Let’s be clear: It is a proven fact that Al Gore created the internet so that all the smart people could tell all the stupid people how stupid they all are. And boy, is it working!
Since 1998, each major election has been decided based on on shared Facebook posts.
Every day, religious and non-religious people convert back and forth due to pithy one-liners on message boards.
Plus, blogs allow the world to hear all the information that is too real for those corporate publishers to touch.
But there exists a topic at the nexus of all of these eloquent and courageous displays of truth. The most profound debates, arguments, and other manner of reality-checkings occur in the last spots anyone would expect. Want to know where the real knowledge is dispensed?
Fly fishing forums. Tweets about fly rod companies. Comments under Instagram pictures of female anglers. These are the places where things get legit. Absolute authority is on display. Hyperbole is unheard of. Opinions define the in-group/out-group lines
And if I’m going to be honest (which, even in light of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the post thus far, I am) I think it is all hilarious. Maybe that is wrong and indicative of low moral character, but I am drawn to these fly fishing squabbles like a mayfly to a headlamp. It is like watching a toy train crash. The effect is similar to two beta fish charging, gently thumping their respective plastic cups.
It is people fighting. On the internet. About fly fishing.
Now, I’m not denigrating the respectful explanations of proper fish handling, de-barbed hooks, or abiding by local statutes. Intense but civil dialogue about issues like public lands, conservation organizations, or trends in the sport are part of the culture. If done well, that is just good citizenship. It makes the community better.
What I am thinking of is… well, here are some examples from recent history:
- Name calling over liking bright-colored reels
- Arguing about tying with rubber (squirmy wormy: bad, hopper legs: good)
- Calling out a new fly tyer for using the wrong sized hackle
Opinions are great. We all have them, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I believe that the maxim comparing them to a certain orifice certainly can ring true. This is particularly true when someone unleashes a missive with the fury of a thousand double-hauls on some unsuspecting Facebook group.
It sure can be entertaining. I’ll just scroll and scroll and scroll. I suppose that since I take some sick, twisted pleasure in perusing such back-and-forths that I’m no better than the e-combatants. For all I know, looking at it moves it up the social media food chain where it gets more traction than it otherwise would. So I suppose I should reassess my motives.
But seriously, tone down the rhetoric about the minutiae. Do you think that the tournament bass guys argue about how sparkly-per-square-inch their boats are? Do cane pole anglers get on each other if they bought their rig versus harvesting it from their backyard? Is this just the evolution of the “e-word” that has plagued fly fishing for a few generations? Have we just replaced the tweed and wicker for keyboards and slander?
Maybe the moral of the story is to fish more. Scratch that, fish together more. If you and another person fly fish, you’ve already pegged yourselves as part of the same fraction of a fraction of the population. What does that say about you if you have to find the tiny differences within angling to harp on? If you’re going to fight, fight about religion or politics.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I saw someone online use “there” instead of “their.” I’m really going to let them have it…