Nostalgia Marketing's Beginnings

August 26, 2003 By: Marshall Cutchin

An interesting piece on SunSpot.net talks abou how SI turned from a sporting magazine into a sports magazine; appears the turning point was a 3-part series on wet fly fishing.
I remember discussing with Leonard Wright almost 20 years ago how hard it would be to start up a true sporting magazine in the eighties. Of course that’s all I wanted to do back then, but no one wanted to put money into it then (for good reason). Somehow my idea, “The Sportsman,” ended up at Esquire, who launched a couple of issues in the nineties then as far as I know folded the concept due to lack of advertising support.
Despite (because of?) all of this “fly fishing” continues to be more a lifestyle than a sport in modern media terms. It is coopted by Pottery Barn more often than by Budweiser and defines an almost inscrutable niche in the “Mostly Men’s” market. I don’t know anyone who fly fishes who didn’t at some point wish they could make a great living at it, but those slots are few and the odds are small. Perhaps anyone who tries it will find what I found after just a few years of guiding: I had to truly love what I did — no matter how much money I made, it was impossible to try to be an excellent guide and think in those terms. It probably is why the merchandising of such unique places as the Marquesas left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons fishing exists, to teach us the meaning of an avocation, and to frustrate those who don’t seem to get it.