Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Literature’ Category

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.”

Repost: Ichabod Crane and the Angler

October 30, 2017
Painting of Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Painting of Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809 (Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

At this time of year, Washington Irving’s well-known “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is often brought to mind. This, of course, is the classic tale of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, his romantic rivalry with Brom Bones to gain the affections of Katrina Van Tassel, and his terrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman. It was originally part of a much larger collection of works by Irving, titled The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published in 1819 and 1820. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has subsequently been published many times as a solitary work.

The person who actually reads “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in the Sketchbook, will find that it is preceded by a reminiscence entitled “The Angler.”  Here, Irving shows a very clear familiarity with fly fishing and angling literature.  He first describes his initiatory fly fishing trip “along a mountain brook among the Highlands of the Hudson.”  He admits to fishing poorly at the time and finding more pleasure in setting aside the rod and reading “old Izaak” Walton’s The Compleat Angler. Later, he also mentions reading the famous “Tretyse of fishing with an Angle” (Irving’s spelling), as well.

Irving goes on to narrate his later encounter with an old, retired mariner and expert fly fisherman in England. He writes:

I could not but remark the gallant manner in which he stumped from one part of the brook to another, waving his rod in the air to keep the line from dragging on the ground or catching among the bushes, and the adroitness with which he would throw his fly to any particular place, sometimes skimming it lightly along a little rapid, sometimes casting it into one of those dark holes made by a twisted root or overhanging bank in which large trout are apt to lurk.

In the text, Irving accompanies the old seaman home to learn more about fishing and to simply hear about the man’s fascinating life. He notes that “the old angler” kept a book on fishing, the Bible, an “odd volume or two of voyages, a nautical almanac,” and a song book as his library. Irving is explicit in showing his respect for the old man and states that his interest in fly fishing in theory, if not in practice, is renewed. Like Walton before him, he romanticizes all fisherpersons–particularly those in England–as individuals who understand the less-cultivated world of “nature” and who benefit spiritually and otherwise from such understanding:

The sweetness and serenity of Nature and the quiet watchfulness of the sport gradually bring on pleasant fits of musing, which are now and then agreeable interrupted by the song of a bird, the distant whistle of the peasant, or perhaps the vagary of some fish leaping out of the still water and skimming transiently about its glassy surface.

It is worth noting that Irving admits nature is a bit more tame in early nineteenth century England than it is in America. Indeed, his description of the Hudson Highlands is markedly less positive than his description of the English countryside.

Regardless, it is a curious thing that Irving’s recollection of “The Angler” is followed by his tale of the very nervous Ichabod Crane, who is is greatly afraid of so many things rightly and wrongly associated with nature. In Irving’s world, it is likely that Crane would have met a more certain and happy end, if he had been a fisherman, at peace in the woods during his ride home from unsuccessfully wooing Ms. Van Tassel. In fact, in Irving’s world, a more peaceful Crane might have been more successful in his wooing, in the first place (and perhaps it was the demeanor supposedly achieved through fly fishing that made Irving the rumored object of affection to the likes of the widowed Mary W Shelley and others).

Public Access and the Threat of Theft

September 6, 2017

It often amazes me that I have easy access to such texts as a first edition of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653). In my mind, holding a book like this is a genuine privilege. 

When exercising this privilege, I sometimes wonder about the history of The Compleat Angler and other angling books. Who held them before I did? Who read them? And how did these texts influence their readers?

Title page. The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation. Izaak Walton, 1653, London: Maxey. Manuscripts, Archives, & Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

These special books are housed in Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections. Specifically, The Compleat Angler and other angling texts are part of The Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Collection.  Assoc. Dean Dr. Trevor James Bond and the rest of the MASC librarians and staff do a great job of of caring for and protecting the texts. They also do a great job of balancing these duties with the need to make them accessible to the public. This is no small feat.

Cover. The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation. Izaak Walton, 1653, London: Maxey. Manuscripts, Archives, & Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

As it happens, WSU was the victim of the most prolific book thief in US history, Stephen Blumberg. Blumberg lived in Iowa but traveled throughout North America targeting various collections of rare and fine books, especially at universities. He used stealth, disguise, and incredible ingenuity to steal at least 23,000 books and manuscripts. He stole a huge number of these from WSU. After their theft was discovered, WSU Police Officer Steve Huntsberry played an active role in searching for the thief. Ultimately, Blumberg was betrayed by a friend to the FBI. At the time, in 1990, the collection of books and manuscripts discovered in Blumberg’s home was valued at approximately twenty million dollars. Below, you can see a short video of Huntsberry describing the case as well as some footage of Blumberg’s illicit collection.

Blumberg was eventually sentenced to spend four years in prison and to pay a large fine. In the meantime, WSU’s  main library was expanded to include the “Holland Addition.” MASC is now located in this new area, which happens to be a genuinely beautiful setting. Here, the rare books and manuscripts are protected not only by the librarians’ watchful eyes, but also by state-of-the-art security designed to deal with both human and environmental threats.

Fly fishers and other practitioners of field sports usually think of “public access” as having to do with the land. But it also relates to the cultural history of our activities and to historical understandings of why outdoor recreation is important. At WSU, you can access this information. If you find yourself in the area, I urge you to do so. And if you live elsewhere, you should see what you can find in your local libraries. You might be surprised.

For more information on Blumberg, look for Steve Huntsberry’s “The Legacy Thief: The Hunt for Stephen Blumberg,” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 10, no. 4 (Winter 1991): 181-183. I also recommend Nicholas Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (Holt, 1999), which includes a chapter on Blumberg.

 

 


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