I saw this quote in a magazine that I was reading on the bus, on my way to work.
"The Internet has now entirely inverted the criteria by which we assign value to information. In the old world, the knowledge most highly prized was the knowledge that was hardest to get. The truly powerful and transformative ideas were assumed to be the ones you learned only from a six-year stint at an Ivy League medical school, or after climbing a Himalaya to consult some sort of nude, cross-legged yogi. These days it is the reverse. The ideas we prize the highest are the ones that are easiest to access. If an idea or a tip or a secret of life hasn't yet found its way to the Internet, we now assume there must be something wrong with it, and most of the time we're right." -Bruno Maddox in Discover Magazine, September 2007
I don't necessarily agree with that. In fly fishing at least, the knowledge and skills that I value most are those which ARE hardest to obtain. Sure you can get a lot from the Internet, especially on sites like this where there are so many skilled anglers and instructors willing to share their experience. Or you may find an obscure hint in the 4th reading of a favorite fishing book. But some knowledge can only come in time, after paying your dues on the river for years. And, sometimes you are only ready to learn from a book, a blog, or a skilled mentor after you have already paid your dues and elevated your understanding to a point where the next less can actually sink in.
It can be a seemingly simple thing, like confidence in your fly selection, that takes years to develop. Short circuit the process by paying for a guide, and you might buy yourself confidence for a day, but that may only apply in those exact conditions. If you are truly motivated, you will be prepared with questions for your guide so you can learn things well beyond the scope of one day on the water with him/her. What about seeing fish? All you camo wearing Kiwis, crawling around in the bushes for years on end, you know how long it takes to develop "The Vision". Again, this is a valued skill, that many pay top dollar for because the ability to understand how and where to see fish is not something that is easy to come by. It is a skill that can only be learned through experience, either with or without coaching. Likewise, you might be able to understand how to cast 120 feet with a 5wt by reading Sexyloops, but you sure as hell won't be able to actually do it without years of practice and understanding that comes from repeated struggles and occasional discoveries.
And you know what? You can't fake the hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, practice, or any of the intangible things that make great anglers that way. If you don’t love the process, you simply won’t have the desire to put in the time. You can’t find it for free on the Internet. You might be inspired by seeing how hard your favorite guide has worked for the knowledge they have, and you might be able to learn a lot from them in a short time, but you still need to put in the hours to do that. As my buddy Rak says (usually with bent rod in hand), "The more I practice, the Luckier I get!"
I guess that is the difference between simply knowing about something, and truly understanding it. I'm glad it's that way. I'm glad that being a truly skillful angler is hard. It means more that way.
A post script for those who are just getting into fly fishing:
Do not despair. Do not curse your current level of skill and experience. You are in the right place (Sexyloops) if you love to learn, and take in all the other great things that come along with the fishing life. How you define success and failure will likely determine the joy your derive from fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying, and more. More than 35 years after first picking up a rod, I’m still learning new things nearly every time out. And that may just be the best part about it all.
Take Care and Fish On,