"Hi Mike," said my friend Simon in his New Zealand accent, sticking out his hand. "Good to see you. The big fish are still up in the tributaries, so fishing should be great." Simon was dressed in a rugby shirt and running shorts. His feet were bare and he was fresh from a day of fishing. What made our encounter strange was the location. I was standing in a parking lot halfway around the world in New Zealand talking to a man I'd never met before like he was an old friend... and he was.
Simon is a small part of what we call the cyber community, a group of people all over the planet tied together by their computers, a phone line and an interest in fishing.
Imagine turning on your TV Saturday morning and not only watching the fishing pros, but also talking to them. Imagine flipping through the channels to learn the best fishing spots, equipment needed, best times to visit, where to purchase a permit and contacts for more information.
You might end the morning by pulling up a chair around the stove and joining a "chat" group of fishing buddies from around the world to talk about fishing, the hottest fishing spots and the newest rods and reels.
Imagine no more; the vision is reality and it's called "cyberfishing."
You've probably heard it called other names-Internet, the World Wide Web or WWW, cyberspace, etc. Really, it's nothing more than computers moving information at the speed of light to thousands of others. It's a whole new world of fast, easy communication, crossing political boundaries and ideologies on any topic.
Anglers-always a crafty and resourceful lot-have capitalized on this new "information superhighway." If you know how and where to look, you can locate information on almost any kind of fish or fishing, anywhere on the face of the planet. And, it's only as far away as the nearest "on-line" computer.
What's it take to access all this wonderful information?
You'll need a personal computer, a modem and access to an Internet provider. A computer is nothing more than a box with TV screen and keyboard attached. I get help from my wife or other experts when I need to know more or have problems. You can either buy your own computer, visit a local library with connections to the Web or go to a local school and use their equipment.
In some towns, such as Columbia, access to the Internet is free. In others, you'll have to purchase access from a commercial provider. Your provider will give you an e-mail address (electronic mail) and an "on-ramp" to the superhighway of information.
I cyberfish through e-mail, which is a lot like regular mail without stamps and paper and much faster. Messages travel around the world in seconds and minutes rather than days. I just type a message on my computer, hit a couple of keys and the message is delivered to anyone with an e-mail address.
Even more impressive is sending the same message to 1,500 of my closest fishing buddies, like Simon, with the touch of a key. We're all part of a "listserver"-a computer on the Internet that duplicates our e-mail messages and sends copies to all other subscribers to the list.
In my opinion, listservers, like <flyfish@lsv.Uky.Edu> or <firstname.lastname@example.org> are the most fascinating part of the Internet. No flashy photographs, advertisements or spiffy screen colors, just a lot of interesting conversation with other fly anglers. It's like a huge worldwide intercom, but better, because you only have to listen to one person at a time.
But, like any new technological advance, the Internet isn't perfect. Some folks share a little too much information. When I first subscribed to FLYFISH@ two years ago, I discovered messages describing my favorite fishing waters.
"Oh Great," I thought, "1,500 people across the planet hearing about how good fishing was at the Bridge Pool on Mike's Favorite Creek." We used to call these people "kiss and tell" anglers. Now, I guess you'd call them "kiss and type."
On the other hand, the same list of anglers have helped me discover some incredible fishing in new places, and I found sharing opinions on tackle, angling philosophies, conservation and humor great fun. Mike's Favorite Creek still provides good fishing. It hasn't been overrun by hordes of anglers. In fact, if my creek is ever threatened, it now has a whole bunch of "virtual friends" around the world who will help protect it.
E-mail lists are only one side of cyberfishing. "Web Sites" or "pages" on the World Wide Web open a huge mass of fishing information. These are akin to books and magazines in a library. They range from official pages such as the Missouri Department of Conservation's Web page (see list on page 13 for address) to small, informal pages that are little more than scrap books put up by individual anglers for others to read.
Web pages often contain photographs and other graphics and are fun to browse and read, much like grabbing a book off the shelf. Even better, many pages are "linked" to other web pages across the country or even in other countries. You can jump from MDC's page to the Missouri Fly Fishing Page to the BASS Home Page (see list page 13 for the addresses) and on and on. For more information, many pages allow you to e-mail directly to the page owner to learn more about topics that interest you.
The owners update the best web pages frequently-a real advantage over printed books and magazines. However, "buyer beware." some pages are not well-maintained or researched, or the information is out of date or just plain wrong. For the most accurate and up-to-date information about fishing regulations, permit requirements or other items that could get you in trouble, check an official page sponsored by a state agency like the Conservation Department.
After "meeting" Simon on the FLYFISH list, we exchanged ideas on fishing and fly patterns and opinions on tackle. I sent him a few packets of fly tying beads for use in one of his most effective fly patterns. Eventually our friendship led to an invitation to fish his home water of New Zealand, and some of the most awesome trout fishing I'd ever experienced.
|National Audubon Society||http://www.audubon.org/|
|Fly and Field||http://www.flyfield.com/|
|The Fly Shop||http://www.flyshop.com/|
|U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service||http://www.fws.gov/|
|The Nature Conservancy||http://www.nature.org/|
|Bass Fishing Home Page||http://www.wmi.org/BASSFISH/|
|University of Kentucky: Flyfish Homepage||http://www.uky.edu/~agrdanny/flyfish/main.htm|
|Sierra Club [nid:15398]||http://www.sierraclub.org/|
|Fine Fishing: Ultimate Fish and Fishing Guide||http://www.finefishing.com/|
|Custom Fly Rod Crafters: Guide Spacing Chart||http://www.flyrodcrafters.com/servlet/the-template/appspacingchart/Page|
|NOAA: National Marine Fisheries Service||http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/|
|Outside Magazine Online||http://www.outsideonline.com/|
|Federation of Fly Fishers||http://www.fedflyfishers.org/|
|SilverBuddy.com: Catches Anything That Swims||http://www.silverbuddy.com/|
|Federation of Flyfishers, Southern Council||http://www.southerncouncilfff.org/index.php|
|DISCOVER Magazine: The Whip-Like Physics of Fly Fishing [nid:15551]||http://discovermagazine.com/2008/the-body/18-the-whip-like-physics-of-fly-fishing|
|The Omnibus CompanyLefty's World||http://www.omnibus.com/|
|Mark Vinsel Gallery - Winter 2006||http://www.vinsel.com/|