As I started my journey into fly-fishing, one of the things I starting finding was the large number of online forums related to fly-fishing: regional focus, gear-specific, general, and so on.
Most were terrific sources of information. Whether they were casting problems, gear questions, best places to go, stream reports, or general issues related to fly-fishing, there was always ready information.
It’s true that it took a certain amount of reading both posts and feedback on those posts to discern who were the real deals and who were the poseurs; that often came after seeing the authors’ posts on a number of subjects and the feedback from others on their posts. And in addition it came from my own experiences acting on recommendations or opinions of others; in general, all received wisdom should be subject to one’s own experience and values.
I learned early on that gear questions could lead to arguments that often were intense. Post on fly rods and rod manufacturers in particular bordered on the religious fervor of the Crusades.
But the arguments themselves contributed to a body of information that make up the tribal knowledge of fly-fishing. It was interesting, for example, to read about a fly rod that a certain manufacturer made a few years ago and how that rod has impacted the evolution to a current design I might be considering.
And as much as I used a search function to get to the posts – whether from a universal search of Google or the search functions in the forums themselves, more satisfying was just reading through posts in various sections of the forums. It was like browsing the aisles and shelves of a used bookstore – treasures could always be found.
I bring all of the above up because in the last year two forums have disappeared that I read constantly.
The first was the Winston forum that ended last year, when Winston announced that it was going to move from a dedicated forum to Facebook. Winston, I think, felt a need to broaden its appeal to a wider audience and felt Facebook could do that.
I disagree. What was lost was a forum for Winston owners and devotees to talk and share information about Winston rods, lines to use with specific rods, destination fishing locations, etc. Indirectly, perhaps, that forum drove the sale of more Winston rods to an audience who already had a Winston rod. The loss of the community identification will not, I believe, be replaced by joining a Facebook page.
The second was the Kennebec River Outfitters Fly Fishing Forum hosted by Bob Mallard, owner of Kennebec River Outfitters. This was a very small forum. I found it a couple of years ago while searching for a review of what I recall was a Sage rod. After that first visit I bookmarked the site and returned often.
One thing I appreciated was the honest discussion about gear. If the moderator, Bob, didn’t like something he said it. That type of honesty is rare from a shop owner on a public forum, where sales tend to mean every piece of gear has won an award or is considered ‘guide tested.’ Bob had indicated on the forum he needed to turn his attention to other areas of his business. I get that and I wish him and those who participated on his forum well.
The bigger issue in all this is how will we keep a history when communication is tweets, selfies, Facebook, and other emerging “presence” technologies?
Facebook, it is true provides the ability to use a slider to go back to previous pages of posts. But the posts themselves are always limited in terms of content. You’ll never find a multi-paragraph review of a rod or reel, or an explanation for exercises to improve your double haul.
Maybe it’s the same as everything else with digital media. In spite of the promise of the Internet bringing together all the world’s information, most of what’s out there is porn, opinion, or pure crap. What’s readily available – at least to most of us – is the trivial, the silly, the current or where we’re going tomorrow or next week.
Here’s an exercise. Go into a library that has a rare books collection – if you can get in, you can see and sometimes touch books that were written in the 17th or 18th centuries (or earlier). Think about the timelessness of the words written in those books.
Then think about who’s going to be reading your Facebook post or tweets even two years from now. No one, except for maybe your phone company, marketeers, and the NSA.