This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 2nd, 2002

Five Years and Counting

Five years ago, September 1, 1997, Fly Anglers OnLine made its first appearance on the Internet. My first column was called, Born in a Barn? As you might expect from me, it was not politically correct - just a simple set of rules or ethics for the fly fisher.

We wanted to set the stage with that issue. It was a small one compared to what we do each week now, but we wanted to have a place where people could find real, honest, correct information which would help them become better fly fishers.

There is an underlying motive to what we do here. It isn't about money. (Surprise.)

Here is the idea. If we can teach, encourage, lead, and enlighten fly fishers so they catch more fish, eventually somewhere they are going to put a fish back. For whatever reason - I'm not doing a carte blanc endorsement of catch and release here - when they put that first fish back and lightning doesn't strike them dead, they become interested in the welfare of that fish. If they put more fish back over a period of time, they may have a whole stream, river or watershed which they now become interested. That fly fisher becomes a steward of his environment, your environment, my environment.

He may also develop an interest in the regulations of his water, who makes the decisions, what the seasons are, if there is 'fly only' water - all sorts of good things which help to make the fishery better for you and me.

The other part of beginning Fly Anglers OnLine (FAOL) was an attitude I saw in fly fishing. It had become a 'neat thing' to do (following the movie A River Runs Through It) and a huge amount of importance was placed on the numbers of fish one caught - or released. To the extreme that some anglers carried a click-counter in their pocket and kept a tab on the totals. Bizarre - but it happened. There was also a large amount of snobbery, if you didn't fish for trout or Atlantic salmon you weren't a fly fisher. That included a look-down-the-nose attitude at anyone fishing for 'trash fish.' Yes, those fish - panfish - all fish not trout or Atlantic salmon. That even included the saltwater fish! And of course, you must fish with the very best, most expensive gear possibly available. (Not exactly a smart way to bring new people into fly fishing, and certainly not necessary to get started.) I hated the 'attitude' then, and still do.

There was one more important part of beginning FAOL. We had to fund it. One of the suggestions by an advisor was to make it a 'subscription' website. People would have to 'join up' and pay a fee to read it. We, my husband JC and myself, said no. FAOL would be free to anyone who wished to read it. That meant we would have to find sponsors.

We had both been kicking around the fly fishing industry for many years, and thought we knew who the good guys were. It has been a long, tough slog, but we do have a fine group of sponsors, all of whom any of our readers can depend on to be good companies who stand behind their products. Sponsors are here by invitation. We do stand behind each and every one of them. Find a print magazine which will do that.

At the five year mark, JC and I are extremely grateful to our readers, each and every one of you. We are constantly amazed at the quality and quantity of material sent in by you to be included in FAOL. It may be a personal experience, a tip, a Fly of the Week, some humor...the variety is wonderful. We know you enjoy reading them - mostly because you know it is written by a real fly fisher - just like you!

FAOL is a roaring success - thanks to each and all of you. Thanks folks. Keep passing it on. ~ 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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