Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Literature’ Category

Fiddles, Fly rods, and Fall

November 11, 2015

I was able to spend a few days at our cabin last week. I passed part of the time there reading A Thousand Mornings of Music: The Journal of an Obsession with the Violin (Crown Publishers, 1970),  by Arnold Gingrich. Of course, I spent time enjoying my family and fly fishing, as well.

 12195755_10206879307454150_3478103822401590742_n  IMG_1979

I have long been a fan of Gingrich’s writings, especially of The Well Tempered Angler (Alfred A. Knopf, 1965). In A Thousand Mornings of Music Gingrich writes about a passion that paralleled his interest in all things fly fishing–a passion for violins, which he playfully calls “fiddles” throughout the book. If you have read his angling books or Toys of a Lifetime (Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), you know that he had the tendencies of a collector. In A Thousand Mornings he describes those tendencies, as they were directed toward violins over a period of several years. At the end of that period (and at the end of the book) he had acquired violins made by some of the most respected luthiers in history. Among them was one made by Antonio Stradivari of Cremona (now a of part of northern Italy), in 1672. Gingrich named this violin “The Gudgeon,” after its second owner.

Gingrich’s Stradivarius was played for a period by Hungarian born virtuosa, Erna Rubinstein. Gingrich, himself, during his tenure as a collector, renewed his own studies of violin playing. For a time, he even spent early morning at the Rembert Wurlitzer offices,  playing celebrated, rare violins that passed through the company’s hands.


It is no surprise that Gingrich loved both violins and bamboo fly rods. Many people have made comparisons between them, emphasizing the care that must be exercised in forming both, the importance of varnish, and so on. Indeed, I know more than one fly fisher, who collects violins. That said, the work done by luthiers is certainly much more extensive than that done by any fly rod maker.

I recently came across a video that shows a French luthier, Dominique Nicosia, engaged in his craft. The video was made by Baptiste Buob and filmed at the Musée de la lutherie et de l’archèterie françaises de Mirecourt. No doubt, Gingrich would have loved such films. Yet, I hope that neither music nor his interest in instruments would have kept him away from the beauty that we find while fly fishing, a beauty that far exceeds that produced by of any violinist, luthier, or rod maker.


Visiting the Past

October 10, 2015

Last week, I took my students to the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections Department of our university libraries. Washington State University’s MASC holds a huge collection of angling texts, many of which were donated by alumni Joan and Vernon Gallup. MASC Department Head Trevor James Bond gave an informative and enjoyable overview of the collection to the students. I urge anyone interested in working with these texts, or even visiting them for the mere pleasure of doing so, to contact him. And if you do visit, let’s wet a line.


Various editions of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. First editions (1653) in the foreground. Vellum bound edition, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1931), in right background.


First Edition of The Compleat Angler


William Blacker’s Catechism of Fly Making, Angling, and Dying (1843).


The actual flies tipped into Blacker’s text. This copy includes both trout and salmon flies.


Bond. Trevor James Bond. Seriously, this guy knows a lot more about security than Daniel Craig does.


Thanks and Wonder

October 4, 2015


Steve Duda, editor of The Flyfish Journal, titles the editor’s column in the latest issue (7:1) of the magazine “Afflicted by Wonder.” In the column, he writes about his passion for “anything having to do with the earliest history of our sport.” He continues on to discuss fifteenth century Breviary of Leonardus Haslinger, about which I wrote some time back.

Duda kindly writes that he was made aware of The Breviary through my own “excellent blog.” I am grateful for this note. I think very highly of The Flyfish Journal, preferring its literary, reflective tone to the more technical and often sensationalistic tone of other outdoor magazines. Of course, this tone is maintained by Duda’s editorial leadership. I should add that he is fine writer, himself, as well.

