Hoagy B. Carmichael, Dr. George Parker Holden, and Fishing amidst “Riches and Poverty.”

Fresh or sweet water angling is one of the most ancient, cleanest, most engrossing, enduring, healthful, and accessible recreations available in this world of mingled riches and poverty, pleasure and pain . . . and it may be indulged in till one is well advanced toward decrepitude, and it forestalls decrepitude in many cases.

Dr. George Parker Holden, as quoted in Hoagy B. Carmichael, 8 by Carmichael (North Salem: Anesha Publishing, 2010), 39-40.

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With a bit of unexpected down time today, I embraced the long-awaited opportunity to read Hoagy B. Carmichael’s 8 by Carmichael.  This 2010 book, published jointly by Anesha Publishing and The Whitefish Press, contains several pieces published previously by Carmichael.  I was particularly happy to find “Vince,” an essay about Carmichael’s friendship with Pennsylvania dry fly master and bamboo rod builder, Vincent Marinaro (who was not widely known for such friendly relationships).  This particular piece was published earlier as the introduction to Bill Harms’ and Tom Whittle’s Split and Glued by Vincent C. Marinaro.

Carmichael offers profiles of several other notable American fly fishing personalities, who played important roles in the development of the sport.  Some of the profiles draw from his personal relationships to these individuals; others draw from historical sources. The profile of Dr. George Parker Holden is particular interesting.  Holden authored The Idyl of the Split-Bamboo in 1920, which was perhaps the best known text dealing explicitly with bamboo rods before Carmichael published his own A Master’s guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod in 1977 with Everett Garrison.

The epigraph to this post is a quote from Holden, which I found in 8 by Carmichael.  What strikes me about the quote is Holden’s implication that fly fishing can be enjoyed regardless of one’s social station or even in spite of it.  This, I think, echoes the arguments made centuries ago by the author of A Treatyse of Fyshynge with an Angle (1496) and even by Isaac Walton in The Compleat Angler (1653).

In most cases, fishing requires us to visit those places away from the cultured or humanly “cultivated” world.  That is, we are required to visit “natural” places that are more-or-less protected or reclaimed from the most ecologically damaging aspects of human culture.  These visits also allow us to set aside the less physical, but equally damaging concerns associated with culture, such as the concerns for money, status, etc.  No doubt, relief from the stress that usually accompanies these concerns is one of the things that makes fly fishing the spiritually and physically healthy activity that so many authors, including Holden, suggest that it is.

In any case, 8 by Carmichael is most certainly worth a read.  It happens to be a beautifully bound book, as well.  I hope that you’ll be able to escape your everyday world just long enough to enjoy it sometime, if you haven’t already.

Oh, and you might just check out some of the music and acting of Hoagy Carmichael, Sr., the fly fishing author’s famous father.  To do so all at once, and to engage your inner fly fisher as well, watch the wonderful 1944 film To Have and Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (loosely based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel and scripted in part by William Faulkner).  Bogart, in the role of a fishing guide, complaining about a client destroying his Hardy reel is a special moment in film history, for the fishing obsessed.  You can see all three actors here:

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