Thursday, March 15, 2018

Swansong

Opening day of the 2018 trout fishing season and a first blog post in almost 18 months. It is also the last, a swansong of sorts as I admit defeat and undertake a clearing of the desk. It's been weighing heavily on my mind of late, this little blog of mine; and I've asked myself the question on numerous occasions: what is the point of its existence at all if the time cannot be found to maintain it? The fact that it hangs around in cyberspace, stagnant and ageing, doesn't sit too well with me and since my writing effort is increasingly being channelled into other projects, I have made my peace - now is the right time to lay it to rest. If the following seems self-indulgent then I apologise, but a blog is a personal thing and it is hard to talk about one without a degree of introspection.

A couple of weeks into the new year I met with Rob 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.
















11 comments:

Ian Hedley said...

As a fully paid up member of that niche within that niche, I want to say a great big thank you for writing what is/was in my opinion one of the best fly fishing blogs on the net. All the best for the future
Ian H

Martin Mc Coy said...

I wasnt aware of your blog for mt sins but having just read this article i can feel the passion which you obviously have for our wonderful sport. I too live breath and day dream about fly fishing in wild places and loughs for chance of a wild fish. My fishing friends made in my early years are my dearest friends whose weddings births and family deaths are integral to my life. I too despair at the lack of young people getting involved in our sport but feel that they can only be reached through fishing family members or interesting blogs which may catch there eye. Hopefully you reconsider your position when life allows.
Regards martin

Rob Denson said...

All good things come to an end..

Rob Denson said...

All good things come to an end..

Stuart Wardle The Durham Fly Fishing Company said...

I have always enjoyed the honesty of your writing Matt and your deep passion and enquiring mind. NCA will be a miss to me and I'm sure many others however, I don't see it as the end...it's just a new beginning.
Best of luck and remember to have a look back over the years... I'm sure it will bring back a few smiles.
and by the way we will have that day out on a river we keep promising Ha !!

Becks and Brown Trout North Yorkshire said...


A shame to see you go Matt. Your Blog has always been at the top of the tree . Agree with your sentiments especially about social media . Strange things are Blogs and very personal . A couple of years ago at a club AGM a bloke says to me is it you that writes Beds and Brown trout ?, yes says I . " its shite he says". My response was , " Well its my shite and I enjoy writing it and you don't have to read it." Folk are funny aren't they. Will look forward to reading your next project .

Simon H said...

Sorry to hear you are retiring as it were. I came to your blog relatively late but yours was the best written fishing blog I have come across. Good luck with your future projects.

William Anderson said...

Matt, your motivations behind this blog have always seemed apparent to me, which is one of the things that makes this such a remarkable place in a sea of unremarkable content. I dearly appreciate the time and thought you've put into this project and I'm looking forward to seeing what you do next. Thanks for sharing so much. All the best in your future efforts.

forelleundaesche said...

Hi Matt,
a beautiful eulogy, if ever one was needed. I regret your absence from the online world - social media not counting. North Country Angler always struck me as a deeply personal, thoughtful and very witty site that offered a reflected view on techniques and ideas. 'Expertising' it certainly wasn't and offering an opinion doesn't do harm - it's a fine line between having one and being opinionated. I am certain your motivations to discontinue were well considered and I have a sense we'll hear and see more of you somewhere else in the future. Thanks again to NCA for all the joyous time. All the best for the future!

George said...

Always enjoyed your blog Matt, and although we have never met our fishing has crossed paths on the same rivers and the techniques we use over the years, so for that I thank you, I've certainly gained from your posts.
Like others already said blogging is a strange world and some folk are always out to belittle the writer, water off a duck's back to me like Andy has said its his shite and nobody needs to read it, which I totally agree with. Be safe and all the best for the future.

mike said...

To borrow a line from another wonderful British writer: "So long and thanks for all the fish!" I enjoyed your writing for the very reason that it was reasoned and left the hyperbole and other nonsense off the page. Thank you for what you wrote for us and good luck wherever you wander.