In “Afflicted by Wonder,” Duda describes how many fly fishers are particularly taken with certain aspects of the sport, which leads them to seek more information and to grow even more passionate about the activity, generally. Like Duda, much of my passion has to do with sporting history. Whatever your passion may be, as a fly fisher, it will likely be fueled by The Flyfish Journal. And if you are not a fly fisher … well, I am sure there are print publications out their for you too, though there are certainly fewer of them than there were in the past.

The Master’s Advice

September 29, 2015
"Piscator, Auceps, and Venator," Arthur Rackham, 1931.

“Piscator, Auceps, and Venator,” Arthur Rackham, 1931.

“There is no necessity of being rich: for I told you, there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side of them.”

Piscator, the “Master,”  speaking to Venator, in Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, 1653.

Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Play in “Nature”

August 21, 2015

Posted below is the syllabus for the fly fishing themed course I’ll be teaching at my university this fall.

Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Play in “Nature”

Depiction of Juliana Berners. Lithograph by William Nicholson, 1898.

Depiction of Juliana Berners. Lithograph by William Nicholson, 1898.

HONORS 380.2, Fall 2015

Class Time: TU,TH 2:50-4:05

Class Location: AVER 8

Professor: Ken Lokensgard

Office: Plateau Center for Native American Programs, Cleveland 23A

Phone: 509-335-1055


Office Hours: TU,TH 4:15-5:00 pm and by appointment.


This course is an introduction to the literary history, religious significance, and socio-cultural impact of fishing. Students will read historically and culturally important texts ranging from those written in Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and in contemporary North America. All of these texts emphasize a relationship between religious experience, fishing, and the environment. We will explore this relationship, considering the cultural settings of each text while also learning about the overlapping aesthetic, ritual, and ecological dimensions ascribed to fishing—particularly fly fishing—by some of the most notable writers and intellectuals in European and Euro-American history. For comparisons’ sake, we will briefly examine religion and fishing in cultures outside of the European and North American literary worlds, as well. In addition to fishing literature, students will read relevant theoretical texts on religious experience, conservation, ecology, “play,” and “nature.”

As a whole, this course will serve as a focused study of the role that the extra-human environment and religious practice play in European, North American, and other cultural contexts. Thus, the course will introduce students to literature and ways of thinking that can be applied to any implicitly or explicitly religious phenomena that are practiced in so-called “natural” places. Moreover, the course will introduce students to the often religious significance that conservation and other ecologically informed practices play in the lives of many contemporary people.

This course is both reading and writing intensive. Most of the readings, however, were originally written for a popular audience. Also, the writing assignments will allow the student to incorporate his or her own, carefully examined reactions to these readings in his or her papers and essays. Therefore, this class is intended to be entertaining and engaging. Yet, it is designed for the student who is willing to consider religion within its broadest contours, who can devote concerted time to readings, and who is willing to engage in regular and thoughtful writing. If you are not such a student, then, this course is not designed for you.

Please note that Washington State University is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its faculty, staff, and students. Safety is the responsibility of every member of the campus community and individuals should know the appropriate actions to take when an emergency arises. In support of our commitment to the safety of the campus community the University has developed a Campus Safety Plan, It is highly recommended that you visit this web site as well as the University emergency management web site at to become familiar with the information provided.


Required Books:

Swearer, Donald. Ecology and the Environment: Perspectives from the Humanities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Browning, Mark, Haunted by Waters: Fly Fishing in North American Literature (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998).

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, ed. Marjorie Swann, The Compleat Angler (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2014).

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).

Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Duncan, David James, The River Why, Twentieth-Anniversary Edition (Sierra Club Books, 2002). NOTE: This book is not available through The Bookie.

Other readings are listed in the tentative schedule and will be accessible online, via the course’s Blackboard site.

Films, Guest Lectures, and other activities will serve as important resources. The films are listed in the tentative schedule, below. Informal guest lectures will be delivered by regional artists, authors, and anglers at dates to be announced. Each guest will address the aesthetic and “spiritual” dimensions of fly fishing, from his or her perspective as a craftsperson or author. We will also visit the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections reading room to examine exceptionally rare editions of texts read or discussed in class, which are part of the Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Collection. Among these texts are several first and other 17th c. editions of The Compleat Angler.

