When was the last time you had an argument on the bankside? For that matter, when was the last time you saw an argument on the bank? I’d like to bet it's been a while. And yet if you log onto the Internet and look at any of the angling forums, it won’t be long before you come across some kind of animosity.
I used to regularly frequent several of these sites and have occasionally posted on them, but in recent months I am increasingly inclined to stay away. The sad thing is, I have spoken to several top anglers who won’t post on these forums for exactly the same reason as me – they just don’t want to put themselves in the firing line. There are far to many faceless individuals waiting to have a pop about something and nothing. And why shouldn’t they? After all they have nothing to lose, whereas people who work in the trade or have a sponsor to please have everything to lose.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against healthy debate. I have enjoyed some very thought provoking discussions on forums in the past. I had my first contact with Jon Arthur, who is now my Editor and among my closest friends during one such con-fab. I had suggested that not enough northern anglers had been invited to take part in the Drennan Knockout Cup. He explained that a lot had been invited and actually never bothered to reply, and between us we decided on a few other names who duly received invites. It was a constructive debate with a positive outcome.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but some of the people on these forums don’t seem able to put their view across without having a go at another user. Interestingly, we have recently started having debates on our Facebook page, and these seem to be going swimmingly. I haven’t yet seen one nasty or insulting comment. Why? Call me cynical, but I think its something to do with everyone having their (real) name and photo next to their post.
I felt genuinely sorry for my colleague Joe Carass, when he put a post on one of the forums over Christmas. It was to bring attention to a survey being run buy sister title Match Fishing, with everyone who took part having the chance of winning some fishing tackle. From the response he got, anyone would have thought he had lined people up with a gun and forced them to fill it out!
And then there was the poor bloke last year who decided to sell some Mick Wilkinson pole floats on eBay. OK, he was trying to make a few quid but to read some of the comments people made about him anyone would have thought he had sold his soul to the devil. And god help those who tried to stick up for him!
For me personally, the most frustrating topics are about fishing magazines however. There are some constructive comments that make a lot of sense – and a lot of inane drivel from people who don’t know what they are talking about. My personal favourites from a purely comical point of view are the ones that read, “I haven’t bought a copy of XXX for years, as it's full of boring features on the same old venues.” If the enlightened poster hasn’t bought the publication for so long, how does he know it’s so bad?