The Borg Don’t Fish

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Locutus of Chum

Locutus of Chum

I am a child of the sixties.

But my childhood in a small Virginia town in the 1960s was not the long haired, free love, groovey sixties that phrase brings to mind. Mine was the nerdy, plastic rim glasses, popular science sixties. In 1966 when Star Trek warped onto national TV I knew my people had arrived. I spent hours forcing my young hand into a Vulcan salute and cemented my outsider status by showing up at school wearing pointy ears cut from flesh colored peel-and-stick Dr Shoals felt shoe inserts. Yep, that was me.

When Captain Kirk and Mr Spock hung up their phasers I grudgingly followed along with Picard and Richer but it was never the same. Data never went into a homicidal mating rage and Worf was a sad excuse for a Klingon but it was the Star Trek of the day. My grousing stopped however, the day I encountered the Borg. Star Trek T.N.G. Reached into the bag of old school Star Trek tricks and came out with the greatest outer space boogie man of all time.

If you recently escaped from North Korea and the iron hand of communism I’ll excuse you for not knowing about the Borg. You can read about them (HERE).

This terrifying new enemy wipes out entire species, not by destroying them but by assimilating them. Making them into Borg. The Borg exist as cybernetic organisms. Half alive, half machine. Their neural implants connect them all in a hive like consciousness. This makes them a handful in a fight.

photoThe creepy gray skin and tubes are very Gigeresk and the loosing ones individuality is a classic Star Trek threat, but none of that is what makes The Borg frightening. What’s scary is Star Treks amazingly consistent record of predicting the actual future. They’ve gotten enough right (talking computers, smart phones and 3D printers for a few) that I’m afraid they might be right again. We may be the Borg.

I am not only incapable of putting down my iPhone, I no longer want to. Walk into any restaurant and you will see tables surrounded by people ignoring each other and staring at their phones. We are on line constantly. Most of us to the point that loosing our Internet connection for a few hours constitutes an emergency. Thank god for Starbucks where we will spend five bucks for a cup of coffee just to be near a router.

We have facebooked and tweeted and pinned ourselves straight into the hive mind. And what do we do with all of that connectivity? Just like the Borg, we go after less advanced species. Fish. This became clear to me when one of my favorite ‘secret’ streams appeared on an Internet message board. The result was a full scale Borg invation.

A similar scenario is playing out in the Florida Keys. Every year a new crop of aspiring flats guides show up, fresh faced and ready to be famous. In there hands are no charts or hand drawn maps from a generous old pro. Instead there are iPads with Google Earth already open. What’s more, I know veteran Keys guides who have been drooling over Google images of Cuba for years, waiting for that border to open.

I’m all for guys getting on fish, but what is all of this technology doing to the fishing? It’s not a simple question. Although social media, blogs and Internet message boards are likely introducing a lot of folks to fishing who may not have found an interest on their own, it’s hard to picture random Facebookers logging on over their morning coffee and deciding to go out and rape a local stream. On some water however, pressure is increasing. I have no hard data, but it seems to me two things are happening. Pressure, and more pressure.

First, pressure is becoming concentrated. The word gets out that a given stream is fishing well and, before you know it, everyone within a three hour drive is fighting over a couple of miles of water. It’s annoying for anglers but it’s big trouble for the fish. Fisheries are cyclical by nature. The fishing in given streams and lakes gets hot and then eventually goes cold for a while before getting hot again. It’s a cycle that takes years and it used to take years for fishermen to figure it out.

These days it takes weeks and the new hot stream gets pounded right out of the gate. In the old days, crusty old anglers would give you there sisters phone number before they’d give up a hot fishing hole. That accomplished a couple of things. It gave streams time to rebound. The hot stream of tomorrow was developing during the years it took to fish out the hot stream of today.

This concentrated pressure, caused by the Internet, accelerates one side of the cycle without accelerating the other. Streams don’t get a chance to catch up. The other thing those tight lips accomplished was to season new anglers. By the time an angler learned where the fish were and how to catch them there was a pretty good chance that they had learned some respect for the resource. Started pinching their barbs and practicing catch and release or at least stopped leaving their beer cans on the bank. The system was not all bad.

Concentrated pressure is not a phenomenon isolated to place. Fish species suffer from the same effect. How many guys were seriously chasing musky five years ago? Not many. It was carp before that. A species gets a lot of sudden press, it becomes fashionable to catch them and resistance is futile. The poor fish must wander what in the hell happened to get them all of the new attention.

“I gave up on bass out here,” a friend in California told me the other day. “Too much pressure. Everybody’s pounding the good water. The internet’s ruined it. Just like surfing, every Barney can go online and find where the surfs good.” he went on to tell me about the new species he’s chasing in the surf, but he made me promise not to tell.

In addition to pressure the information age is fueling the problem from another angle, education. The Internet is teaching folks to be better anglers. “I’m not worried about fishing behind those guys,” I’ve heard guides say. “They don’t know what their doing anyway.” Well, more and more they do and that’s added pressure too. The fish are out numbered, out gunned and have nowhere to hide.

By now I’m sure you are thinking something that I figured out long ago. I am part of the problem! This became obvious to me the day I did a google image search for “Bahamas bonefish flies,” and found that a startling percentage of the results were my own photos.