Please note this course is designed to help students develop their critical reading and writing skills. Specific methods of critical reading and writing will be discussed in class at opportune times. You are also strongly encouraged to make use of the instructor’s office hours and of the Undergraduate Writing Center in Smith CUE 303.


Four three-page critical reaction papers will be submitted throughout the semester. Papers should be written in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins. Each of these papers is worth 5 percent of your total grade (5 points each). There will be two exams, which will include short answer and essay questions. Each exam is worth 20 percent of the total course grade (20 points each). Toward the end of the semester, a twelve-page paper, analyzing the treatment of religion in at least three of the assigned readings, or in three texts dealing with other “outdoor” practices sometimes characterized as religious (I will provide a bibliography), must be submitted. This paper is worth 30 percent of your total grade (30 points). Ten points are reserved for attendance. Attendance will be taken randomly 10 times during the semester; an unexcused absence during any of these days will result in the loss of one point. See the tentative schedule, below, for due dates and exam dates.

An accumulated 93 or more total points for the course will result in a final “A” grade (“A+” and “D-“ letter grades are not awarded at WSU).

90-92pts = A-

87-89 pts = B+

83-86 pts = B

80-82 pts = B-

77-79 pts = C+

73-76 pts = C

70-72 pts = C-

67-69 pts = D+

60-66 pts = D

0-59 pts = F

Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.


Academic integrity is absolutely required in this course. Any student caught cheating, in any way, will fail the course and be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability. Cheating is defined by Washington State Academic Code ((WAC 504-26-010 (3).) It is strongly suggested that you read and understand the definitions.

In this writing intensive course, you should be particularly mindful of avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined in WAC 504-26-010 (3i) as follows:

Plagiarism is presenting the information, ideas, or phrasing of another person as the student’s own work without proper acknowledgment of the source. This includes submitting a commercially prepared paper or research project or submitting for academic credit any work done by someone else. The term “plagiarism” includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.

All written assignments must be submitted by 11:00 pm on the day they are due. To do this, upload your paper as a document file in the “assignments” section of the course’s Blackboard site. The title of your file should be “HONORS 380.2 Paper #–your first and last name” (e.g., HONORS 380.2 Paper 1–Juliana Berners). Please put your name on the first page of the document itself, as well. Late assignments will not be accepted unless prior arrangements are made or if a documentable emergency occurs.

Tentative Midterm Exam Date: Oct. 6.

Final Exam Date and Time: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.


Week 1: August 25 and 27.

Academic Integrity, the Academic Study of Religion, and Religion as a Lived, Social Phenomenon.

Readings: Browning, ch’s 1 and 2, Haunted by Waters (skip “The Interludes”); Snyder, “New Streams of Religion (online); Primiano, “Vernacular Religion” (online).

Film: Prosek, The Complete Angler.

Week 2: September 1 and 3.

Water, Humanity, and Other-Than-Human Worlds.

Readings: Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” (online); Jackson, “Cultural Readings of the ‘Natural World’” (online).

Week 3: September 8 and 10.

Ancient and Medieval European Fishing, Monasticism, Sustenance, and Leisure.

Readings: Hoffman, ed., Excerpt from Fernando Basurto’s Dialogo (online); Berners, “The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle” (online); James, “Mysticism” (online).

Paper 1 Due

Week 4: September 15 and 17.

King Arthur’s Knights, Celtic and Anglo Saxon Fishing, and England.

Readings: Walton, The Compleat Angler (Part I, ch’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, 21).

Visit to MASC.

Week 5: September 22 and 24.

The Enlightenment, Play, and the Escape to Nature.

Readings: Cotton, The Compleat Angler (Part II, letters, “Retirement,” skim ch’s 5-12).

Week 6: September 29 and October 1.

The Americas, Natural Law, and Romanticism.

