I like reading your blog, Mike...
(wait for it)
... and I like the photos...
(have patience, it’ll come)
You see, there’s always a but when it comes to discussions of my literary and artistic endeavors. I suspect that there always will be. My knee-jerk response is to suggest that the commenter might kiss my but(t), but, this time, as buts go, my buddy JimBob’s was fairly benign.
... but you don't post enough fish pictures.
At the time I laughed and made some self-deprecating comment about not being a good enough angler to catch anything worth photographing, but, upon later reflection, I think that he’s made an interesting point.
Why don’t I post more fish pictures?
There is, of course, the rote and easy answer – the overarching platitude that "it’s not about the fish, it’s about the experience." Hell, I pledge my allegiance to that sentiment with some regularity, including that Sparse Grey Hackle quote prominently displayed in my sidebar. We all say it and, to varying degrees, all believe it. But, deep down, we also know that "it’s not about the fish" is both fact and bullshit in equal measure. The real truth is that we're out there to catch something and, when we inevitably fail, appreciating "the experience" is just a satisfyingly sweet sour grapes fallback.
So, if that’s not the issue, then maybe my lack of piscatorial imagery has something to do with my habit of fishing alone. It ain’t easy juggling a fly rod, dealing with a frenetic netted/lipped fish, digging a camera out of a secure pocket, and composing and shooting a fascinating image, all while dancing on slippery rocks in fast waters and double-dutching the stripped line and wading staff tether swirling about one’s feet. And, if the fish is a good one, a hammering heart and shaking hands can provide further complications. Even fishing with friends is not a solution as we fly fishermen tend to spread out so far along the stream that assisting each other with our fish porn is not typically feasible. Do-it-yourself images become the norm.
And the norm is an issue as well. I want my images to be different, to be interesting, to be not just another hand cradling a brown, brookie in a net, or bass on the bank next to a fly rod for scale. Lord knows, page back through my posts and you’ll see many, too many, just like that. A simple fish picture no longer tells the whole story. I aspire to more.
But what I aspire to and what I am equipped to accomplish, especially when fishing alone, are different animals. One of the biggest problems is the time it takes to get that good image. As a committed catch-and-release fisherman, I do what I can to balance my need for a hero shot with the need of my subject for water. Landing and unbuttoning a fish it stress enough, but bouncing it around and asking it to say "cheese" often pushes the limits. I find myself more and more willing to forgo the picture in favor of getting my catch back on its way with all due expedience. I’d like to think that the fish appreciate it, but suspect that they’re too pissed about the hook to notice.
The bottom line, however, is that this is a fishing blog and readers expect, well, fish. So I’ll try to do better. I’ll be better prepared with the camera, I’ll be quicker retrieving and unbuttoning my catches, and I’ll think about some better, more interesting, compositions and angles. I promise.
But, in the end, such promises are worthless because that flip answer that I gave JimBob, that I wasn’t angler enough to catch anything worth photographing, might very well be the real problem.
And that’s just another but I just can’t seem to get away from.
Note: JimBob, thanks for the nudge and, since you asked, here's a fish pic - with you doing the holding.