Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Literature’ Category

A.A. Luce on “The Fisherman,” by W.B. Yeats.

October 27, 2018

Yeats in 1908. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Irish poet William Butler Yeats, winner of the 1923 Nobel prize in literature, published “The Fisherman” in 1919. In the poem, Yeats describes his past observation of a fly fisherman. In his memory, this man represents a simple life, free from the daily pressures most of us face. No doubt, Yeats faced serious pressures, indeed; when he wrote “The Fisherman,” he was already a successful poet and felt many demands upon his time and talents. And he had been deeply involved in Irish nationalism and would immerse himself in politics again, in the future.
I share the poem, below. Following it is commentary upon its meaning by A.A. Luce. Importantly, Luce was a philosopher and a fly fisher, himself.
“The Fisherman”
Although I can see him still—
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies—
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped it would be
To write for my own race
And the reality:
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved—
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer—
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.
Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream—
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, “Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.
A.A. Luce, as a professor at Trinity College Dublin, was a colleague and acquaintance of Yeats’. In his remarkable Fishing and Thinking (Swan Hill, 1959), he wonders why Yeats chose to write about an angler:
Why did he pitch on angling, of all occupations? Why did he idealize the angler? It could not have been an accident. He must have found something in his own angling that answered a felt need. Was it objectivity, the sense of control by the object? The artistic imagination is in special need of such control and values it. When one’s sense of reality is perturbed, and the line between the real and the imaginary wavers, and perhaps the point approaches when “nothing is but what is not”, a day on a river is wonderful cure. It takes us out of ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, to which our sensing, imagining, thinking and action must conform. The sanity of the angler’s outlook commends angling to the sick in mind.  …. The fresh air, the open spaces, the physical exercise, the nature of the occupation and the objectivity of the chase combine to make angling a sedative and a general tonic for the occupational dis-ease of the man of letters. (83)
I like Yeats’ poem, despite what feels to me like a bit of whining on its author’s part. I have faced my share of challenges, but my life is filled with blessings. One of them is the fact that I can fish regularly. As Luce suggests and perhaps as Yeats felt too, I find “the real” when I fish or otherwise spend time free from many of expectations and requirement placed upon me by those with whom I have very little meaningful connection. I was interested to hear a guest lecturer in my angling literature course say much the same thing this last week, and I wonder how many others feel the same. Regardless, I look forward to a good sleep and to experiencing reminders of what is “real’ tomorrow on the stream.
Addendum (11/5/18):  I found mention of Yeats in this essay on occult bookstores, published this morning, to be intriguing: “Reading the Occult,” by Neil Armstrong.

Missoula’s Paul Bunyan

October 8, 2018

Today’s Missoulian, the local newspaper of Missoula, Montana, features an article on legendary Montana fly fishing figure Norman Means, aka “Paul Bunyan.” Means is probably most widely  known as the creator of the “Bunyan Bug” fly, fished in Norman Macleans’ A River runs Through It. The article, by Kim Briggeman, is based upon the many mentions of Means in various editions of the Missoulian published during the last century.

For instance, Briggeman offers this quote from a 1928 article: “Norman is a believer in the use of Western Montana products. He makes all his own fishing tackle, and turns out a few fly rods for his friends. These rods have life and endurance, and they are peculiarly adapted to Montana streams because their maker puts them together knowing exactly the kind of water they will be used in.”

It’s a great article, for those interested in Montana’s early and often enigmatic fly tiers. Read it here: “Missoula Rewound: Bunyan fished, Means danced through the heart of the 20th Century.”

A Means tied Bunyan Bug and a Jack Boehme Balsa Bug. They sit on a 1989 edition of A River, featuring wood engraved illustrations by Barry Moser. Boehme was another renowned Missoula fly tier.

Hands-on Literary History

September 18, 2018

I have previously written that Washington State University, where I work, has a massive collection of rare angling  texts housed in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections department. The collection includes over 15,000 items and continues to grow. Last week, I took the Honors College students enrolled in my class, “Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Play in ‘Nature,'” to see some of the texts.

The students just read the Middle English essay “A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth and Angle” (late fifteenth c.),  and Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation (1653) is next on their list. So it is no small thing for them to see and handle an incunable copy of the Treatyse (as included in The Boke of St Albans) and a first and many other editions of The Complete Angler.

