I want to thank Dan for inviting me to visit here at the Lounge. As I was casting about for what to write for my first post, I decided that
My own initiation into fly fishing was an indirect result of my first job after law school. I practiced labor law in Philadelphia, at a firm whose largest client was a union representing state, county, and local government workers throughout Pennsylvania. The work entailed a good deal of travel and extended stays in the hinterlands of the Commonwealth. During one such trip, in the vicinity of State College, I read a piece in the local paper about the opening of trout season. Though I'd never had any particular interest in the sport, it suddenly seemed very appealing. As soon as I got home, I bought a low-priced rod and reel, an assortment of flies, a pair of waders, and a copy of Fly Fishing for Dummies, and an obsession was born.
My interest in "Law & Fly Fishing" was originally tongue in cheek. When I first arrived at Stanford to teach legal writing, I decorated my office with a picture of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, an avid and adept angler, from one of my fly fishing magazines. I joked that I was going to write the definitive law review article on the influence of fly fishing on Supreme Court jurisprudence, examining how Justice O'Connor's experience at swinging a fly down and across stream helped shape her perspective as a swing Justice.
While fly fishing may not really have influenced the Court, it did, in a small way, influence my career in legal education. While interviewing at Elon, I learned that Justice O'Connor had spoken at the Law School's formal dedication, and that the University's plans for starting a law school arose, at least in part, from a conversation between Justice O'Connor and Elon President Leo Lambert during a fishing trip. I'd already been lured by the opportunity to help to build a new institution (an especially appealing prospect for someone interested in the sociology of legal education); the fishing story helped set the hook.
What began as a jest eventually emerged into a (relatively) serious research agenda. My interest in social norms and informal order led me to think about fly fishing customs and innovations in socio-legal terms, as a sort of "folk law". My interest in administrative law led me to think about the evolution of recreational fishing regulations in relation to the transition from agrarian to industrial to post-industrial society, and to the emergence of the environmentalist movement. My interest in business organizations and market regulation led me to think about business practices and competition among tackle manufacturers, fly fishing shops, and guide services.
I am fortunate that Elon is located in close proximity to some of the best fly fishing in the eastern United States. Just over an hour's drive away, we have Virginia's Smith River. A bit further, but still within day-trip range, the small streams, full of gorgeous native brook trout, along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the fine smallmouth bass fishing on the (ironically named) New River. For weekend expeditions, the great rivers of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and the wild streams of the Smokey Mountains.
Others may call it recreation; I call it fieldwork.