Readings: Worster “Nature, Liberty, and Equality,” in Ecology and Environment; Seecombe, “Business and Diversion” (online).

Paper 2 Due.

Week 7: October 6 and 8.

Midterm Exam (Oct. 6).

The Americas, Romanticism v. Reality.

Browning, ch’s 5 and 6 (skip “Interludes), Haunted by Waters.

Week 8: October 13 and 15.

The Americas, Romanticism v. Reality.

Hemingway, “Big Two-Hearted River” (online).

Week 9: October 20 and 22.

Fishing, Religion, and Relationship.

Readings: Browning, ch’s 9, Haunted by Waters; Luce, ch’s 1-6, Fishing and Thinking.

Paper 3 Due.

Week 10: October 27 and 29.

Fishing, Relationship, and Ethics.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 7-12, Fishing and Thinking.

Week 11: November 3 and 5.

Lived Religion, Map, and Territory.

Readings: Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Week 12: November 10 and 12.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, and Ecology.

Readings: Duncan, The River Why.

Paper 4 Due.

Week 13: November 17 and 19.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism,and Ecology.

Readings: Duncan, The River Why; Browning, ch’s 7 and 8, Haunted by Waters.

Week 14: November 19 and 21.

Native American and other Religious Views of Water, Fish, and Fishing.

Readings: Browning, ch 3, Haunted by Waters; Tucker, “Touching the Depths of Things,” in Ecology and the Environment; Lokensgard, “One-Horned Serpents, Underwater People, and Fly Fishers” (online).

Week 15: December 1 and 3.

Religion, “Nature,” and the Environment.

Readings: Taylor, “From the Ground Up,” in Ecology and the Environment; Browning, ch’s 10 and 11, Haunted by Waters.

Week 16: December 8 and 10.


Readings: Ecology and the Environment, “Literature as Environmentalist Thought Experiment.”

Film: A River runs Through It.

Analytic Paper Due: December 10.

Final Exam Date and Time: Tuesday, Dec. 15, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

Copyright 2015 Kenneth H. Lokensgard

Southern Appalachian Fly Fishing and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

August 17, 2015
American Angler and Southern Appalachian Flies, including the Yellow Hammer.

American Angler and Southern Appalachian Flies, including the Yellow Hammer.

The other day, I had a few spare minutes between meetings on the Colville Indian Reservation and picked up the latest issue of American Angler (July/August 2015) to pass the time. In the “Headwaters section,” I came across an article by Beau Beasley, noting the grand opening of the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. The museum is located in Cherokee, North Carolina. Cherokee is on the “Quallah Boundary”–the land trust of the sovereign Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Quallah Boundary functions much like the reservations of other federally recognized Native American nations.

Having lived in North Carolina, I know there is fantastic fly fishing in the Southern Appalachians. And I appreciate the rich history associated with Southern Appalachian fly fishing, though it is far less known than the history of fishing in Central Pennsylvania, much further up the Appalachian range. Many anglers have tasted just a hint of the former, in the writings of Harry Middleton. Middleton is the author of On the Spine of Time and several other beautiful books about fishing the Smokey Mountains (and Ozarks). Even though I am from Montana and have finally relocated to the West, I honestly miss some of the southeastern fishing.

Cherokee is an appropriate place for the Fly Fishing Museum. The tribe maintains their own hatchery and heavily stocks many local waters. Of course, there are wild trout in the area as well, which are far more appealing to people like myself. Scholar Heidi Altman, in her book Eastern Cherokee Fishing (2006) notes that fly fishing “exerts a strong influence in the area” and that it may be difficult to distinguish between environmental knowledge passed down traditionally and that which derives distinctly from fly fishing (79).  Moreover, many Southern Appalachian fly fishers claim that the Yellow Hammer or Yaller Hammer fly was developed by Cherokee anglers. Historically, however, the Cherokee primarily used traps, weirs, and spears to harvest fish (it does seem, however, that some other Native American peoples developed fly fishing practices independently from those brought by Europeans).

