Archive for the ‘Fishing and Religion’ Category

Maclean Family Rods featured in Montana Fishing History Exhibit

March 27, 2017

The Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, MT, currently features a special exhibit titled “Hooked: Fishing in Montana.” The exhibit is located in their hallway gallery and will run until early 2018. Items displayed in the survey of all sorts of fishing practices range from a mid-nineteenth century Nez Perce dugout canoe to fly fishing tackle. Among the latter are numerous items associated with Norman Maclean, author of beloved A River Runs Through It and other Stories (Chicago, 1976). These include a Granger “Champion” bamboo rod fished by Norman, as well as a Leonard rod fished by his father, the Reverend John Maclean. Anyone passionate about the history of what we now call Montana and, of course, anyone passionate about the history of fly fishing, will enjoy the exhibit.

Maclean Family Fly Rods

In general, the MHS Museum is excellent. Fishing aside, the museum is worth a visit for the exhibit of Charlie Russell (1864-1926) artwork, alone. Another exhibit “Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark” is also very well done. Notably, the representation of Indigenous peoples, coordinated with tribal representatives, is prominent.

“Indians Discovering Lewis and Clark” C.M. Russell, oil, 1896. Montana Historical Society MacKay Collection. Public Domain

Book Announcement: Backcasts: A Global History of Flyfishing & Conservation

June 30, 2016

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On July 11, The University of Chicago Press publishes a book that will interest a wide variety of readers. The book is titled Backcasts: A Global History of Flyfishing & Conservation. It is edited by Sam Snyder, Bryon Borgelt, and Elizabeth Tobey. The 400 page book considers fish and fishing from overlapping recreational, cultural, and scientific perspectives.

The U of Chicago Press is publishing Backcasts exactly 40 years after they published Norman Maclean’s famous A River runs Through It and Other Stories. That publication was seminal, not only because of Maclean’s fine writing, but also because Chicago had never published a non-academic book before (though Maclean, a professor at Chicago, was an academic himself). Backcasts certainly qualifies as an academic book, but it should appeal to a much broader audience. The writing is accessible and the topics are wide-ranging. Just take a look at the table of contents (from U of Chicago Press’ publication webpage):

Foreword: Looking Downstream from A River
Jen Corrinne Brown

Acknowledgments

Introduction. A Historical View: Wading through the History of Angling’s Evolving Ethics
Samuel Snyder

Part One: Historical Perspectives
1 Trout and Fly, Work and Play, in Medieval Europe
Richard C. Hoffmann
2 Piscatorial Protestants: Nineteenth-Century Angling and the New Christian Wilderness Ethic
Brent Lane
3 The Fly Fishing Engineer: George T. Dunbar, Jr., and the Conservation Ethic in Antebellum America
Greg O’Brien

Part Two: Geographies of Sport and Concern
4. Protecting a Northwest Icon: Fly Anglers and Their Efforts to Save Wild Steelhead
Jack Berryman
5 Conserving Ecology, Tradition, and History: Fly Fishing and Conservation in the Pocono and Catskill Mountains
Matthew Bruen
6 From Serpents to Fly Fishers: Changing Attitudes in Blackfeet Country toward Fish and Fishing
Ken Lokensgard
7 Thymallus tricolor: The Michigan Grayling
Bryon Borgelt

Part Three: Native Trout and Globalization
8 “For Every Tail Taken, We Shall Put Ten Back”: Fly Fishing and Salmonid Conservation in Finland
Mikko Saikku
9 Trout in South Africa: History, Economic Value, Environmental Impacts, and Management
Dean Impson
10 Holy Trout: New Zealand and South Africa
Malcolm Draper
11 A History of Angling, Fisheries Management, and Conservation in Japan
Masanori Horiuchi

Part Four: Ethics and Practices of Conservation
12 For the Health of Water, Fish, and People: Women, Angling, and Conservation
Gretel Van Wieren
13 Crying in the Wilderness: Roderick Haig-Brown, Conservation, and Environmental Justice
Arn Keeling
14 The Origin, Decline, and Resurgence of Conservation as a Guiding Principle in the Federation of Fly Fishers
Rick Williams
15 It Takes a River: Trout Unlimited and Coldwater Conservation
John Ross

