Wading In

There’s no such thing as too much good information. But when does it cease to be “good” for all?

Saltwater Fly Fishing
June/July 2005

Back in the day and well before “The Movie,” I lived in a small Rocky Mountain town that I had privately sworn into obscurity by refusing to write any magazine stories about my little slice of paradise. If the coming horde of rod-waving Huns and their gift-shopping wives were going to stomp the wildness out the place, at least the shame would belong to our local chamber and Robert Redford. Not me.

Despite nearly starving to death on a diet of my own writerly ideals, it somehow never registered with me that at least a few people might already have heard of this place called Montana, and that they were bound to show up in greater numbers anyway. It mattered even less that I, too, was nothing more than an outsider, that I’d moved to the Flathead Valley only after hearing about the area’s wilderness riches on a Saturday morning fishing show.

But once you have been in the outdoor media for a while, and especially after spending enough time in an editor’s chair staring at the blank slate of each new issue, you crave manuscripts with specificity and detail, with just the sort of local knowledge I’d once wanted only for myself. So when a submission comes in that has maps, sketches, and so many years’ worth of field notes that it literally says, “Go here. Stand there. Cast in that direction,” you don’t ponder long the question of putting it into print.

At the end of the day, the goal of any magazine should be to provide as much indispensable information as possible, however we can get it.

As anyone who reads the genre knows, angling magazines are often waist deep in stories that shirk practical details about where to go in favor of treatises on how to do it once you get there, or how the author did it whenever he was fishing wherever he’s not telling you about.

I suppose that is understandable. And despite the enthusiasm with which we editors embrace exacting where-to-go information, even we occasionally pause long enough to ask ourselves, Are we opening the tap too wide? Will we ruin a place by overexposure?

But at the end of the day, the goal of any magazine should be to provide as much indispensable information as possible, however we can get it.

When I first saw the submission for our story “Wading Westport” (see page 36), I knew it had the makings of just such an article. It was based largely on a booklet of no-nonsense tips and rough maps that contributor Henry Cowen had drawn from memory several years ago and handed out at fly shops near Westport, Connecticut, his old stomping grounds. The 14-page booklet detailed precisely how to fish a dozen or so Westport hotspots.

They are by no means the only places to wet a fly in that part of the country, but one look at the story and there will be no doubt about how to fish this small tatter of the Connecticut coastline, which is particularly intriguing because of its walk-in access and proximity to New York City.

For newcomers, it will serve as a glove-box guide to an area that is steeped in saltwater-fly-fishing tradition. For those who already know the place, we understand that it might hit a little too close to home.

As we were finishing off the maps and text, trying to squeeze in as much information as possible, I said, “Henry, the Westport anglers are going to issue a fatwah on you.”

He just laughed, knowing full well that if he still lived there, he’d probably think twice before putting his honey holes on public display.

But maybe not. Westport is clearly a place that got into his soul the way a little town called Whitefish once got into mine. Ultimately, fishermen can’t help but tell others about the places we love, and once we start talking… well.

We spent many hours developing the maps that depict what had been only crudely rendered in the original pamphlet. And when we were done, all I wanted to do was go fish Westport. I could taste the salt and feel the coming tide.

I don’t know that I will ever get the chance to throw a loop there. But if I do, one thing is certain. I’ll know exactly where to go. ✦