May 25, 2018

Fishing for Stories via Instagram

Cultural trends seem to pop up early on the social media site. It’s where I first noticed the popularity of Los Angeles’s Zoe Church, which I recently wrote about, and where Sam Barsky, better known online as “the sweater guy,” gained Internet fame. (I wrote about him, too.)

So I decided to explore.

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Ms. Coley with a Bonneville cutthroat trout she caught in March while fishing along the North Platte River near Alcova, Wyo. Credit Erik Rossiter

Some photographers shared secret fishing holes. Others tagged anglers with whom they seemed to have struck up friendships. The rest, well, bragged about their latest catch.

The genre had all the hallmarks of a mature social media phenomenon. A lot of people were promoting brands. So much so, one Twitter commenter asked if the fishing industry now had “influencers.” Noelle Coley of Colorado said she worked with a number of companies, receiving free fishing equipment or apparel in exchange for social media mentions. (Some outlets, like Orvis, a maker of fly fishing equipment, are seeking to increase the number of women in the sport. That’s no surprise, given that recreational fishing is on the rise in the United States and women are an untapped market.)

What was most striking, though, were the photographs themselves, which were colorful, immediate and engaging. I reached out to a number of the featured men and women from across the country and asked them to tell me their back stories.

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“Permit are an infrequently caught fish,” said Darren Solce (photographed with one in Punta Allen, Mexico), “so the pictures tend to capture moments of pure joy and exhilaration.” Credit Patrick Duke

While much of America is divided between red and blue states, these anglers recounted experiences that transcend geography and politics. They said they had friends on both coasts, as well as in the middle of the country.

Could fishing be the great uniter? That would be no small feat these days, when everything seems politicized.

They even wanted to take me fishing. But that’s another story. (A brother once chided me for catching a trout smaller than the purse I owned.)

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Most of all, though, these fishing enthusiasts were eager to describe how social media helped them document their pastime so they could share it with others.

Of course the smartphone itself has revolutionized the way they capture their adventures. Long gone are the days of posing afterward on the dock with a colossal prize, like Ernest Hemingway did when he lived in Key West in the 1930s. As Daniel Giunta, the owner of the sports fishing charter company Double D Charters in Montauk, N.Y., told me, customers want photographs with their catch fresh out of the water — especially since many people choose to release the fish.

“Being a captain these days is all about being a good photographer,” he said. “I know where the light is. I know where they need to stand.”

Smartphones have also revolutionized how journalists interact with their sources and build an audience for their work. I posted a screenshot of the article I wrote, “Lots of Fish on the Screen,” on my own Instagram account, with some of the more popular hashtags the fishing crowd uses. Right away a number of fishing accounts liked it or posted comments. I got an email from the wife of a fisherman I know in Santa Cruz, Calif. More emails like that followed. One of the men I interviewed posted an excerpt from the story on his Instagram account. Another one told his followers to read it.

I even heard from Fishbrain, an app maker based in Stockholm, Sweden, which bills itself as the Facebook of fishing. People can log in to the app and see where fish are biting. Since 2016, the company said, more than 1,000 people have fished in the ponds in New York City’s Central Park, including Harlem Meer. Followers on Instagram already knew that; centralparkfishing has its own hashtag.

Keep up with Times Insider stories on Twitter, via the Reader Center: @ReaderCenter.

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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/insider/fishing-for-stories-via-instagram.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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