Following are a few pictures taken during our visit. I’m grateful to Dr. Trevor James Bond, Associate Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, for welcoming the students to the collection. Dr. Bond is a passionate and engaging host.

Boke of St Albans, incunable.

 

First and other editions of The Compleat Angler (MASC holds 506 copies)

 

Dr. Bond engages students in discussion.

 

 

The shimmering quality of this hand-painted illustration in Freshwater Fishes, is due to the inclusion of ground fish scales in the paint.

Ed Shenk, East and West

August 31, 2018

Last weekend, I visited a few small streams with my dog and a favorite rod. The rod is my 5’2″ 4 wt glass rod built by the legendary angler, author, and fly tier Ed Shenk. I bought the rod when I lived in Central Pennsylvania, and I have not used it much since returning to the West. Last week, I found that it was well-suited to some of the little streams that hold native cutthroat trout near my home. Of course, while fishing, I got the thinking about Pennsylvania, the short rods that Shenk favors, the body of angling literature produced by Shenk and his Pennsylvania peers, and more.

Since then, I have noticed that the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Association will be honoring Shenk during their annual fund-raising dinner this year. They will be honoring the late Lefty Kreh as well.  If you are in the area, you might consider attending in order to help support the PFFMA preserve the legacies of Shenk, Vincent Marinaro, Charlie Fox, and so many other famous anglers from the region.

Another year, another Angling Literature Syllabus

August 20, 2018

Following is this semester’s syllabus for my angling literature course. Suggestions are always welcome (as are visitors).

 

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

HONORS 380.3, Fall 2018
Class Time: TU,TH 9:10 AM-10:25 PM
Class Location: Todd Hall 324
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 10:30 AM-12:00 PM and by appointment.

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

 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.

The following table identifies specific learning goals (“LG”) to be achieved by the student:

  At the end of this course, students should be able to: This objective will be evaluated primarily by: Assignments and Activities  advancing students toward these learning goals:
LG1 Demonstrate a firm command of the theories used to explain the social significance of play. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussion of important anthropological, philosophical, and religious studies theories (weeks 2, 5, 9, 12).
LG2 Think critically about the concept of “nature” and its construction in Euro-American thought. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussions of anthropological literature, the views of angling authors, and reflections upon Euro-American ontology (weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15).
LG3 Analyze the religious significance that many people ascribe to activities that take place outside the confines of “conventional” religion. Classroom discussions and final paper.  Readings about and discussions of  ritual, religious experience, and “religion” (weeks 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

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:

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, ed. Marjorie Swann, The Compleat Angler (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2014).
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 (New York: Back Bay Books, 2016)

Other readings are listed in the tentative schedule and will be accessible online, via the course’s Blackboard site. These readings include excerpts from the following:

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).
Snyder, Sam, Borgelt, Bryon, Tobey, Elizabeth, Backcasts: A Global History of Fly Fishing and Conservation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2016).

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 11:59 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 380.3 Paper #–your first and last name” (e.g., HONORS 380.3 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.

Midterm Exam Date: Oct. 2.

Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

TENTATIVE WEEKLY SCHEDULE

 Week 1: August 21 and 23.

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

Readings: Snyder, “Wading through the History of Angling’s Evolving Ethics” (online).

Film: Prosek, The Complete Angler.

Week 2: August 28 and 30.

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

Readings: Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” (online); Harvey, “Signs of Life and Personhood” (online).

Week 3: September 4 and 6.

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

Readings: Hoffman, “Trout and Fly, Work and Play, in Medieval Europe (online); Berners, “The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle” (online); James, excerpt from “Mysticism” (online).

Paper 1 Due Sept. 4.

Week 4: September 11 and 13.

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 18 and 20.

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 25 and 27.

The Americas, Natural Law, and Romanticism.

Readings: Seecombe, “Business and Diversion” (online).

Paper 2 Due Sept. 25.

Week 7: October 2 and 4.

Midterm Exam (Oct. 2).

No class Sept. 4.

Week 8: October 9 and 11.

The Americas, Romanticism v. Reality.

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

Week 9: October 16 and 18.

Fishing, Religion, and Relationship.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 1-6, Fishing and Thinking (online

Paper 3 Due Oct. 16.

Week 10: October 23 and 25.

Fishing, Relationship, and Ethics.

