Al Campbell, Field Editor

January 19th, 2004

Crazy Days
Al Campbell

This is crazy. At least that was my first impression when I read the e-mail. It was one of the first e-mails I read on Tuesday. It went something like this:

"Mr. Campbell,
I have been tying for some time now, and consider myself an intermediate to advanced tier. I found your fly tying instructions on the Internet, and wanted to share a few comments. I noticed you didn't put wings on your basic dry fly. What kind of sh** is that? How could you pretend to teach others about fly tying if you don't even know how to put wings on a dry fly? Telling us that they aren't necessary isn't a good excuse for your lack of ability, if you are trying to show everyone how good you are by publishing your patterns."

Hey, how do you answer something like that? I doubt the guy read any more than the one article he plucked out of my fly tying series, so I don't think he noticed the winged patterns that followed in the next articles.

About 12 e-mails down the list was another from the same guy blasting me for not replying to his first e-mail. Did I think I was too good to reply to common people? Was it typical to offer my e-mail address then not reply to comments? What kind of jerk am I anyway?

Well, that isn't the normal type of e-mail I get from readers. Most of you provide good boosts to my ego and offer refreshing views of what I have written. But, this guy had a problem with what he had seen, and I thought I could maybe rescue my reputation; so I sent a reply and asked him to read further in the series to see that I do show how to put wings on flies in later segments of the series.

Then I got an e-mail from another reader who said he had read the beginner and intermediate series and had just two questions. "What do mean when you say to strip the web from the hackle?" and "Is Anglers Choice Soft Body something like dental tape?"

I shot a reply back to the second guy telling him he needed to read the whole series. I just knew it was another reader cherry picking just what he wanted to see and not bothering with the series of instruction. I was wrong.

The first guy replied that he "wasn't about to read any more of that trash". He had read all he needed to read to know it wasn't worth his time. The second guy fired an angry letter back letting me know that he could tell I'm not a teacher because I had treated his questions like they were dumb questions. He went on to say he would delete FAOL from his list of favorites and never bother me again.

Huh? The first response I expected, but the second one caught me off guard. Did the first guy set the stage for the way I answered the second guy? I didn't expect an angry response from the second guy, so what was the problem? Then I went back and read again what I had said. Hey, can I go back and rewrite this one?

I sent two replies to guy number two and deleted the e-mails from guy one. The first reply to guy number two had links to the individual articles that showed the answers to his questions, and the second one explained those answers in greater detail.

While all that was happening, my wife was getting upset over all the time I was spending answering about 50 e-mails that day. Darn! Is it possible to go back to bed and get up on the other side? Oh well, after my wife left, I had a perfectly quiet house since she wasn't speaking to me either. The dog just flopped down in front of the wood stove and went to sleep. He knew better than to get in the middle of that.

Is there a point to this story? Yup. Some days you're the seagull; and some days you're the windshield. By Wednesday morning I was ready to quit writing and hide in a cave. If it weren't for all the great letters I got from all of you, I would have given it up for a lost cause right then; but you are a great bunch of people. I actually got about 60 letters on Wednesday that made me feel like a hero. I think I'll survive now.

In case you don't know how big an impact you all have on me, here's my thanks. Your generous letters have brightened more than one of my days; and in the case of this week, you dug me out of a gloomy dungeon. If I haven't said it recently, you are the reason I contribute to FAOL in the first place. The support we share with each other, and you offer to me makes it all worth while.

In case you missed my point, I just want to say one thing that sums it up rather nicely. Thanks! ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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