It had been quite a while since I was last excited about fishing magazines. With the exception of a couple of magazines’ recent issues that brought something authentically new (yes, tenkara classifies), very valuable local information, or some very cool imagery, most magazines that came to our office were, well, not kept.
The Japanese magazines I found in tackle shops in Japan depicted more than just an enormous fish on the cover, more than that exotic, expensive, and “unnatainable” large fish from “a distant Shangri-la. These magazines focused on showing a way of living, the angler/adventurer lifestyle, one that can be attained by anyone so inclined, and in turn excites those who look at their pages. These magazines, in my view as a long-time fishing magazine reader, invite someone to give fishing a try. Even not being able to read the language, they offered enough (diagrams, illustrations, maps, pictures) to get me to buy a couple of admittedly very expensive magazines – the fishing magazines cost as much as $18, but each one is like a book, with less advertising than magazines here. Would you pay that much for a magazine?
Tenkara has been credited with introducing many people to the sport of fly-fishing. It’s simpler, less intimidating, more attainable, and we shall say more enjoyable and effective too. The sport fishing industry has long been complaining of decline. I think magazines have an important role to play in introducing people to “simple fly-fishing”, the attainable lifestyle that anyone may choose to pursue. Instead of intimidating those who look at them in bookstores, I think our magazines would offer real value to the industry and to their readers by offering prospective anglers better content (yes, I’ll say tenkara again as an example, as opposed to the “coolest new bobber/ splitshot in the market”), and a simpler alternative to what is out there. Show novices that fishing really is simple, tell them ideas of where to go, and they will try it.
A huge fish on the cover can be cool, sure. And, there are some Japanese magazines that show the “monsters” on the cover, the big bass, the huge salmon, etc. However, the cover can show more than just that huge fish that has become a cover formula. I don’t believe that’s what most fly anglers are after, at least not on every issue. I for one am after real knowledge, real angling experince local content, cool stream imagery. The magazines I saw bring their audience real knowledge and cool imagery, a lifestyle, not just a distant dream.