- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

Occasionally, a reader will provide me with “story ideas” he or she is convinced the world is awaiting with bated breath. In 99 percent of cases, I thank them for thinking of me, then gently suggest their story might not be suited to my particular audience.

The worst story “providers” are advertising agency flacks who believe they know more about our readers than a fellow who has been among newspaper buyers for nearly 40 years and has heard kudos, gripes, shouts of “you wouldn’t know a cottontail rabbit from a grizzly bear” or the wonderful and ever so welcome lie that the only reason they touch a newspaper is because I’m in it. Talk about an ego builder.

As concerns the advertising agencies, a typical example recently was a fellow who sent an e-mail to tell me he knew that you, dear reader, would love to see a lengthy feature about how to rent an airplane or get flying lessons. I told him most flight instructors earn a few bucks now and then, so maybe some of that cash could be spent on an actual ad in our newspaper. It was either that or perhaps interest a feature page editor who was starving for material.

I also received a suggestion that readers would enjoy a lengthy illustrated article on the workings of outboard motors. The factory that produces one major brand (it’s painted black and carries the name of a mythological god) would be happy to send me all the digital art I wanted, he said. Then I find out he worked for a marine store that, of course, sells those outboard motors.

What about a story on digging around bare river banks to look for prehistoric fossils? And what about kite flying, mountain biking, rock climbing and hang gliding? There also was a fellow who offered to show me how to find Indian arrowheads. Hey, that might be doable. I like Indians, and I like arrowheads.

Meanwhile, the great majority of newspaper outdoors readers are anglers, hunters, boaters and campers. Even though I have owned boats all my life, I have no idea what to say about boats that would keep your attention. I might say, “Please be careful and wear a life vest when on the water” or “You ought to see the new Stump Jumper bass boat — it’s a beauty,” but that’s pretty much it.

As far as camping is concerned, I do it when I hunt in a remote area, and even then it’s strictly of the pup tent variety with a small open fire, pot of coffee and big iron skillet with bacon, eggs and potatoes. What else is there? Huge self-contained buses and trailers whose owners believe them to be campers? If that’s camping, I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Then there’s sport fishing. Now there’s an activity everybody in these parts apparently goes ga-ga over, and we happily will scratch that fishing itch. We will tell you when, where, how and with what to do it.

Fair warning, however. Our region is heavy into Chesapeake Bay rockfish, bluefish, Norfolk spot, croakers, drumfish, perch and flounder. Our rivers and lakes titillate the fishermen with promises of largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, catfish, crappies, yellow and white perch, increasing numbers of walleyes and tiger muskies, so those are the fish you likely will see mentioned in stories and reports.

We’re also aware well more than 90 percent of all sport fishermen use conventional tackle, such as spinning and casting rods and reels. Although the fly-rodders in our town and elsewhere are normally well-heeled, superbly educated and more willing to spend money on big-ticket items than most people, the fact remains that it’s a small number, and in our business the sport must be handled proportionately. If largemouth bass and striper fishing is truly big here, it will receive most of the attention. The same goes for the most popular fishing gear.

That’s not to say that you won’t see a fly-fishing piece now and then. I love it along with all the other methods, but normally I do what the majority does.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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