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Thread: Truth About Fly Fishing & Other Sporting Magazines

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Default Truth About Fly Fishing & Other Sporting Magazines

    “Supper was a delicious memory…”
    So began the prose of Mr. Nash three generations ago. Those were the days when the content of sporting journals was largely literary, and not where-to and how-to information driven.
    A post here regarding the redundancy of articles fly fishing and other sporting journals recently caught my attention. Having been in that business full time since the 1970s, I must agree. However, the truth of the matter is that streams always run downhill, trout face upstream and good presentations draw the most takes. It has always been that way.
    One time editor of Field & Stream, Jim Bashline once explained to me that sporting journals are largely read for entertainment by porcelain perched readers. For a young, ego driven outdoor writer this was sobering. Later when I learned that the most important person at any sporting journal was not the publisher, editor or its most famous writer, but was in fact that its top ad salesman, I wanted to puke.
    The mortality rate among new magazines is 90 percent. Over the years I have seen many “pretty,” “sophisticated” and “fresh” titles come and go. These days if you are not kissing the rumps of advertisers or are not the world’s luckiest genius at building paid circulation, it does not matter how great your magazine might be it will not make money.
    Over the years I have been the start up editor for several dozen magazines, and currently am pushing along six new titles. Our group hatches-grows-and sells them when they achieve profitability. Then we do it again and again. We understand sales. That is really not saying much, but it enables a title to live long enough to become viable and fetch a price.
    Editorial content is my specialty. The template is pretty much the same for all titles. Writers are important, and the better a writer is known, such as Lefty Kreh, the more value he brings to the table. Others who can take the “same ole same old” and give it a few fresh lines are also assets, especially if they have been around a while. Over the years my writers have included such notable locals as Sam Venable and Jim Casada, to stars such as Judd Cooney and Ted Nuguent.
    Unless you are a novice, odds are you know more about catching trout in the Smokies than do most writers. Very few writers can make a decent living plying their trade, even if they guide or do seminars on the side. Some of the old timers in the business rely on pensions to pay for keeping the electricity on while they earn a living writing. Few and far between are outdoor writers who live well solely on income generated via tickling a keyboard.
    As an editor, I don’t crack a whip on my writers demanding cutting edge, never published advice or information. If you ask Venable and Casada, they will tell you that they were given free range, and neither ever received negative feedback from me. Actually, the editorial realm is a remarkably peaceful world where sharing the fun of fishing is all of the writers and editors care much about. Now, those ****ed publishers, circulation managers, art directors and ad salesmen---that’s a different matter. There should be a bounty on them.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Northern Kentucky


    Wow, the editorial world is peaceful and you don't ride the writers too hard? Where do I sign up for that gig? Or better yet, can you and my boss trade jobs for a while - like the next 3-4 years until I can retire?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by Don Kirk View Post
    Very few writers can make a decent living plying their trade...... Few and far between are outdoor writers who live well solely on income generated via tickling a keyboard.


    After 17 years of publishing outdoor articles (the last two years freelancing full-time) I can add that the best way to make a living as a freelance outdoor writer is to have a wife who has a BSN in nursing, with a good job and family health benefits!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default magazine articles

    .Back in the early seventies i made several hunting and fishing trips with outdoor writers.Two of them wrote outdoor articles for newspapers.
    the articles published in the paper were usually accurate.
    One story was done by a nationally known outdoor writer.The story was published in outdoor life magazine.The article was beautifully done,well written with great photos and about fifty percent fiction.To this day when I read an article in a magazine i wonder how much artistic license was applied.
    By the way Mr.Kirk,my daughter gave me a copy of your new book,Ultimate flyfishing guide to the smoky mountians ,buy
    Don Kirk and Greg Ward .I`ve read it and found it to be very interesting.A nice mix of park history and local folks.Also very informative even for an old know it all like me

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Sevierville TN


    An interesting topic Mr. Kirk!!!

    For the most part I doubt there is much for me to "learn" from reading any fly fishing or other outdoor magazine so I resist the temptation to buy any of them.