365 Days a year Kent and I post information that’s geared toward putting you on fish. We are flattered and genuinely thrilled that so many of you read what we put out and share our passion but we do stop to think about the impact. We feel that we have a responsibility to the angling community at large. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.

We believe that fly fishing should be inclusive, not exclusive. We believe that everyone should experience the thrill of tying a fly and catching a fish in their life. That said, we know what a disaster that could be. We accept that if we are going to give out information that helps more people catch more fish, them it’s our responsibility to help those anglers be better stewards of the resource. To respect the fish and the water and their fellow anglers and leave the places we love better than they find them. It’s our Hippocratic Oath. To do no harm.

If I have a point, it’s this. Tread lightly. Not just on the river but on the web. Think twice before posting gps coordinates or even stream names. Help your fellow angler, but not just to catch fish. Help him understand the importance of conservation. Help him understand the etiquette of angling. Help him be a better angler in the larger sense. Take that oath yourself, to do no harm.

I owe a great debt to the friends and family that thought me those lessons. It has not only made me a better angler, it has made my experience so much richer. Thanks to them, I have the context and appreciation for what a special and precious thing it is to catch a fish on a fly. It has made me mindful of all that I do. It is the measure of every other experience in my life.

So be that better steward. Tread lightly on the river, and online, and think before you post that Facebook status. The Borg are listening.

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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13 thoughts on “The Borg Don’t Fish

  1. Great article Louis. I’ve taken your advice to extremes though, I live in Ireland and prowl fishing sites based in the US and Australia and leave out where my spots are. Meh

  2. Great article!

    Sometimes it does the “flyfishing soul” good to struggle and really have to work for your fish (I genuinely believe this makes us all better anglers) and not make life too easy with the “hotspot” of the week being presented on a silver platter.

    I particularly like your point on “stewardship”. It must be learned, acquired, nurtured and developed during the time we have on the planet to ply our passion. Learning “stewardship” and the responsibility we have to the rivers, lakes and seas that we fish (after all we are closer to these wonders of nature than most other people on the planet) is as an important as the other skillsets which make us good flyfishermen. This article is one of those must re-read articles. Great thinking article! Thanks.

  3. I have often wondered the same exact thing! How is all this info and technology affecting things around us? Knowledge is powerful and when you have it at you finger tips it opens up worlds. With all this knowledge, and powers that come with it, comes responsibility. We still must take care of what we have and not take advantage of it just because we now know how to. I was told two rules to live by , always do your best, and always do what is right, not what works. Just because we can keep a limit of fish does that mean we should? Take only what you need and give twice back! Knowledge is power, use it wisely. God Bless

  4. All so true. I regularly post trip reports on a forum. No names, no revealing photos, no directions. Somebody wants to guess? Guess away. If they want to know where it’s at, I invite them to come fish with me….if I’m sure they’re not a jack@$$. The secret spots belong to the brotherhood.

  5. *applaud* I love how you put this issue into words.

    Short story: Place I used to work at in the Keys has thirty years of teaching passed down from cpt to cpt, starting with the old crusty salts who started the whole thing. But one day my boss made me get up and move to the other side of the table because he was trying to find some new flats via Google Earth, and he didn’t want me in on his research. That being said, I’ve found a bunch of fishing holes myself both by driving by them, and by looking them up online.

    Most important takeaway, to me, of this article: Respect. We need a new way to teach it to the ppl who haven’t learned it yet.

  6. Man, you hit this on the button. Gierach wrote of this in one of his books stating that the guides and fisherman couldn’t ruin a great new spot, but he could as a popular writer. I paraphrase this. The first thing I ask a prospective new fishing buddy is do they go to fishing forums. An affirmative answer is, to me, the kiss of death. I have had several holes ruined by being posted on a forum. One very large pond near a Texas metroplex would typically have maybe 5-6 kayaks fishing its 80 or so acres. One saturday I started, no cars/trucks. When I got back it looked like a friggin’ convention. Turned out a popular forum posted it as a great fishing hole, replete with a google map pinpointing the only access point. Deep sigh…..

  7. Pingback: Technology’s Impact on Fishing | MidCurrent

  8. Pingback: Technology’s Impact on Fishing - Skiff Life - Flats and Back Bay Fishing

  9. Holy s…,

    I thought I was the only weirdo Trekky Flyfisherman on Earth. Well, I feel some pressure lifting off my shoulders now I’m realizing it’s not the case. Thanks for that, beside all the respectable truth you beautifully pictured thanks to the Borg collective.

    I once met Seven of Nine flyfishing in tight neoprene waders along my favourite stream. I was ready to let myself be assimilated when I woke up. Life’s cruel.

  10. Don’t worry about posting those bonefish flies. I love tying and in the last year have made a trip to Belize and to South Andros. In each case I researched the flies and tied up over a dozen patterns and over a hundred flies, including your Sugarfoot for South Andros. On each trip the guides looked over my flies and then pulled out their own favorites. They never used one that I had tied. Apparently the guides don’t follow the internet, but use their own experience and as you suggest don’t post it on Facebook.
    Love your newsletter.

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