I congratulate the town of Cherokee and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for hosting this new museum, which is certainly a unique one in Indian Country. Congratulations to the founders of the museum, as well.


A favorite Southern Appalachian spot.


Speckled Trout (Brookie) or Unanvtsadv, in the Cherokee language.

Photo by Mike Sepelak.

Photo by Mike Sepelak.

Pete Dexter and Norman Maclean

July 8, 2015

A celebration of Norman Maclean’s writings, “In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean: a Literary Festival,” about which I have written previously, will take place this weekend in Seeley Lake, Montana. A few days ago, The Missoulian (Missoula, MT’s mainstream newspaper), interviewed Pete Dexter, who wrote a well-respected profile on Maclean for Esquire in June, 1981. Dexter is among the many speakers who will be featured at the festival this weekend. You can find The Missoulian article here: Novelist Pete Dexter: Maclean put everything on the line with ‘River’.

Angling Gifts from Magyarország

May 25, 2015

While in Magyarország/Hungary, my wife and daughter and I took the ferry across the Danube River one morning to Visegrád to meet Ákos Szmutni. Ákos is the owner of Stickman Rods and the author of a beautiful hard-bound, Hungarian language instructional book on fly fishing. The 2009 text, which totals over 400 pages with color photos, is simply titled Legyező-Horgászat (Fly Fishing). 

My wife and daughter drove up to the Cloud Castle above Visegrád, a favorite place to visit, while I spent time with my fellow angler. We cast several Stickman Rods and shared thoughts about fly fishing, Central Europe, and life. Afterward, Ákos kindly gave me a copy of his book. It is pictured below, with a benchmade Hungarian knife, some flies tied “in hand” by Hungarian fly fisher and friend Levente Kovács, and an Association of Hungarian Flyfishers Badge.



The Lower and Upper Castles (13th c.) of Visegrád, as seen from the ferry below. I admire the Upper or “Cloud Castle” often because it can be seen from the home of friends in Nagymaros, the town across the river. You can see far better pictures at the Visegrád website.

My Fall 2015 “Religion, Sport, and Water” University Course

April 13, 2015


“Fog Makes the Small River Smaller,” by Gary Metras

April 12, 2015
Fishing on Letort

Fly fishing the LeTort Spring Run, PA, 2006. Photo by John Bechtel III.

There is nothing quite like greeting the day from the bank of a river still covered in fog. Such a moment becomes essentially magical, when it occurs in a place that remains more the dominion of animals than of man. Massachusetts writer and angler Gary Metras captures this magic in his poem, “Fog Makes the Small River Smaller.” It is included in his collection titled Two Bloods: Fly Fishing Poems, published by Split Oak Press in 2010. I am glad to have been directed toward the book, and I strongly recommend it. While I use the term “magic” to describe the feeling captured in the following poem, it is a sort of magic that arises from the very real, but complex and hardly known physical world around us. If you can relate to this earthy magic, then Mr.Metras’ writings will appeal to you. And know that he has published many texts, besides the one cited here.

Fog makes the small river smaller.
Sunrise has little effect–
Strands of white weave

through the overwhelming gray.
A fly fisher stands in the flow
a few feet from shore.

He dresses his line with
the misty wall surrounding him.
A slight splash upstream. Another.

Deer, not bear. He smiles, thinking:
If the air were clear as the water,
this would be a postcard and a story.

Then he imagines his legs as delicate
as a deer’s testing unseen rocks
for the slip that means

breakage, that means breath of coyote
on the tensed neck hair. All that
for a few sips of the new morning.

Another splash. A twig cracks.
Then, silence except the soft spill of river.
He ties on something dark and woolly,

strips line from the reel, throws it
into the air, into the wall of fog,
a sliver of green line slicing the bloodless gray.

It fall out there, beyond sight,
with hardly a sound.
He strips more line, hauls it back

over his head, pauses without thought,
and casts arm and line and fly
into the unknown.


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