I promised myself that I would deal with this topic prior to returning to New Zealand. This article had several false starts. It’s patently obvious when part of us needs to grow up. Sometimes it takes a lot of processing and thinking, other times it happens in a flash. I grew up a little this year. I shocked myself and I’m happy about it. Let me provide a little background before I share how.
2 years ago I caught a massive brown trout on the dry fly in New Zealand 5 minutes after AJ got a lovely fish. We’ll never repeat that moment. Poking around and finding that water was incredible, sticking out the conditions wonderful. Having that experience together at the end of a trip, a trip that while we were fishing New Zealand our good friend Barry was terminally ill with cancer at home. We were also going home to our career change. That moment was incredibly special for so many reasons beyond the fish themselves. So much so we stopped fishing and left the rods away that last week.
A snippet of video from catching the above brown hit the internet and was included in the opening scene of the trailer for the Brown Trout Project. Just over a year ago I got an email from Jake Berry, guide in New Zealand, informing me that Nick from Gin Clear Media had spent 2 months on Google Earth zooming in and out along the west coast at different angles trying to find the spot where we’d caught those fish. There’s a distinctive telephone pole in the video and eventually he found it. The location is 800m off the West Coast Hwy. In turn Nick told Jake he was going to film there for a chapter in their South Island DVD.
A year ago I honestly found the whole effort pathetic, of small mindedness and a terribly small ego that someone who is purportedly of that stature in the fly fishing film industry had to stoop so low. Good on him for the effort to find it on Google Earth but a simple email of introduction and friendly chat would have honestly sufficed – we could have helped with more information. I was inwardly as upset at the method he used as the using of our incredibly special moment to glorify his own video. We felt robbed of our moment. I still maintain that fly fishing is an art, however, when business and ego take over art has left the building. It was unnerving that Amelia & I were again subjected to cyber-stalking. As we got to New Zealand last year, however, little did we know how intense the cyber-stalking would become.
We’re relatively well-known in our home province of Alberta, Canada. We guided fly fishing and owned a back country lodge for nearly 20 years. During that time we also ran Canada’s most popular fly fishing forum for a time, published a few dvds, and wrote many articles. Many of our concepts and discoveries we shared were used by others to their advantage. In those 20 years we had people mirror our guide days from their boats, dropping anchor when we did so, some pulling out binoculars to see what flies we use. We had guides start to promote trips to waters we’d pioneered. The lake at the lodge we bought went from seeing almost nobody camping along its shores to having 50 hike-in campers on long weekends. I began to be stalked in rather incredible ways, causing me to pen an article “Are You Dave Jensen?” in response to the dozens of folks that would ask that question while I fished or guided but never went into conversation nor introduced themselves. It became quite bizarre. The peak of it was a float plane landing and taxiing to the very west end of Fortress Lake, the pilot opening his window to yell “Are you Dave Jensen?”.
Last year, after Jake’s email about Nick’s filming efforts, we arrived in New Zealand. When we posted the photo (at right) of a fish we caught early in the trip to our Facebook Page, we had over 20 people email several times each, asking, most begging, to know where we were fishing. We had a fellow in France that followed our photos and zoomed all over Google Earth to pinpoint water to within 5m of where we were standing in the Rakaia River system. Another fellow in Sweden told me I was standing on a beat on the Hope. And still another from Poland did the same. It went on. All were feverishly Googling the where. Even friends of ours were getting emails from strangers begging to know where we were fishing because these people knew that we fished with them. We intentionally avoided fishing mousey rivers last year, in part for how the fish were caught on deep nymphs, but also in part because of the lack of ability to share the huge trout we’d no doubt catch and want to share with you, which would lead to increased cyber-stalking.
All the above is highly complimentary, yet somewhat unnerving.
Those stalking us miss the point of New Zealand, of Alberta, of fly fishing. There are fish, certainly, but more importantly, there are waters to explore in a country that provides the opportunity. Have a go for yourself, make your own discoveries, enjoy the journey, challenge yourself and enjoy the ride in life while you’re there. And most importantly: when you get home from your epic trip, continue to do that in all areas of your life. It’s not about finding someone else’s fish, it’s about your own life’s discoveries.
THE POINTS, THE CHANGE, THE LESSON
The rub for me, however: the trouble with all the above is that it was so ego-centric, so self-important. I honestly was getting fed up: not with others but the self-imposed feeling that the world was closing in on me, watching my every move. It had gone from our home waters and followed us to New Zealand.
When we left New Zealand last year I was set to write an article of the perils of trying to find another person’s fish, chasing another man’s dream, why it’s so much more important to make your own discoveries. In a round-about way I guess I’ve written that here but boy did I have a much longer, involved sermon planned. That article is certainly not going to happen. You and I are simply different people in different places in life, with different amount of time to enjoy fishing. How you approach it, enjoy it, and value it are all likely different and influenced by vastly different aspects of your life. Neither is better, we simply ‘are’. And good for you. Enjoy it.
I’m not going to tell you how nor why to fish, nor what the ethics are nor why they are. You are going to do what you are going to do. Good for you. Seriously, enjoy your fishing your way – there are no rules aside from regulations. I’m simply sharing that I was wrong in my view. Sometimes in life we have to grow up a little bit. In the process we have to own some things about ourselves and admit our mistakes. I almost gave up New Zealand fly fishing because of the cyber-stalking but realized I was looking in the wrong direction. Who cares about who does what or who uses information to their advantage or abuses our generosity? All that matters is the moment in time that I, Amelia, or whomever we’re fishing with is engaged with a trout and if it can encourage others to do similarly, wonderful! Who cares how big a fish is? If we’re engaged with a trout, that’s a blessing that our life is what it is: we’re alive and healthy, we’re able, we have each other, there are great trout streams to explore, we have friends to share our time with, and we have the ability, interest, and talent to shoot and share video and photos.
Amelia lost her dad this year and I lost my closest friend in Barry. We still have the ability to enjoy our lives. Why focus on anything else? The fact that I’d done so for so many years, allowing the world to close in on me, was pathetic and small-minded and of small ego – a different kind of ego but an ego all the same. I know that I’ve grown up a bit because writing this has taken me just over an hour. I had been struggling with it mightily when we got home from New Zealand 10 months ago. Clarity.
We simply share to encourage folks to get out, to share subtle hints to help folks out, or to share moments that happen while we’re out with people. It’s wonderful to be able to. We absolutely love it and do so because in the fly fishing world the truth is that we could never do the trips we do without others’ support and what better way to give back than to share. When our sharing gets used and people place expectation or demands on us, we are now well aware of our healthy boundaries “we are unable to share that with you”.
The greatest irony in all this remains the admission that I must have an ego, a self-importance, to share this to begin with. The honesty and vulnerability are that the whole of the above has been a struggle the past 20 years. It’s been a great year to finally grow though it and continue to share as we have. I needed to in order to continue sharing, and to be a better host as we move forward. An excellent host is very much like a great writer: the knowledge is shared for the benefit of the audience and not to show how great one is or how much one knows. There’s a massive difference between those positions.
So when I saw another trailer for Gin Clear’s DVD, I finally decided to watch it last night. Given where I was a year ago, I surprised myself that my perspective has truly changed. It was a joy to watch. The trailer below is ‘the river’. I really enjoyed seeing the reach of water from a different person’s perspective – how they approached the water from completely different angles and sides of the river than we did, the different time of year they fished, those kinds of things. It’s a wonderful bit of water and really enjoyable to watch.