What’s a secret?
Seriously, tell me — preferably one that’ll put a big rainbow trout on the end of my line.
In my line of work — the Clarion’s lone Tight Lines fishing reporter and columnist — I’m constantly on the hunt for the best fishing information. I often introduce myself by telling other fishermen that I want to steal their secrets. It’s true. Who wants to read about something that’s common knowledge?
As a fishing reporter, I want to do a good job telling people how and where to catch fish. I can’t possibly do it alone. I know I’m doing my job — that I’m on the scent, so to speak — when I hear any version of the following: “You can’t put that in the paper;” or “That kind of information is going to cost you money.”
But more often than not I get a version of the following non-descriptive responses when I ask what’d you catch it on: “Brown and floating” is my favorite, right next to “a bead.” Oh really? How fascinating. Tell me more.
I pride myself on finding, keeping and including sources in my articles that give an honest depiction of the area’s fishing. The majority of the time, that’s harder than it looks. Believe it or not, fishermen like to give information that others read and roll their eyes at.
For example, for my first-ever fishing article I went to the river and asked a sockeye fisherman how his technique was different from other fishermen.
“It’s better,” he said.
Truly fascinating stuff.
So when I find a fisherman honest and willing to share what he knows, I thank the big man upstairs.
Reporting with sources is complex. You have to give enough information to make it worth the reader’s 50 cents, but give it all away and, well, your source won’t return your calls. The free publicity isn’t worth being labeled a floozie, they say.
Occasionally, however, I get a community reaction. This usually occurs when I let slip the area of the hot trout bite someone else is trying to keep secret.
Let’s get back to my original question — what’s a secret?
The way I see it, fishing secrets are like family photographs — everyone’s got them, they are outdated shortly after they are possessed and they only have value to you. But some fishermen hold onto their secrets worse than a 13-year-old girl with a diary under lock and key.
But what these fishermen don’t realize is that someone somewhere else is either making money on that so-called secret, giving it away for free or about to discover it themselves.
So what’s the big deal? Beads used to be a secret. How’d that worked out?
And just how did these secret-keepers find out about their so-called secret? I’m willing to bet it was from someone else who got it from someone else who ... you get the point.
Moreover, how did they learn to fish? Bet it wasn’t through divine intervention.
The purpose of fishing isn’t to hoard fishing secrets. That’s selfish and greedy — contrary to all fishing has, and should continue to stand for.
The deal you make when you first pick up a fishing rod is that you become part of a community keenly interested in each others’ secrets, so much so that the concept loses relevance. The agreement is you give a little, you get a little. It’s a big, ornate waltz. Everybody wins.
To that end, a fisherman is only of purpose when sharing the love of the pursuit with others. If you can’t see that, or choose to do otherwise, then you don’t deserve to know secrets in the first place.
The River Rodeo column will continue to appear in Tight Lines monthly through mid-May when it will become a weekly feature. Tell Brian Smith a secret, or something else, at firstname.lastname@example.org.