A couple of weeks into the new year I met with Rob Marsden of The Yorkshire Gent website, for an interview which would form part of one of his excellent podcasts. We had a good long chat about fishing in general and the club of which I am a member, but also about how I came to write a blog in the first place - how it started as an online version of my own fishing diary before very slowly mutating into something a bit more ambitious. I felt almost guilty talking about it. North Country Angler is only a small thing - a barely significant memoir concerning quite specialised aspects of a minor country sport - but it has been good to me. The last few years of my angling life have been rewarding in ways I could never have foreseen: I've met some terrific anglers, made dear friends and fished in some wonderful places; there has been the opportunity to have work published and to stand in front of like-minded individuals and waffle on about my love for the sport.
None of that is of any importance in the wider context of course. Fly fishing is just a part of my life, the greater part of which revolves around a busy full time job and a young family; but it matters to me, being as it is, a source of calm and release from the considerable pressures of modern living. The fact that this blog has in some ways led to enrichment of that facet of my life, is a blessing and I owe it more than to leave it here, slowly desiccating.
There is a strong argument to support the claim that any kind of blogging is a vanity, nothing more. Opinions are like arseholes, they say, and I wouldn't disagree. Social media of the modern day gives anyone so disposed, a vehicle by which to air their views, and in a sport where spread of knowledge is so often based upon the unsupported observations of individuals at a given point in time, it is not surprising to see false information repeatedly passed off as fact, a proportion of the readership then helping perpetuate the myth for some time thereafter. Expertising, John Gierach called it - a dangerous trap waiting for those who feel they have a little knowledge to share.....and more importantly, harbour the belief that anyone else actually gives a shit.
At its most cynical, this manifests as brazen attempts to 'make a name' on Facebook and the like, repeatedly name-checking tackle suppliers in an attempt to get noticed and maybe benefit from some free gear. Or a cry of 'look at me and the fish I've caught!' and the resultant gratification of fawning comments from a few dozen followers inhabiting the same little microcosm. Really, it's just a modern day extension of bragging to mates in the pub, and harmless enough; but in the wider context, does anyone really care? At its busiest, this blog attracted something in the order of a couple hundred visitors per day, most often repeat visitors at that and if there's one thing I came to realise it's that flyfishing is not a particularly popular pastime, and decreasing in popularity all the time. If flyfishing is a niche within angling in general, then the pursuit of wild brown trout and grayling is a niche within that niche and harbouring any pretension to social media fame and fortune only demonstrates at best, a misguided lack of self awareness and at worst results in a worrying loss of respect for the welfare of our quarry - fish as mere commodities in the race for 'like' button presses.
A vanity it may be, but of the blogs which have stood the test of time - and God knows there have been hundreds which just faded away before they got properly started - it seems to me that the writers just wanted to share their experiences about something they hold very dear; guys like Alistair Stewart and Jeff Hatt who exhibit not a trace of ego in their words, and portray so eloquently what it means to be an angler. Those were pretty much my own motivations in the end - perhaps a way of externalising the joy, euphoria, frustrations, disappointments; the sense of calm and detachment and of wonder I feel when escaping the real world for the one I inhabit in daydreams. Fishing is a largely solitary pastime, but one which can have a profound impact on a person. Perhaps it's a natural response to want to tell folk about it. Whether anyone out there is prepared to listen is irrelevant; we are evangelists for our own obsession, destined to shout the message from the rooftops whilst most 'normal' people look on in bemusement.
So I'll leave it there. Hopefully a dignified burial for a friend who has taken up far too much of my time these last 12 years. Thanks to everyone who dropped by and offered encouragement over the years.
See you around.