It was a Top Secret undercover meeting, Operation Brainstorm. Back in the old days, when we first decided to take action, Steve decided that we should never be seen in public together – you know, just in case – he said. But it had become serious and there were more important things at stake: we were being ripped off – our ideas, our concepts, our identity. We were forging the way and others were reaping the rewards and putting us down. And so, in spite of all the inherent risks, a meeting was called.
Enemy camp – they'd never expect it – a pub, somewhere in England. Sixteen hundred hours. Operation Brainstorm: the beginning. Steve (not his real name) picked up the phone and dialled:
“It's System Green”
“The Golden Angel Pub. There's Beer. There's women. It's Operation Brainstorm”
“Steve – is that you?”
“Yes, can't talk. They may be listening. Oh – bring cash”
For over two years I've been working with Steve in bringing you Sexyloops. Many of the ideas you see before you are his ideas. In eighteen months we've gone from being this, an under 1Mb site, to this, an over 500Mb site. Sexyloops, as far as I can work out, is the second largest flyfishing site in the known Universe and quite possibly the largest in the unknown zone. It's certainly the one I want to work on – luckily. And after two years of furious emailing and discovering how to work 36 hours a day, it was finally time to meet each other.
“I'll be travelling under cover of darkness. Two flashes from the headlamp and you'll know it's me”
The (Action) Plan
It was to be the largest planning operation in which I've ever been involved – it may actually have been the first. At times it's been so enormous we had to plan the plan. Some people may think that I have trouble with this sort of thing, you know being an advocator of living in an ever-present now and not giving a damn about what may, or may not be, at some dim, distant point in the future. Well, not a bit of it: I've thoroughly enjoyed all this planning and can see just how important such things are. Planning is in fact a good thing, no hang on; it's cool - yes that'll be it. You won't catch me being spontaneous anymore – not unless it's in The Plan.
As you can image, we've had a lot to talk about. Several lifetime's worth in fact (both Steve's and mine for starters, so that's a whole bundle of them. It's amazing really, this is my working-colleague and business partner and I don't even know how he takes his coffee – “any way that doesn't actually involve underpants, Paul – and keep low”) and whole lists of topics. The Sexyloops Action Plan had become urgent; we had become too large for the old structure to handle. We wanted to play things down but play things up at the same time. Which meant a plan (of course).
The first encounter
“Excuse me, are you Steve?”
“Sit down, pretend you don't know me, I think they're on to you”
“Them – I've been followed and they're wearing tweed”
As I write this, Steve is sitting over at the coffee table scouring over the notes – there's paper everywhere and the curtains are drawn tight. I'm taking a break. We've been working on this for the last two and a half days solid, but it feels like much longer, and there was one back-to-back session (yesterday) that went into overtime and we both lost the power of reason. I would love to be able to talk about the plans, strategies and all that bullocks but I can't, partly because we are being ripped off and partly because I don't understand them. Anyway, you'll be delighted to know that there is now an in-depth Sexyloops Action Plan – one that both Steve and I have thoroughly gone through and agreed upon – and it's written in code on the back of a cigarette packet.
The most impressive thing about the plan in my opinion is just how far into the future it projects. It says a lot of Steve's breadth of vision that he can formulate such things. One has to take all sorts of seemingly unrelated data into account in order to achieve this. I'm not sure I could do it and yet Steve manages to create a plan that reaches far into the beyond and well into Thursday afternoon. I, on the other hand, have not yet passed this paragraph, but am instead, hovering, right at the end of it, just sitting on the point of uncertainty and yet certain in this state of being, and really here, now, on the brink, a moment which is happening, a perpetual now, everlasting impermanence, until
Operation Six-pound Sean
Sean, our Sunday columnist, is in Australia trying to catch something out the salt big enough for him to write about. Either that or he's just trying to survive. It's a bit like that in Australia, with all the crocodiles, sharks and women that they have out there. I talk from vast experience and Fishmail being late I took as being a sure sign that he had fallen prey to the jaws of a large and angry ocean-dwelling woman. However *apparently* this is not the case and “a wheel fell off the Land Rover”.
Which of course is far more believable.
I certainly hope that he catches plenty of fish and especially a large golden trevally – the ones we hear so much about. Unfortunately he's only out there for three weeks and as we all know it either takes forty-five years to catch a golden trevally – or it's impossible.
And he needs a plan and I very much doubt whether he has one. It's funny how some people overlook the important things in life.
Operation Undercover New Zealand Mystery X
Yep, The Sexyloops Action Plan has encompassed Project New Zealand, as you'd expect. While I'm away researching content, especially for Newsletters, The Flow and Dirty Harry – you know ones that I'm just going to let happen, spontaneous stuff – Steve's going to be thoroughly involved in co-ordinating the other content. Believe it or not, we now have “strategy”. It's quite exciting – if you're into that sort of thing.
Steve says, “It's quite exciting”
On Thursday I fly out from Heathrow and two days later into Christchurch. I'll be around for a few days – I'm going to buy the Sexyloops Van – and then I'm hitting the road. I really need to lose myself in fishing for a while.
“We didn't get where we were today through planning. We got here by chance, Steve”
“I brainstorm you”
Tomorrow Steve gets his first official Sexyloops “in the physical” flycasting lesson. Of course this is a new twist in The Experience. Eighteen months ago I was teaching Karen, in Australia, to flyfish and using her lessons to teach Steve on (what was then) the other side of the world. Now, finally, I'll be able to see just how successful this all was and, better still, so will you :-)
“We'll have to wear camouflage”
Let's talk about these newsletters. They normally either follow something I've been doing during the week or something else entirely. This one really can't do this; not least because there are some people out there who would use it and then think it their idea ;). Life is about to become very difficult for our imitators, incidentally, and I am going to start mailing them my socks. Literally. Yes we are going to start throwing socks around, this is something the trade needs and it's another Sexyloops first. They'll thank me for it in the end – those who survive.
Anyway what I really want to write about is this season because it's been a little bit different for me. For one thing this has been my first full season in the UK for three years. Last year I was over for two separate one-month periods. The previous year; just the one. But I haven't really fished. Not in any serious way. I've probably averaged only a couple of days fishing each week and although I've been extremely lucky to fish Denmark, Spain, Germany and Lapland, it's been a very different experience.
Frankly it's just too damn expensive. To go fishing on a day ticket costs a small fortune. Hanningfield costs almost 50 quid to go and return their fish. Unbelievable!
And it's so difficult to fish here. In order to go fishing a short stretch of water I first have to find out who owns the fishing rights, whether they allow it and then pay them. Why? Because that's how it is? There are plenty of other places where it's not like this. And worst of all, not only do I have to pay someone to go fishing “his” river, but it's quite probable that it's artificially stocked. If you spend long enough outside the UK you begin to wonder about these things.
It's funny the things we accept. In the UK we fish in the sea for free, but lakes and rivers are private. Why?
They estimate there are only somewhere between 120 and 200,000 flyfishers in the UK. I'm repeatedly told that the reason we have private fishing is to keep the fishing pressure low. And yet our chalkstreams are full of farmed fish, in spite of this “low pressure” fishing. I said “our” chalkstreams – did you notice that? Not “their” chalkstreams.
I'm just don't understand this sort of "private fishing" and I'm against making what's wild artificial. Unfortunately I also happen to be the only person in the UK who feels this way.
But it probably has something to do with my inability to plan anything :-)
beware of imitations