Conclusion. What the Future Holds: Conservation Challenges and the Future of Fly Fishing
Jack Williams and Austin Williams

Epilogue
Chris Wood, CEO, Trout Unlimited

Appendix. Research Resources: A List of Libraries, Museums, and Collections Covering Sporting History, Especially Fly Fishing
Contributors
Index

Readers of angling or other environmental literature will recognize the names of many contributors. My own name is among them. I am particularly pleased to be a contributor because editor Dr. Sam Snyder is a friend. Like me, he has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. His academic emphasis is upon the relationship between religion and the environment. In recent years, he has worked with several organizations protecting Alaska’s rivers. Sam’s co-editors are Dr. Bryon Borgelt, principal of St. Rose School in Perrysburg, Ohio and scholar of sport fishing and conservation, and Dr. Elizabeth Tobey, who has worked for the National Sporting Library & Museum and is an authority on field sports and religion. Of course, the cover artwork is by angler, author, and artist James Prosek.

I have yet to receive my complimentary copy of Backcasts, but having watched this book take shape, I am confident that it is going to represent a real contribution to existing literature and that it will be an entertaining and informative read, as well.  Books published by university presses can be pretty expensive these days, but the hardcover version of Backcasts is currently priced at a reasonable $45.00. You can order it from the U of Chicago Press, from Amazon.com, and hopefully from local bookstores.

Possibility

December 8, 2015

In preparing for the Honors class I teach today, I was rereading Mark Browning’s Haunted by Waters: Fly Fishing in North American Literature (Ohio University Press, 1998). Reading a work for a second or third time almost always reveals new passages of significance.  Today, I came across the following:

Ultimately, it seems, the best answer to the question why humans feel compelled to fish is that they fish in order to ask the question. Fishing is, by its nature, an uncertain and interrogatory endeavor, By engaging in this endeavor–or in writing, composing, painting, or any of a hundred other pursuits–the angler moves out of the realm of the known an into a creative realm of questions. (131).

This passage has significance to my class because we are exploring the reasons why there is such a large body of English-language literature devoted to angling and why so much of that literature has a religious theme.

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Some rods I shared with my students today.

Many authors of angling literature fished for food. Yet, even Dame Juliana Berners, the ostensive nun and author of the 15th c. A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle, suggests there is much more to angling than catching fish. For the angler who fails to procure her or his dinner with an artificial fly, Berners identifies several other benefits to trying:

And yet as the least he hath his holsome walke and mery at his ease, sweet ayre of the sweet sauour of the medow floures that maketh him hungry. He heareth the melodious armony of foules. He seeth the yonge swans, herons, duckes, cootes, and many other foules with their broodes, whyche me semeth better then all the noyse of houndes, the blastes of hornes, & the scry of foules, that hu[n]ters, faukeners, & foulers ca[n] make. And if the angler take fyshe: surely then is there no ma[n] meryer then he is in his spirite.

Browning, and other authors too, imply that a primary benefit of fishing is the sense of possibility that is part of each angling trip. This is the same sense of possibility that every reader feels when she or he begins a new book or rereads an old one. This is the sense of possibility that is represented by every blank page before the writer, every blank canvas before the artist, and so on. Most important, it the sense of possibility–of mystery even–that every religious person confronts through ritual and that some of us find in fly fishing.[1]

[1] Here I am thinking of Rudolf Otto’s concept of Mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

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

E-mail: kenneth.lokensgard@wsu.edu

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

DESCRIPTION AND GOALS OF COURSE 

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, http://safetyplan.wsu.edu. It is highly recommended that you visit this web site as well as the University emergency management web site at http://oem.wsu.edu/ to become familiar with the information provided.

ASSIGNED READINGS and OTHER RESOURCES

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.

REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

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 and EXPECTATIONS

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.

TENTATIVE WEEKLY SCHEDULE

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.

Conclusion.