    When I moved to TN last year I threw out perhaps 1000 sporting magazines including those that had pictures of me in them or photos of me in them.

    Most magazines have enormous "photo vaults" from which they can "borrow" pictures for an article that a writer has submitted with poor photos. "The Becks", Richard and Cathy have sold zillions of fly fishing photos to magazines that often accompany articles about a certain place.

    Everyone like pictures of BIG trout and BIG fish.... just a couple years ago a friend called me to tell me "MY HANDS" were in Flyfisherman magazine holding a good brown trout! Oddly I was cropped out and it was just my paws and a good Kennebec river brown trout.... the writer had taken my picture years before when my hands were less beat up from working outdoors in the cold for so many years. Oddly a couple months later I again appeared in the same magazine wearing a yellow raincoat in an article written by Will Ryan... the picture was taken about 1984 when I was poor and couldn't afford Patagonia Rainwear! A 20 year old photo!

    Worse yet is FISHING TV..... I will not mention names except to say that I am related to two famous bass fisherman that have their own TV programs...... both great fishers and great people BUT fish TV is definitely "produced" or is "contrived" a better description?

    Were I to buy a fly fishing magazine I suppose it would be American Angler or Fly tyer... I stopped getting Fly Rod and Reel when Guernsey stopped being editor and sending them to me for free.

    Magazines and TV are all about convincing you that the ORVIS T-3 you bought three years ago is not a good as a new Helios and if you want to cast better, farther, faster and with better accuracy to catch MORE & BIGGER fish you really NEED to spend $900!

    We take this sport to seriously and mags don't help you catch more fish.... they just make the poop slide out easier

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008


    Corbo, Mr. Kirk, et al_

    Thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree with you more. Most fly flinger magazines & TV shows, except AA & FT, are a waste of time, paper, and my money.

    Last year (?). Owl had a blog on his web site slamming Orvis and other tackle suppliers about gear we just absolutely gotta have if we are to be successful at fishing. I did a search on his web site, and couldn't find it. If anyone finds it, please post a reply with a link. I laughed so hard at his comments that I had tears in my eyes!


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    SE Tennessee

    Default Thanks to Mr. Kirk

    Interesting to say the least. I'm of the opinion that the goal of most outdoor magazines is to get you to spend money to go places to hunt and fish when you can do it just down the road. I spent last Friday in the Smokies (two hour drive) working with eleven boys attending the first Tennessee Council's Trout Camp. We fished one of the top brook trout streams. The young man I was with caught and released 6 brookies. (Must have been the guide!) We didn't have to go to one of the famous rivers; probably won't ever get a chance, either.
    I subscribe to Fly Fisherman Magazine and find it, IMHO, to be well balanced even though many of the places described are out of my budget. I'm also a member of Trout Unlimited and get their quality magazine. I'm going to keep FFM and Trout. I am letting a bowhunting magazine expire. I can't afford the $800 bows and the articles don't relate to me in east Tennessee. After reading this thread, I wonder how many pictures are actually of the place described in the article.
    Let me say that I let a major outdoor subscription lapse due to what I considered adult advertising that doesn't belong in a magazine that is read by young people, my grandsons included. They called about renewing and I told them that I wouldn't ever subscribe as long as they had that trash in their advertising.
    I remember an ad for a well-known tackle manufacturer- The fish don't ask how much your rod cost.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Gulf Shores, Alabama


    I have been reading outdoor articles for more than 40 years. In the 60's and 70's it was primarily from "the big three" magazines. Although I'm sure the authors were compensated, the articles seemed more adventurous, technique informative and more personable. I mean you could imagine you were with the party in the article. Nowadays the primary focus seems to be on the gear used and the outfitter who is making it happen. Information given is mostly in these areas and rather vague or general about location. You could almost get the idea that you can't have success unless utilizing the same rod, gun or outfitter as in the article. Many pieces seem more about meeting a deadline than quality writing. In my opinion the credibilty of writers and "professionals" who write has greatly deteriorated in their quest for sponsors and compensation. I almost never subscribe anymore but do occasionally purchase at newstands. I buy based on the entertainment value only, not generally expecting to gain new information.


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