Out of Bounds

Capturing the Perfect Moment

Had I allowed the instant gratification of social media to intrude on living in the moment? Maybe.

By Rob Breeding

When my daughters learned to fly fish, they taught me an important lesson: no fish is truly caught until it’s posted on social media.

You might scoff at this notion as another sign the apocalypse is upon us; that even the noble pursuit of trout with a fly has been polluted by the “look at me” culture of social media. I suppose that’s true in a way, but we kid ourselves when we suggest nothing so superficial as Facebook has ever before interfered with our outdoor Zen.

It’s just that the old way was a longer journey from a tight line to “Hey, look at this. I finally got that skin-mount of that huge brown I caught two years ago.”

Stream-side photos blow up the internet immediately.

Earlier generations had different systems for bragging. My dad’s rule was any fish brought to the net was “caught,” though the only trout Pop’s ever released were fish too small to be worthy of the stringer photo that was his generation’s version of Instagram.

I remember when I learned dad’s system had been replaced. I was fishing with my daughters on the Shoshone River in Wyoming, and one landed a decent cutthroat. A brief, but focused effort to get a couple of extra shots followed, while still getting the fish back in the water quickly.

Then she sat down on the bank to post.

I was perplexed. When I catch and release a trout the fever to catch another only burns stronger. But my daughter’s focus on social media wasn’t all that different from that of mine and my fishing companions. We just delay until we are off the water and waiting for dinner at the local pub to start influencing our followers.

I’m not so self-delusional as to be unaware that I’m prone to self-delusion, but I told myself that delaying the influencing until after fishing represented some higher state of angling existence.

Then I went on a recent barbecue tour in central Texas.

I was there for a week and tried three joints. Snow’s BBQ in the hamlet of Lexington, about an hour’s drive east of Austin, is where I realized if social-media excess is an actual sin, I’m as likely to face a skeptical St. Peter at the pearly gates as any influencer.

You see, at Snow’s the pit master is Tootsie Tomanetz, an 89-year-old legend and undisputed queen of Texas barbecue. By some standards that makes her the queen of barbecue, full stop. Snow’s was ranked the No. 1 joint in the state by Texas Monthly magazine, way back in 2008, and again in 2017. Tootsie was also featured in an episode of the Netflix series “Chef’s Table,” in 2020.

If you’re at all into barbecue, or just love to see unassuming, humble folk get their due for the magic they create in their work, you have to watch.

Then, as I waited for my 8 a.m. barbecue breakfast, I decided that even more important than eating smoked brisket was getting a photo with its creator. The queen intermittently, and reluctantly (humble folk don’t care for attention) steps out from the pit for photos with her fans.

After one failed effort, the gal who managed the free-beer line took my photo with Tootsie and Kerry Bexley, the man who launched Snow’s knowing only Tootsie could handle the job of pit master.

Photo taken and posted, I got back to eating. It was the best barbecue of my life, challenged only by the smoked meat I ate at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue — another former No. 1 —  the next day.

Had I allowed the instant gratification of social media to intrude on living in the moment? Maybe.

But if you doubt humans have been commemorating life’s milestones for as long as there have been milestones, I suggest you Google “ancient cave art,” and contemplate Neanderthal social media.