Paul Arden | Monday, 26 September 2016

On Thursday, Sexyloops turned 18 years old. It's a bit of a milestone! It certainly made me think for a bit. 18 years ago the Internet was pretty small, it had only been around for a few years, there was no Facebook or Google. It was pretty new (and slow) and back then I felt that it was important to be "up with the times" so I bought the domain and started a one-page advert for Flycasting Lessons, Instruction, Guiding and Tackle Sales. The only problem was no-one knew it existed! And so about 8 months later I wrote the "Fly Casting Manual". This was originally seven long pages that took 10 days to write. There was a lot of casting in the garden to try to work things out, and while much of it is out of date now, it has actually stood the test of time and it is in fact Sexyloops itself, and particularly the Board, that has outdated it!

When Sexyloops first started we had perhaps 100 readers/month, now it has - using the most conservative estimate - 50,000. Our busiest months, prior to this year, and for at least the last decade was 40K, so this year has seen a significant increase. It's impossible to tell from web stats your actual readership, the only meaningful stats is to count IP addresses. While many of us might login from multiple IP addresses over a month, ISPs cache to speed things up. So 50,000 Unique IP addresses doesn't tell you how many monthly users you have, it only is useful as a comparison to other sites, and to see how you are doing compared to last year and so on. So I would say that this is our absolute minimum monthly readership. It could be double.

The Sexyloops drive is to look forward, but for once I would like to look to see where we've been. Maybe it's useful to understand it; it's not your normal website but has evolved over the years. When I wrote the "Manual" there was actually only one other flycasting dedicated site on the Internet (not that we are flycasting dedicated by any means, only that this was something that I really wanted to nail). The other was a site called slow-snap which unfortunately appears to have disappeared. It was a good info site, covering both advanced flycasting information as well as a very useful rod measuring database.

The real key to Sexyloops development however, was the discussion board, "The Board", which first appeared about 1 year later. The reason this happened was in fact one of the first developers of the site, Steven Foster, who got involved in Sexyloops for quite a few years, both backend coding as well as having great ideas on new sections - The Beginners section, The Experience (Imaginary Saltwater FFing), Dirty Harry (which was flycasting instruction with video), the movie archive and numerous other sections all of which appeared while we worked together. Without Steve this probably would not have happened. It was a huge growth period for SL, but the biggest change we made was to become a daily site with new content (~yr 2000). Steve wanted to go 5 days/week, the logical thing for me was 7 days/week (after all there are seven days in the week!), which is what we did of course, and that's really when Sexyloops happened.

Our original daily crew was Ben Spinks with his Friday flytying page, Mike Conner with his poetry, Sean Gear with his amazing writing skills, Viking Lars who has been a contributor right from the start and still is, God - who made a surprise appearance and ultimately saw us losing 3M advertising, and others who really created not only the Sexyloops Front Page, but also pages and pages of content.

Since then we've had many great names and contributors: Steve Parton, Matt Klara, Jason Borger and all of our current FP team, especially Lars and Bernd who are like rocks, TZ with his magnificent flytying series, the new and great James and Tracy, Daniella - we really have a serious team at the moment And we've also had Mark Surtees (who is obviously mad!), Eric Wonhof - who became the next Steve Foster in terms of backend programming and took us to the next level, Carl McNeil, Bob Wyatt, Trevor Bourne, Dead Caddis Dave, Peter Morse.... and so many more contributors from all around the world - NZ, Australia, all across Europe, South Africa, Serbia (who can forget Zoran's pages?), North America, Malaysia - there's probably 100 people I should mention here, thank you, all of you!! Davy Wotton, Carlos the Magnificent with his duel pages in both Spanish and English - his translation of the manual! I have so many people to thank it's quite humbling. Ronan FFS, one of the finest anglers I know, who has run the blog for very many years - we are fishing partners. Chris Dore, Sudesh Pursad... the list goes on and on and on.

I suppose a reasonable question might be why? Why create Sexyloops? My original reasoning behind creating Sexyloops is because what I really want to do in life, is to put fly fishing - I mean real fly fishing, the sort of fly fishing that you and I do - on TV. I've been working on this idea since the age of 17. I grew up watching John Wilson's "Go Fishing" and if and when I finally do this television thing - which is what I really want to do in life, to change people's perception of "what is fishing?" and in particular "what is fly fishing?" - then I want to provide a gateway into fly fishing, because that's the most exciting and interesting plan I can come up with. We are very close now, and the last unexplored frontier in fly fishing, "Mr Sexyloops in the Jungle", might just blow your rod socks off.

And then (how's this for a long term exciting plan from someone known for not planning?) I'm going to buy a sailing boat and sail around the world, Imaginary Saltwater Fly Fishing for a couple of decades. "Sexyloops - coming from a sailing boat near you!" Whether or not I create the TV show now or later or never remains to be seen, but I do know that my life is about friends and travel and of course the most important thing of all, the thread that runs throughout our entire lives, fly fishing. At no time in the history of man, have we been so free to fly fish. I can tell you, hand on heart, that fly fishing really is the meaning of life!

Today's photo was taken by Camo-Guy in New Zealand, while fishing the mouth of Mystery River X, Lake Te Anau, 25 years ago, on my first trip to NZ. For about one year that was our front page photo!

Cheers, Paul