An email from Jeremy Gubbins asked for a
column on how we came to establish FAOL.
It was a very nice, flattering email, but
a fair question.
In the Beginning
My husband, JC or Castwell and I have been
outdoor writers for many years. At one time
we were both members of the Outdoor Writers
of America, which at one time was considered
a very prestigious group. We both wrote for
the 'popular' magazines in our spare time,
since we had a full-time job with our own
business. I won't go into a lot about the
company except to say it was manufacturing
of a transferable thin film, a technology
which JC invented and patented. It provided
us with a decent living and we even got to fish.
In 1995 JC had a major heart attack. We were
able to continue the business, but when a good
offer to buy it came along from one of our
customers, we decided to sell.
We retired. Or so we thought.
The payments stopped coming. We filed suit.
It took 14 months to get the claim into court.
To make a long story short, the judge told the
people who bought the business to pay up, and
the next day they filed bankruptcy.
JC had taken a job as manager of a local fly
shop, so we did have some income. I continued
to write and was offered a job writing a weekly
column for Cox-Scripps/Howard's website, called
GoWest. The money was good and I enjoyed
writing for them.
Scripps sold their interest in GoWest to
Ted Turner and Turner's people offered me a 40
page contract which tied me to them for 3 years
plus first right of refusal for anything else I
might write for a couple of years after that. I
did not want to be tied down for that long, and
could not get them to budge, so I quit.
A neighbor who we knew through the communities
Board of Directors had been telling me for a year
I should have my own website. He was web savvy
and had a friend who was a webmaster. The neighbor
worked full time writing technical manuals for a
large equipment manufacturer and it seemed he and
the webmaster had the technical expertise which
JC and I were lacking.
After several months of almost daily discussions,
we sat on our livingroom floor one night with a
pack of file cards and laid out on the floor what
I wanted to see in a fly fishing website.
The major problem was neither of the other two guys
knew anything about fly fishing. JC and I began
getting them up to speed, casting lessons, fishing
lessons, speaking the language.
In return, the guys told us what a website HAD to
have, which included banner advertising on every
page. We said no. They said, "you can't do
that." We said, sorry, but that's the way it
is going to be.
They had some ideas on marketing, and what sponsors
should be paying - which was absolutely outrageous.
They had no idea of how small the fly fishing
industry really is, and at the end of five months
they had no advertising at all.
We had another major problem, FAOL when it first
went online was 'living' on a partitioned
hard drive, leased from an ISP in Salt Lake
City, UT. If the site was down or there were
problems we could only reach them by email,
never by phone, and never on a weekend. Not good.
Another problem was the idea of putting up a
new issue of FAOL each week was more than either
of the other guys was willing to do. We felt it
was absolutely necessary to have new content for
our readers - to give readers a reason to keep
The other two guys resigned when we made the
decision to move FAOL to a local ISP where we
could physically go down and talk to the people
hosting the website, so we rented space on the
new ISP's server.
That left JC to do what he could, and since he
had been doing all the graphic design for our
old business, he proceeded to learn web graphics.
One of the employees from our new ISP took me
under her wing, another recommended a good book,
and I learned how to write HTML4 code.
In the meantime, JC sold his patent, and we had
enough money in the bank to keep FAOL afloat for
a while. We picked up a few Sponsors and as soon
as we felt stable, we bought our first server.
From the beginning I had a vision of what I thought
a good fly fishing website should be and what it
should offer. The key then, and now is good,
honest information. JC also felt we needed a
good bulletin board and a chat room. We 'rented'
the bulletin board for a year, and then purchased
it. It was about the best, and most secure one
available. We also bought the Chat room. Chat
rooms are a real problem in security for the whole
website, and if they are not properly managed they
can be very messy. In fact, a major Fortune 500
company used a internal chat room for communication
within the company, and came to work one Monday
morning to find they now had a porn site. It took
several weeks to fix the problem.
The folks who volunteer to Host the Chat room, are
not here to blow their own horn, they provide a
welcoming atmosphere for the chatters and help out
when they can. It is their good judgement which
keeps the Chat room a pleasant, family-friendly
place to visit.
As JC and I became more familiar with what it
required on a weekly basis to produce FAOL we
added new sections. The Fly of the Week, JC's
Castwell column and my LadyFisher column were
part of the original site. Nearly everything
else has been developed as we went along.
Many of the sections were from suggestions by
readers, and in some cases sparked by a story
or article sent in by readers.
For the inquiring minds who want to know, FAOL
has as of December 1, 2004 over 29,000 html pages
and over 18,000 graphics. We now operate from a
'vault' in Seattle, on our three state-of-the-art
Lennox servers. Our equipment is fast, sort of like
a Lamborguini on aviation fuel, in fact faster than
we need, we average just a half million hits a day now.
The 'vault' has two separate power supplies in case
of power outage, plus a on-site generator which
can run 36 hours without refueling.
Here at FAOL Central, we have three hot computers,
a DSL line, routers, internal lan, a scanner and
a generator. We do all of our own work. However
we have a guru who keeps us out of trouble, he is
the brains behind any of the changes and upgrades
we do, via Vdomainhosting.com. We've been through
so many computer upgrades I can't even count them;
or what they have cost us either.
I'm often asked if I had any idea FAOL would get
this big. The answer is yes. What I envisioned
is what we have, although it is not complete.
There are other sections to be added. The major
thing I wanted to do was to bring free information
to anyone who wished to be a fly fisher. No elite
stuff, just give folks good information and build
a community of fly fishers who would share
information and pass it on.
We've had some criticism that FAOL appears 'homespun'
and not as 'slick' as it should be. The problem with
'slick' sites is the hard-edge impersonal impression
they have. We are anything but impersonal. Which I
believe is why so many of you make FAOL your 'home'
About half of our readers any given week are 'new'
to fly fishing. Which means we have the first crack
at giving them a good start on their fly fishing
journey, plus being able to influence their
attitudes and choices on catch and release and
being a steward of their environment. Very
Finally, through the friendships we have made
with you and our brethren fly fishers, the
articles and columns which appear on FAOL are
by fishermen (and women) who fish and are willing
to share their knowledge and experience with each
other. Some are professional writers, some may
be later and some will never write anything else.
All are important because what they say/write is
real. What comes through is their love for the
sport and the way it influences us in our everyday
On our front/main page it says it all: 'The
Fraternity of Fly Fishers.' ~ DLB
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!