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

Week 11: October 30 and November 1.

Lived Religion, Map, and Territory.

Readings: Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Week 12: November 6 and 8.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, and Ecology.

Readings:  Duncan, The River Why.

Paper 4 Due.

Week 13: November 13 and 15.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism,and Ecology.

Readings: Duncan, The River Why;

Week 14: November 20 and 22.

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

Readings: Lokensgard, “From Serpents to Fly Fishers: Changing Attitudes in Blackfeet Country toward Fish and Fishing” (online).

No class Nov. 20 and 22. 

Week 15: November 27and 29.

 No class: Thanksgiving Break       

Week 16: December 4 and 6.

Religion, “Nature,” and the Environment.

Film: A River runs Through It.

Analytic Paper Due: December 7 by 11:59 PM.

 Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

 

Copyright 2018 Kenneth H. Lokensgard

Halford’s Flies

August 9, 2018

I was just looking through a few personal pictures of antiquarian angling books, hoping to find some lost files I need for a publication. I did not find them, but I did come across these pictures I took of the deluxe edition of Frederick Halford‘s 1897 Dry Fly Entomology (London: John Bale & Sons for Vinton & Co.,). I am sharing a few pages, below. The flies on the plates are actual flies attached directly to the pages.

 

 

John Betts’ handwritten Legacy

June 8, 2018

John Betts of Colorado has authored several, beautiful books devoted to angling topics. His 1980 publication, Synthetic Flies, first brought him wide attention. Even Sports Illustrated  highlighted the fly tying innovations represented in Synthetic Flies. In 1981, SI published an article on Betts, authored by Robert Boyle, titled “Gotcha! Hook, Line, and Lingerie”  Since then, Betts has written about making split wood fly rods (note, bamboo, used in split cane rods, is a grass), hand-building fly reels, and more.

What I admire most about Betts’ work is that his creativity extends beyond the topics of his books to the creation of the books themselves. He hand writes, rather than types, and personally illustrates each book. Moreover, the meanings of his words run much, much deeper than subjects at hand. Indeed, he writes poetically about tackle construction and other matters. In recent years, Betts has worked with editor and publisher Michael Hackney, of Reel Lines Press and The Eclectic Angler (and initially in association with The Whitefish Press), to make his books–old and new–available. I purchased a copy of the latest Betts book, Patterns.

Hackney writes of Betts’ texts, on the Reel Lines Press web page, that “each book is a work of art unto itself.” This is certainly true of this newest book. The content, writing, drawing, and paintings are wonderful. It is soft covered, and only 200 copies will be produced. Even if you do not need a new fly tying book, which (on the surface) is primarily what Patterns is, you owe it to yourself to examine a Betts book. No doubt, he has already written about a topic that will appeal to you.

Betts describes his creative process, including his use of a Rotring pen.

 

Betts discusses Frederic Halford and other historical tyers, in Patterns.

 

An example of Betts’ tying instructions, in Patterns.

University Angling Literature Honors Course

April 25, 2018

Next year, I am happily offering my course on angling literature and culture again. I look forward to sharing some thoughts, as the students and I move through some great texts and discussions together. It’s a great pleasure to teach this course here at Washington State University, where we have a huge collection of fishing and other field sports literature.

Lokensgard Honors '18

A Legend Passes

April 18, 2018

I wrote previously about Dr. Dan Klein, in my ‘Art, Friendship, and Dan Klein’s Flies‘ post of 2016. Dr. Klein was a legendary Montana fly tyer and the father of my oldest friend. His tying fame extended well beyond the banks of his beloved Henry’s Fork.  Essays about him even appeared in Esquire Magazine and, more recently, in Joe Beelart’s book, “Howells: The Bamboo Fly Rods & Fly Fishing History of Gary H. Howells” (Whitefish Press).

Sadly, Dr. Klein has passed. His obituary, written by his loving daughter, Janet, appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle today. Those who read it, will see that Dr. Klein lived a full and admirable life, and that fly fishing featured heavily.

One of these days ….

March 3, 2018

One of these days, in the middle of a salmon fly hatch, I’m going to try out one of Norman Means’ famous “Bunyan Bugs.” If they worked almost 100 years ago, they should work now.

img_2721

Pflueger 1394, Jack Boehme “Balsa Bug,” Norman Means’ “Bunyan Bug.”


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