We’ve noticed a recent trend in magazines, on Facebook, in Twitter feeds, and on Instagram that we find disturbing, inconsiderate, and downright weak – hero shot haters. Our approach to determine who all these haters are hasn’t been scientific but anecdotal observations in these social media forums reveal that these guys are neither industry leaders, nor respected professionals, nor top echelon anglers – just local haters doing what haters do. We’ve been treating these guys like we have since we were kids – just ignoring them (haters gonna hate, right?). But we’ve seen a few out there so over-the-top that we felt it important to write a short piece that counters this ridiculous trend. If for no other reason than to help educate new comers to the fly fishing world while offering up some support to those that want to show the social media world the fish they caught in the place they had the pleasure of exploring – be proud my friends.

The hero shot haters we’ve seen don’t hate from the position of advocating for fish safety – which would be a strong way to come at the argument. Holding fish out of the water for extended periods of time just to get that pic harms the fish and contradicts why you are out there in the first place. Picture sprinting 400 meters with a hook stuck in you controlled by something you can’t see – an alien perhaps. Then, once you think that sprint is over, something crazy looking grabs you and dunks you underwater for a couple minutes. Bottom line, consider the fish and snap away responsibility. No, the haters make fun of individuals by blotting out fish and putting all manner of things in their hands or taking a photo while not holding anything and photo shopping something into the space where the fish would be. Haters – if you feel compelled to criticize what others choose to share on social media, it says more about your character than it does about the guy holding the fish with a big dopey smile on his face. Remember – not all anglers are as seasoned as you so why begrudge the guy a rare photo opportunity.

The hero shot is important. Without going into a long dissertation about how humans are visual creatures and how fly fishing is an extraordinarily visual activity, the hero shot shows many things about the individual, the fish, and the surroundings in the picture while serving as a small advocacy effort for the sport we all treasure. Let’s start with the individuals in these pics. Look at all real hero shots and you’ll notice one trend in common – smiles. Yeah, that’s kind of cheesy and we’re not mentioning this to evoke some sort of touchy-feely response, but in that moment of appreciating the results of the pursuit nobody has to tell you to smile – it just happens. If you’ve posed for these before, you know this to be true and those beholding the hero shot can see the expression as natural. Sometimes beholding these pics evokes a haterish response and sometimes it makes the observer desperate to grab a rod and get out there. Although the passionate angler may experience a little bit of the former, that’s usually quickly dismissed as he or she quickly formulates a plan to get on the water to try to match the accomplishment displayed in the hero shot.

Smiles aside – look at what those individuals are wearing or the gear present in the picture. Every major fly fishing company trying to make it in this country relies in this “free advertising.” Sure, the online adds and those in the leading magazines hook some of us and lead to a purchase – mainly those anglers that are new to the sport. However, the stronger, better placed hook that often brings more experienced anglers to make a purchase is what other anglers are using or what we see guides using. Got it, the gear seen in the hero shot was not responsible for the angler catching the fish (or was it?) but it surely helped out (or did it?). Guides use this same “free advertising” to generate more business as well. Would you hire a guide without a catalog of hero pics on his/her website?
Then there’s the fish and where we catch them. There is no need to get deep here. Even the hero shot hater fishes…probably loves to fish and appreciates the beauty of our quarry and where they are found. From musky, to trout, to carp, to bass, every species brings something photogenic to the table and the environments from which they emerge rival this beauty. Seeing all the species in hero shots out there makes us want to try them all, reducing our focus on one species or one area. This might a stretch but maybe, in aggregate, this helps spread out the angling community a bit – we need it.

So, fellow anglers, keep the businesses that fuel our industry churning out new and improved products and services. Keep up the advocacy that helps preserve our fisheries for generations to come. Keep showing the world what your region has to offer. Keep the hero shots coming – we’re looking forward to seeing them…just don’t hold the fish way out in front of you and up close to the camera.