Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Welcome to airplane mode

By Eric Booton

Contemplating the wide age range of anglers who call the river home, it’s clear that I land on the younger side of the spectrum. Cell phones have been popular throughout most of my lifetime, though I still recall the novel of my parents first cell phones and the mediocre games and rhythmic ringtones they featured. I also remember the days when cell phone service was acceptably sporadic and rare, if not nonexistent, when the asphalt road fades to dirt.

Phones have rooted themselves into our daily lives, and cell phone coverage and cell phone towers have blanketed the nation with the goal of providing cell phone service to the bottom of every canyon and the top of every peak. Verizon’s near decade long “Can you hear me now?” advertising campaign says it all. Yes, I can hear you, but that doesn’t mean I want to.

The streamside trance I am so fond of is routinely broken by the vibrations of incoming texts and calendar alerts, or the repetitive quack of a duck signaling an incoming call; sure, my ringtone is a nature sound, but it’s more annoying than natural.

There is a societal norm, at least in the world I find myself in, to respond to texts, answer the phone, and return emails in a timely matter. As far as I can tell it is a contrived expectation of the modern era that negates the outdoor experience. It’s a shame to admit that I’ve missed an embarrassing amount of strikes tending to my phone’s inbox in an attempt to multi task; I will never get those fish back. My phone is my worst fishing partner, always begging for attention, and I can’t help but cringe when it interrupts me from my waders’ pocket.

The piling text messages can wait, there is a strong chance that you do not need to return that call right now, and don’t even think about opening your email. Let the world go on while you enjoy your pursuit of fish, after all isn’t seeking refuge from the demands of daily life among the top reasons for fly fishing or any other outdoor activity?

I’ve become an advocate for willfully ignoring phones and technology on the water, though sometimes I still need a reminder to ditch the device and be present in the space and company I have sought out. Cell phone service is now presumed present in most areas, and even in Alaska it’s always “improving”, but never forget, the sanctity of airplane mode is only 1 small swipe and 1 quick click away.

Welcome to airplane mode, you may never want to leave.

Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program. He lives in and works out of Anchorage. He is probably on airplane mode right now.

By Brett Prettyman.