Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing’ 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.

Fall Morning

October 27, 2018

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.

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.

 

 

In the Name of the River

July 22, 2018

The waters symbolize the universal sum of virtualities; they are fons et origo, “spring and origin,” the reservoir of all the possibilities of existence; they precede every form and support every creation.

Mircea Eliade, Romanian Historian of Religion. From the Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion, translated by William Trask (Harcourt, 1957) 130.

Summer sometimes involves trips to Hungary, where my wife grew up. Sometimes I fish there, near my brother-in-law’s house, on the Danube or on a little-known trout stream. Other times, I visit friends in Transylvania to fish much deeper in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania

Claudiu Presecan, whom I have introduced to readers before, is one of these friends in Romania. Claudiu is a devoted fly fisher, as well as an artist. He cares deeply about the environment from which he draws artistic and spiritual inspiration. Some time ago, he made a short video sharing the beauty and potential threats to one of his favorite rivers, the Somesul Rece.

Understandably, the environmental concerns most of us have revolve around places and issues in our own regions. It is good to remember, however, that people in other parts of the world have similar concerns about their own regions. Just as we have come to view the land as an ecosystem, we should view humans similarly (after all, we are part of the ecosystem). Our rivers ultimately mingle through the aquifers and oceans, and our humanity mingles as we drink from or fish those same waters. So, take a look at Claudiu’s video about the Somesul Rece and remember that our fights to preserve the health of the world extend far beyond our own home waters.

You can see Claudiu’s paintings, including a series also titled ‘In the Name of the River,’ at ClaudiuPresecan.Com. He will also be showing his work in Seattle this fall. If your interest in art does not extend much beyond tackle, you might take a look at the rods built by his friend Paul Sas, of Xander Flyrods. Paul also hand makes lures, knives, and, I’m sure, much more. Paul and another angler, Dr. Mihai Vasilescue, appear in Claudiu’s movie.

True Words

July 5, 2018

Home Again

June 1, 2018

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Fly Fishing Royalty

May 24, 2018

It is well-known that fly fishing has a place in the traditions of Britain’s Royal Family. This is, in part, due to fact that tackle manufacturer Hardy has long publicized their Royal Warrants. Hardy, which dates back to 1872, has held four warrants from British Royal Family members over the years. Currently, it holds a warrant from Charles, Prince of Wales, who is now one of only three Royal Family members who can issue them. Anyone who uses Hardy tackle is familiar with the emblem of this warrant, below. Hardy also uses a castle logo, though this has to do with their being based in the Northumberland town of Alnwick and their proximity to the famous Alnwick castle.

Lately, many eyes have been focused upon Britain’s Royal family, due to the marriage of Prince Harry to American Meghan Markle. Personally, I have little interest in such things, as what some might call a salaried proletariat and despiser of celebrity culture, but I do obviously have an interest in fly fishing history. Here, then, I share a bit of information about the current princes’ interest in the activity.

At this link to the photography of Leslie Donald, you can view some great pictures of Prince Charles teaching his son Harry to cast. In one photograph, Harry has clearly hooked his father with a fly. Any fly fishing parent, royal or not, can relate to this.

It turns out, though, that the ‘official companion’ to Princes William and Harry (and personal assistant to Charles) also had a hand in boys’ angling education. Below, you can see this woman, Alexandra Shân ‘Tiggy’ Pettifers (formerly Legge-Bourke) wading across the River Dee in Wales with the two boys. Tiggy has described her love of fishing with the Royal Family and practicing other field sports. In fact, after leaving royal service, she became a fly fishing guide. She now runs a bed and breakfast, featuring trout and salmon fishing on the River Usk, in Wales, called Ty’r Chanter.  She was born to a rather high-class family herself, and the B&B is located near her family estate, Glanusk Park. She is also a fund-raiser for the Atlantic Salmon Trust, which is dedicated to the preservation of wild Atlantic salmon.  She seems to focus her attention, as a guide, on teaching kids and women to fly fish.

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‘Friends for life: the princes in the River Dee with Tiggy’ Photo: Reuters

Dogs and Night

May 16, 2018

Jim Harrison, “Friends,” In Search of Small Gods” (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), 74.

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


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