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

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

April 13, 2015

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New Discovery of Early Fishing Text by Monk

March 13, 2015

Word has been circulating of an early angling text discovered by Maggs Bros. Ltd. of London. The text takes the form of notes bound in the back of a prayer book belonging to a Benedictine monk in Austria. The notes possibly date to 1450’s or 1460’s. The purpose of the notes are not clear, but they contain information on artificial flies and fishing. If the attributed dates are correct, the notes predate “The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle.”

As mentioned in the Game Fisher’s Diary episode below, the notes are similar to the text identified as Tegernseer Angel- und Fishbucklein, dating to approximately 1500. This latter text was probably created as a guide to fishers employed by Benedictine monks of Tegernsee Abbey, in Bavaria, to procure meat. You can learn more about the newly discovered text by watching linked video; it features a visit by Rae Borras to Maggs, where he discusses the text with Jonathan Reilly. The text, by the way, will cost you in the neighborhood of £125,000. (currently $184,264.22) to purchase.

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths and Religion

August 4, 2014

CBS Evening News has done an On the Road segment, entitled “Legendary Fishing Rod Creator shares a Special Secret,” on Tom and Gerry Morgan, of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths.  It is always interesting to see such stories in the mainstream media. In this particular case, the commentator, Steve Hartman, makes reference to the connection between religion and fly fishing that so many writers have claimed for so many centuries. Sadly, though, Hartman then describes a Tom Morgan rod as the “Holy Grail.” Of course, those who attribute deep meaning to fly fishing are inspired to do so by the experience, not the sometimes very expensive tackle. The commentator’s view reflects our society’s misplaced obsession with material wealth. No doubt, this obsession is often brought to the sport by certain tackle collectors and even by those who seem more concerned about what they look like on the stream than they are with the water and the life all around them. The inherent value of the living environment is so much greater that the merely symbolic value of our possessions.

Keepers

July 18, 2014

In my university courses, I often ask students to look critically at writing–to consider that the strength of traditions based upon writing depends upon people reading their culture’s texts. And I point out to students that our libraries are filled with books that are never touched. Academic books that go unread are typically books that deal with obtuse, unimportant topics.  Books written for popular audiences that go unread are often books that are simply written poorly. Of course, these are the often same reasons that certain journals, magazines, and websites go unread as well.

trout 2

Personally, I only subscribe to one magazine: The Flyfish Journal. The articles published therein are generally interesting and very well-written. I also receive Trout magazine, as part of my membership in the conservation organization, Trout Unlimited. However, in the past, I did not look at the articles in Trout very carefully. There were even times when I put the magazine directly into the recycling bin without getting past the contents page. It was not a magazine to which I would have chosen to subscribe. Fortunately, this has changed. The current editorial staff members–Kirk Deeter, Samantha Carmichael, and Erin Block–have made some great decisions about what to publish (and it is great to see their work, too, especially the very talented Erin’s) .

I was particularly happy that I looked through the latest issue of Trout more carefully than I looked at previous editions. In the Summer 2014 issue, I found articles by two close fly fishing friends. “Bad Boyfriend”, by Mike Sepelak, is an immensely creative, metaphorical essay about the dangers of introducing others to the disease we call fly fishing. In my opinion, Mike is a truly gifted writer, and I am very happy each time I see a new piece of his in print.  It does not seem that long ago that he was telling me about the writing class he had just enrolled in at our town’s community college. Now, he could probably teach that class. “A Fly-Fishing Pilgrimage to Montana,” by Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer, is an autobiographical essay, in which Eric relates the reasons behind his visit to the Big Blackfoot River and other Montana haunts of writer Norman Maclean.  As someone with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Eric’s reflections upon the deeper meanings that many of us–past and present–ascribe to fly fishing have long intrigued me. Some years ago, I invited  him to speak to my students, in a college course on fishing literature. In turn, he invited me to speak to his congregation.  Of course, we have also fished together. So, I enjoy his company as much in person as I do in print.

