I’d like to share something that probably only a small number of you will cotton to, but maybe a few more of you will take an interest.
As you’re all very well – sometimes painfully – aware, I am something of an outdoorsman, particularly a fisherman, and specifically a fly fisherman. That’s not what I want to share because of course you all know that very well, but hang with me a minute, I’ll get to it.
When I really became interested in fly fishing again after a decade-long absence, I ran out and bought a buncha magazines on the subject. While they were well-written and helpful in rebooting my fly fishing passion, I was saddened that there were few real stories in them.
By that I mean, tales of the author’s romps outdoors. I love that kind of literature, and that used to be what outdoors magazines were chock full of. In my absence, it seems, they have transformed into how-to and technical mags. Moreover, they generally aren’t a bit interested in a good yarn. The kind of stories Outdoor Life and Sports Afield used to print. There are a few exceptions: Field and Stream will occasionally print a good homespun tale, and two other publications are almost exclusively geared to such yarns, the most excellent Gray’s Sporting Journal and Sporting Classics.
Now, I have no problems with good instructional magazines! Certainly I learned a lot from them. But those other stories…I missed them terribly. For a time, I fulfilled my need to read others’ accounts and also write about my own fly fishing experiences sans technobabble regarding methods, skills and tips – of which I have none – on an online magazine. That stint ended badly after a couple of years, but I developed a good following for my dribble, and made some close friends.
A bit after that, three of us set out to accomplish what we wanted to do on our own. My friends Gary Henderson, a saltwater fly fisherman from Florida, and Larry Offner, a freshwater fly fisherman from Denham Springs, decided to create an online magazine for writers and visual artists who had the same slant as us: Stories, dangit, stories!
The result, after a year in the works, went live on the Internet at 12 a.m. New Year’s Day. It’s called Far & Away, and it debuted to a remarkable visitor count and strong applause.
Let me explain clearly, though, that Far & Away is not geared toward any particular of what we consider the "field sports" of the outdoors. The three of us founders might be fly fishermen, but the magazine completely caters to the various other outdoorsy types like hunters, paddlers, campers, backpackers and the like.
We’ve subtitled it: An online magazine celebrating the words and visual arts that express the essence of being "out there." That pretty much sums it up. It’s not about athletics or golf or things like that, even though they’re outdoor sports. The introductory page invites people who are "addicted to wild places and twilights, then join us around the campfire, along the stream, in the duck blind or a canoe. We’re just folks who love the outdoors, love to fly fish on mountain streams, southern bayous and salty flats. We relish the joy of a good pointer in a golden field; a reliable rifle, a favorite old Lucky 13, or a secret covey. We treasure the good things in life like a chattering fire, an owl in the distance, a sturdy paddle and a sense of place."
The first issue is small, but the quality is excellent. As it stands, it’s mostly the three of us contributing content, but we have an open submissions policy and are hoping other writers and artists like us will hop on board. Our standards are very high, and we’ll accept no less than outstanding work.
We’re not making a dime on this. In fact, we three took money out of our pockets to pay for the site hosting and such. I did the design myself. So we’re not into this for profit. We’re in it for the glory! Hee-hee. Just kidding.
We’re in it because we miss the days when Norman Maclean wrote poetic prose like, I sat there and forgot and forgot, until what remained was the river that went by and I who watched. On the river the heat mirages danced with each other and then they danced through each other and then they joined hands and danced around each other. Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river.
No, we’re not out to be imitators, though that may very well be the sincerest form of flattery. You could maybe consider us resurrectionists, but even that’s not entirely it. We’re really seeking revival of the same magic and perhaps to invoke the same chill on the nape as when Gene Hill penned, He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)
Oh, don’t get me wrong: None of our writers are so smug as to believe we’re Macleans or Hills! But I hope we can conjure a little of that same spirit. Perhaps in Henderson’s recollection in the premiere issue article "Shades of Red" of that instant in a fisherman’s life when he knows he’s hooked into not only a titanic fish but a perfect moment.:
I take notice of his colors, rich with the same tones of the morning. I see into his black pupils. I can see and feel the totality of his anger. Tired, but yet not ready to surrender, he blasts away again, swimming around to my left, encircling me as if trying to tie half-hitches around my legs in an attempt to break free. His copper eyes, like new pennies, flash forward, then back, searching for another route of escape.
Or as Offner describes his fishing mentor, his father, and the lifelong bond between them along that tether:
Then he said he wished he could go on one more fishing trip. I told Dad that the Bible says there’s rivers in heaven.
He looked up at me, smiled and said, "If I get there first, I’ll meet you on the bank."
Or when Bill Parlasca pens about hunting birds on the Montana prairies that were home to Blackfeet and Utes for many thousands of years:
Hunting the high plains somehow gives me solace. People seem smaller there and so do their works
Our introductory passage on the site probably concludes it better than I could, so I’ll let it rest there:
Words and images that remind us that what we all cherish is what we all share: A tin cup. Out there. Alone or among friends. The fire’s warm. Stay awhile and let’s talk about our day...
Please give us a look-see. The magazine is at www.farandawayonline.com. I’d love your feedback.