home, but here was an opportunity to be with folks from the same state. It was very popular.

I have no way of knowing how involved you are in your own community. Whether or not you are part of a fly-fishing organization or if you even know the name of your next-door neighbors. Do you really feel you are part of something where you live? Or where you fish? Do you have a sense of belonging?

We hope you find FAOL a place where you do belong. We built it for you. This is your community, and you can be as active or passive as you wish. But keep in mind, if you ever wish to reach out and touch real people, there is a place for that too. Just come to a Fish-In. ~ LadyFisher

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

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