Mike and Eric are two angling writers who should be read. Their unique perspectives upon fly fishing and the reasons we fish, as well as their writing skills, place them among those authors whose works should not simply gather dust on a shelf. Indeed, their works serve to strengthen the traditions associated with fly fishing, one of which is writing itself.

Taken by Fairies and Fishing

July 11, 2014

Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) wrote his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University on Celtic views of and practices associated with “fairies.” He later expanded his work and published it as The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Counties, in 1911. He was undoubtedly influenced by the romanticism that also influenced mentor and poet William Butler Yeats and so many other Irish and other Northern European intellectuals at the time.  This romanticism is very evident in The Fairy-Faith, manifested in a great number of biases both in the ethnography and its interpretation.  Evans-Wentz was also influenced by mysticism, as presented by the American philosopher and psychologist William James, another of his mentors. And yet, Evans-Wentz displays a remarkable desire to take seriously the Celtic views of and practices surrounding fairies, which were and are dismissed by so many. This desire led him to record an immense amount of information presented directly from informants of Celtic descent in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Brittany. So, while we might set aside many of his interpretations, and while we must also treat the quotations of his informants (particularly those translated from Gaelic languages) with caution, there is much to be gleaned from The Fairy-Faith.  Moreover, it is simply a fascinating read, for those of us who love the green, misty, mountainous places that Evans-Wentz’s informants associated with fairies.

Evans-Wentz later went on to work on Tibetan Buddhism, popularizing its study among European and American academics. His work there, too, must be treated cautiously, as his attitudes toward Tibet and Buddhism were perhaps even more romantic than his attitude toward Celtic views and practices.  This is partly due to the fact that “Madame” Helena Blavatsky’s imaginative, Asian and Spiritualist influenced “Theosophy” was a significant part of his life.

Walter_Evans-Wentz_and_Lama_Kazi_Dawa_Samdup_photographed_circa_1919

While Evans-Wentz apparently spent a great deal of time on the banks of the Delaware River as a boy — even claiming to have had an “ecstatic” experience there — I do not know if there is direct evidence of him having been a fisherman, as his mentors Yeats and James certainly were. However, the Celtic informants whose voices are recorded in his first book, spoke often of fish in their broader discussions of fairies and other non-human persons that animated their landscapes. And it is these voices which interest me the  most.

Following, is a “testimony” about the fairies that Evans-Wentz  attributes to an anonymous “Peasant Seer” in County Sligo, Ireland:

Another time I was alone trout-fishing in nearly the same region when I heard a voice say, “It is — barefooted and fishing.” Then there came a whistle like music and a noise like the beating of a drum, and soon one of the gentry came and talked with me for half and hour. He said, “Your mother will die in eleven months, and do not let her die unanointed.” And she did die within eleven months. As he was going away he warned me, “You must be in the house before sunset. Do not delay! Do not delay! They can do nothing to you until I get back in the castle.” As I found out afterwards, he was going to take me, but hesitated because he did not want to leave my mother alone.

trout

As it does for the informants met by Evans-Wentz over a  hundred years ago, going trout fishing or simply going to the places where trout are found, feels like a sort of boundary crossing to me. There is a sense, too, of being taken or, more precisely, not wanted to return back across the boundary.  Mind you, I am not one to draw a hard distinction between nature and culture or even so-called “super-nature.”  I am not speaking, then, of entering and wanting to remain in another reality.  Rather, fishing for me simply involves entering an area dominated by others–the fish, bears, birds, and perhaps even fairies, though I have yet to meet one of the latter (there are, however, many traditions among Indigenous Americans that involve little people and other human-like beings, both malevolent and kind).

Regardless, my thoughts are often focused upon the very animated world around me, when I am visiting trout streams and their environs.  I know that I am not alone in this.  As evidence, I present a picture of a fairy house made by my wife, at our cabin, while I was catching the sort of fish that you will see in the picture above. Perhaps my wife’s purely artistic creation of the fairy house will serve to propitiate any other-than-human beings, who might be responsible for my often feeling “taken” with fly fishing.

House

Happy Holidays

December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays to my Brothers and Sisters of the Angle

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