Thoughts on Fishing and Storytelling

Bobby Cann

October 15, 2008

I am a fisherman. I like bass fishing, but I love fly fishing – and I’ll tell you why. As I’ve spent time trying to become a better angler, I’ve developed an opinion about what is required to become more successful in either sport.

Bass fishing is like multimedia. To fish, all you need is a cheap rod and reel, a few plastic stick baits, and canoe. To make a slideshow or a movie, all you need is a point-and-shoot camera, a relatively cheap audio-recorder, some free software, and a computer.

While you can become proficient with these tools in either endeavor, it’s still disheartening to know that someone else can upstage you simply for having greater means.

A dozen rods and reels of different combinations, a treasure chest of lures, and a $30,000 boat will make you a more successful bass fisherman. Similarly, a digital SLR camera, professional sound equipment, and a (powerful) computer stocked with expensive software will make you a more successful multimedia designer.

Granted, expensive equipment in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it is useless. Still, great success in both bass fishing and multimedia require not only skill but (expensive) tools.

Then there’s also the struggle with that expensive equipment. To bass fish with expensive equipment you need to clean your boat, load it up, hitch it up, drop it in the water, organize your stuff…on and on. Our speaker two classes ago mentioned how he didn’t like to carry around all his equipment because it made him not want to bother fiddling with all of it just to get a shot. So much of the time spent in both pursuits is not directly related to end goal of catching fish or storytelling.

Fly fishing, like writing, is different. Becoming a great fly fisherman requires only the simplest of tools and the dedication of time. Of course, you can spend an absurd amount of money on an Orvis fly rod, waders and a fancy vest. But, on the river, it’s the skills that matter most: the meter and rhythm of the cast between ten and two, and the perfect release that allows the fly land naturally in the current. The difference between a cheap fly rod and expensive one is like difference between a wooden pencil and a mechanical one.

Writing is the same. If you have a pen, a pad of paper and time, there’s nothing aside from god-given ability, or lack thereof, to keep you from becoming Shakespeare.

This is why I love fly fishing and writing. Perfection comes with practice and time dedicated in the pursuit of the skill. To become a better fly fisherman you need only to fish – and to become writer you need only to write. And if you love these things, as I do, then it’s not work, but rather time well spent.

Now, I never said I hate bass fishing, it’s just a lesser hobby; and I still don’t hate multimedia, it’s just something I need to continue learning to love.

However, this is frustrating. I chose to become a journalist because I want to tell stories, and at the end of the day a journalist is simply a story teller. Now, telling a story with a pencil and paper is easy if you can write – but, trying to tell a story with a massive amount of alien equipment and software (and LIMITED hardware) is very difficult.

Spending two hours in class last Thursday trying to tell the story of how I cooked dinner the other night only to have my student account refuse to save anything really put me in a terrible mood.

I spent a few more hours on the same project on Sunday and I really like how it came out. And that’s just it – it’s nice to be that bass fisherman sometimes, on your powerful boat, relaxed, dry and comfortable. But is it worth all the effort, struggling with all the equipment?

Well, my future employer probably thinks so.