Social Media and The Loss of Serendipity

Recently I read a post on the Chrome Chasers‘ blog that got me thinking about social media and the way in which it threatens the unexpected in the things we do and encounter in our lives.

In his post, Keith Allison – owner of Chrome Chasers – observes that social media is one of the biggest threats to steelhead. Where fly fishers used to drive for hours in the hope of finding steelhead – with some incredible trips while others wound up as busts, now people consult social media for up to the minute status, guaranteeing that once quiet lightly peopled rivers are flooded with crowds and boats all wanting to hit the “epic” conditions.

He went on to say that he’s seen out of area guides posting about their success – thus bringing in more people, and in one instance he helped out a guide in trouble who was taking clients down a river the guide had never run before. I guess you can’t blame the guide; after all he was after the epic conditions for his paying clients and didn’t have time to do his homework. I wonder if his clients knew how poorly he served them.

Social media is now omnipresent and here to stay. Some estimates suggest that by 2018, 2.4 billion people will be using social media (up from less than one million in 2010). That expected increase is in spite of the revelations that every communication online eventually winds up in some government big-data store.

And it’s not to say that social media doesn’t have its uses from enabling societal change as happened in Tunisia and Egypt, or being used as a focal point for communication between family or friends during disasters. And it’s handy for being reminded to pick up something from the grocery on the way home.

The problem I see is that social media eliminates the separation between the private and the public. Everything we see, do, think or feel winds up posted, texted or tweeted. There is no pause to reflect on whether what is being done should be closely held or broadcast (literally) to the world.

As individuals, I think we have to own the responsibility for deciding what to post, text, or tweet. And I think we also have to be responsible for deciding what we read in social media.

In fly-fishing or any other activity in nature, it’s often better not to know and just show up and be open to what happens.

There have been mornings spent on Puget Sound where no sea run cutthroat trout were to be found. But then again, on many of those mornings there were eagles overhead and seals just off the beach. One morning, I looked behind me to see a deer looking at me.

I would have lost those opportunities if I had read a post saying there was nothing to catch in the Narrows and then decided not to go or go somewhere else. And I would have deprived someone else of the same random chance if I had been the one doing the posting.

We all need to be responsible for protecting the natural world and what it offers in terms of privacy and solitude. And maybe take a moment to think about what and when before posting or tweeting after landing that steelhead or trout.

You can read the post here.

Let’s Kick the Habit of Plastic Fly Containers

AFFTA

Do you ever think about how you add to the waste stream when you buy flies?

I’m talking about those little plastic containers used to hold the flies you buy at your local fly shop.

It may not seem like much, but you’re part of a big, big problem. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) estimates fly shop retail sales use bout 3.5 million plastic containers annually. That’s a lot of plastic that’s eventually going into landfills.

Now AFFTA has announced new initiative to reduce that waste stream by offering recycled paper fly boxes for sale to its members.

Your local fly shop can do its part.

And we can do our part as individual fly fishers. We can use old containers the next time we go in to buy flies rather than use a new container – whether paper or plastic.

May the Rivers Never Sleep

Book cover

Many people – most perhaps – see time as linear. A year begins; months pass; and then the year ends. It then recedes into the past, remembered only as an incrementing number on one’s decrementing life journey. Infrequently, a year will be remembered for some significant achievement or tragedy.

Fly fishers, hopefully more wise than most, have evidence of the cyclic nature of time as seen in the annual hatches and return of treasured species of fish. And to be fair, evidence of the cyclic nature of time is shared certainly with hunters and others that chase fish with plugs or bait.

Depending on the river, fly fishers eagerly await the Skwala hatch, Mother’s Day Caddis, hopper season or October Caddis. On other rivers, autumn is the time for brown trout. Fishers, both fly and spey, on the coasts wait for the return of salmon and steelhead.

Whatever the month or season, it is a time for being outdoors with a fly rod in hand; an occasion to reflect on fond memories of past outings as well as look forward to the possibilities of the next hatch or the return of salmon or steelhead.

There are a few, a relatively small few, who put aside fly rods to look for the deeper revelations of fish and the world they inhabit. Once such person was the deservedly revered Roderick Haig-Brown. Among his books is the enduring A River Never Sleeps published in 1946, in which he uses the calendar year to write of his experiences on rivers, streams, and estuaries – using the calendar year to mark his journey.

Haig Brown

Now following along in the writing of Haig-Brown are the father/son team of Bill and John McMillan. Bill is well known in the Northwest for his writings on salmon and steelhead and was one of the founders of the Wild Fish Conservancy. His son John leads the Trout Unlimited Wild Steelhead Initiative.

Their book, published in 2012, is May the Rivers Never Sleep. Their river calendar takes place on the salmon and steelhead rivers of primarily Oregon and Washington.

Similar to Haig-Brown they’ve often traded rod for snorkel and mask. This is a large format book with plenty of photographs of salmon and steelhead taken underwater as well as surface photographs of well-loved streams.

Their prose is full of reflection and insight.

There are surprises, such as when the McMillans observe male rainbow trout mating with female steelhead on Olympic Peninsula rivers. They also cite recent studies that indicate that male rainbow trout may father more than 50% of steelhead in both Oregon and Washington in some years.

Their writing also reveals the extent of what has been lost. Whether due to loss of habitat due to logging and dams or the impact of climate change, populations of salmon and steelhead are in decline.

They observe the Grande Ronde river in Oregon. It was once considered one of the most prolific salmon and steelhead rivers in the Columbia basin as late as the 1940s and 1950s. Now those fish must traverse eight Columbia and Snake river dams to reach their natal streams. Further, many are confused and unable to find their natal streams; as juveniles they were collected and barged 200 miles downstream.

But this is not a book of pessimism. They see hope in the adaptation of pink salmon, whose number have increased, to warmer North Pacific temperatures. They note the depletion of char in British Columbia, but note the Skagit River holds sizable numbers of bull trout, one of the three species of char found in North America; the other two are Dolly Vardens and Arctic Char.
Given bull trout are nomadic they could spread to other river systems in Puget Sound if water temperatures are conducive and if salmon recovery proceeds – the bull trout feed on salmon eggs and fry.

This is a book to be read, and then reread a second time, with the second reading occurring over the months of a year – one chapter for each month. Each month of the river year then provides an opportunity to reflect upon the wider (and deeper) perspectives of what it means to chase salmon and steelhead.

Wild Washington Steelhead in Decline…No Problem, Recommend for Consumption

The Wild Salmon Center has a recent article concerning a recommendation from the Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in which wild steelhead were given a “Good Alternative” rating. This is astounding given the science that shows wild Washington steelhead are in decline. See the graph for the Hoh River as only one example.

Hoh River Steelhead Decline

The lack or awareness and poor science that went into the recommendation is disturbing. The Seafood Watch promotes itself as “Helping people make better seafood choices for a healthy ocean”. But this makes no sense particularly if it encourages widespread consumption of the last remaining wild steelhead stocks on the west coast of the United States. And make no mistake, as a prized species it will command high prices on dinner tables of the rich and famous.

What the hell were they thinking?

You can read the Salmon Center’s article here