Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sell Out

When my friend Josh casually mentioned that AZ's Black River was profiled in the current issue (Apr/May) of Fly Fisherman magazine I was really, really hoping he was kidding. Josh resides in Montana and has never fished the Black, but he's heard me talk about it a time or three. He thought I might be interested in seeing the article. I went down to the local newsstand and picked up a copy...sure enough the cover was emblazoned with the words, "Black River". The magazine devoted 6 pages to this - until now - relatively unknown fishery in AZ's White Mountains. A fellow by the name of Cameron Chambers from Helena, MT wrote the piece.

It's a well written and accurate article...too accurate. Mr. Chambers didn't hold back in his telling of the river's greatness. Throughout the piece he really talks up the river's brown trout fishery and with this line he broke my heart: "as the river transitions between warm and coldwater fisheries, it has the effect of steroids on the brown trout". That wasn't really necessary. By the time I'd finished reading the article I was left with a feeling akin to finding out that your girl is seeing someone else.

The Black River is a rather non-technical fishery, getting to it is really the most difficult aspect of fishing it. Its remoteness may be its saving grace, but Mr. Chambers has just issued a Black River invitation to about 100,000 anglers. Even if only 1% of Fly Fisherman readers have an interest in checking the place out, that is still a lot of people for this river to absorb over the course of a couple of seasons (I believe that the attention a fishery receives from such an article is significant over 1-3 years, but negligible long term). This isn't a large river, flowing at perhaps 100-200 cfs most of the season and with only a few major access could feel crowded in a hurry.

It may seem hypocritical of me to be bothered by this article, considering that I have an AZ fly fishing guidebook in print. My book details the Black River, there's no denying that, but I anguished over its inclusion in the book and I was careful not to over-hype it. Regardless, if all 14 people who have bought AND read my book were to suddenly descend upon the Black River on the same summer weekend, it would have little impact.

I've long feared that someone would eventually sell out and write up the Black River for SW Fly Fishing. Mr. Chambers, you've taken it to another level...I hope they paid you well, sir.


  1. feel your pain there: I recently felt it in the pit of my stomach when reading the tagline of a famous FF writer in equally famous FF rag. Said writer sang all the praises about finding, fishing my favorite (and under the radar) watershed, this after being sucked in by a local flyshop eager to reap the resulting rewards. Sheesh, is nothing sacred anymore?

  2. RW - It sounds as if you can relate all too well. I wish other writers would realize that they don't have to give away the secrets in order to be published. As has been said before, why give away the answers to those who never knew what the questions were in the first place? Here's to hoping that our respective honey holes shrug off the recent attention.

  3. Hey Will,

    I saw and read the article on the Black myself, and I agree with your sentiments--the piece worried me a bit as well, because the Black is much more akin to a vulnerable wilderness stream than some big-name trout mecca, and I would think it could suffer in a hurry with a large influx of anglers...I also found parts of the article more than a bit inaccurate, particularly the impression the author seems to give readers that the river is chock full of 20+" Browns, and describes 18" fish in the stream as "small". In my limited experience in Arizona so far, any Brown over 15-16" is a fine trout, and 20" and larger specimens are precious and at the very least uncommon, even in a marvelous place like the Black. As you said though, the Black is largely remote and inaccessible, and I am hoping that this factor continues to keep the masses away, and preserves the wildness of this special AZ fishery...

    On another note, I have really been enjoying your blog in general, and it was nice to read about Skwalas and Westslope Cutts in your last entry--keep up the good work!

    Tight lines, Iain

  4. I haven't got into fly fishing but you guys sound like a bunch of DIY hardcore hunters. I never knew you guys had such strong feelings towards your honey holes being exploded! It happens all the time in the hunting world but at least you don't have to wait for a tag.

  5. Craig,
    Yeah, it's a pretty similar situation to word leaking about a hunting honey hole. In fact it may be worse with fishing. Generally speaking (there are exceptions of course, such as with OTC tags, etc.) with hunting the amount of pressure that an area receives - and the impact on the resource (wildlife) itself - is regulated by a quota or permit system...not really the case with fishing. While large rivers can handle lots of pressure, smaller streams and rivers such as those in AZ can really suffer the consequences of too much fishing pressure. Bag limits and catch and release designations help, but these waters are still open to everyone and their brother...they can feel crowded in a hurry!