Of Secret Beaches and the Value of Privacy

An acquaintance, and patient of my wife, who is becoming a family friend, let us in on a location known to be a great fishing beach. He cautioned us that while “all the guides know about it” it was not widely known; suggesting the guides keep it to themselves.

We went to check it out last Sunday morning during a moderate incoming tide. While the beach was empty except for us, the water was not: fish were jumping frequently – at least for the 90 minutes. During that time I got one hit and landed one seven-inch Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. As the tide slacked, the fish moved on and fishing became casting practice.

Later in the day we were at a fly-fishing shop to pick up some flies and tippet and one of the owners asked where we had gone after our response to his question about our last time out. He’s also a guide and I thought he probably would know the beach if we had told him – but I felt a need to respect the shared secret we had been given. So I made mention of the general geographic area without being specific.

In addition to it being just the thing a fly fisher would ask another, I knew another reason for his asking.

All the local fly shops are very good about giving recommendations about where to go fishing. So feedback from those who’ve been out fishing add to the reports they receive from their guides.

Beaches such as at Kopachuck State Park, Narrows Park, Olalla, and Purdy are popular with a lot of anglers and represent good destinations for anyone looking for a recommendation. We would have happily told him which beach if we had been at any of those – or some of the other well-known locations in Puget Sound or Hood Canal.

But giving away a “secret” in response to a general question didn’t seem to be an exchange of value.

It’s always amazed me about how people give intimate details of their lives almost without thought; intimate being used here to mean the private and personal. Doubt that? Just visit Facebook.

Outrage about the surveillance revelations concerning the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies appears to have dissipated, if it ever existed, among the general populace. While I’m offended and scared by the scope of the surveillance, it appears there are few concerns among the majority of the citizens. In an enlightened society, the pitchforks should have been brought out with a demand for Congressional action.

One could argue, I suppose, that the exchange of value here is that people will give up their privacy for more safety from the people labeled terrorists. I’d argue, however, that all we get is more fear – which may be precisely the point.

If anything, the NSA revelations should have reminded us that the most profound thing we have as members of a human community is our right to privacy – in how we live, what we believe, or who we know. But in a world of Facebook and the ever-present “terrorists”, that may be a fading value, at least in the indispensable nation.

So maybe holding back the location of a beach on Puget Sound doesn’t rise to the level about concerns about surveillance of cell-phone conversations. But it is a reminder that we should consciously decide what, and when, we choose to reveal because we are giving up something of value when we do.

And I have no doubt that, at some time when I’m in the same fly shop and the owner and I are just talking and we discuss good places to fish, I will bring up the beach I mentioned earlier. Last year when he and I were talking he had told me about a little discussed beach that was good for finding chum salmon.

I valued the information shared at the time and I want to return the value with the same respect. And that’s not something that comes out of the equivalent of a Facebook post or a stolen telephone conversation.


Author: Tom

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