Archive for the ‘The Arts’ Category

Acknowledgement

November 27, 2017

“The Trout” and old Peetz “Reel Time” clock.

The items in the picture above usually sit on a shelf above my desk, at home. The reel on the left and the flasher in the background feature designs by Native artist Jason Henry Hunt. Hunt, a Kwaguilth descendant, collaborates with Peetz Fishing & Outdoors to produce their “Artist Series” of products. Hunt’s hand-carved 5-inch reel, called The Hunter, is particularly nice. Peetz offers laser-engraved versions of Hunt’s designs as more affordable alternatives to the hand-carved reels.

“The Hunter.” Photo from Peetz website.

The native fish of the the northwestern United States and western Canada are particularly important to many Tribes or First Nations. Therefore, some of the Tribes are actively involved in fisheries rehabilitation and conservation. Many Nonnatives simply consider tribal members as competitors for the same fish; they don’t understand the roles that Tribes play in ensuring the fish are there in the first place. Nor do they understand the sacred value the fish have for most tribal members. Peetz does understand these things. If you do too, you might look into ways that you can help support Native crafts-persons like Hunt or otherwise acknowledge the First Nations in the region, who help protect the waters we now share and the denizens therein.

The Reel in Black: Abel’s Johnny Cash Limited Edition

November 1, 2017

Abel has released a Johnny Cash themed “Super Series” fly reel. It is available in 5/6 and 7/8 sizes, which make it useful for fly fishers pursuing trout, steelhead, bonefish, and more. However, because the reel costs a minimum of $1,355.00, I suspect that most of the 250 reels made will sit on shelves.

Johnny Cash was a champion of the downtrodden. Some of his most popular songs focused on cotton pickers, prison inmates, and alcoholics. He devoted an entire album, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964) to Native Americans, helping to draw mainstream attention to the growing Native American civil rights movement. Despite experiencing a significant backlash for his advocacy, Cash became a major figure in American popular culture. I remember watching him on TV, sprawled on the floor of my grandma’s house in Dillon, Montana. Despite his somewhat dark past and what many considered to be radical views, people like my grandmother enjoyed watching and listening to him.

It’s a bit of a shame, then, that the cost of the reel memorializing him is so high. It is not a reel for the masses–the people about whom Cash sang.  Still, it’s a beauty, and Abel’s products are always high quality. So, do go ahead and take a look. And if you are one of the few who ends up owning one, I hope you use it. It always saddens me a bit when beautiful pieces of utilitarian art do not get put to work. I’m pretty sure that the Man in Black felt the same.

 

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).

M.W. Reynolds: “Shooting, Fly Fishing, Motorcycles, Apparel”

September 26, 2017

I was recently in Denver, Colorado for a conference. While there, I took the opportunity to visit the M.W. Reynolds store at 1616 Stout Street.  On it’s storefront window, M.W. Reynolds proclaims that it specializes in “Shooting, Fly Fishing, Motorcycles, and Apparel.” Behind the glass sits an early Norton Commando motorcycle. Inside the store is a 1960s Moto Morini and two Triumph motorcycles. Of course, there is also fly fishing tackle and a lot of other merchandise.

The fly fishing tackle includes a wide selection of graphite, fiberglass, and bamboo rods. Among the latter, you can find examples from such notable makers as D.L. Whitehead, Tim Zietak, and Gary Lacey. The store also sells a variety of reels, including beautiful s-handle reels from Bellinger and Saracione. To round thing out, the classic-minded angler can find vests and bags from Filson. Importantly, though, the store also sells plenty of more affordable fly fishing equipment. For instance, they stock Fenwick and Redington glass rods and entry-level Loop and Redington reels.

Amidst tables and racks of bags, motorcycling and sporting clothing, and grooming supplies, there is  large collection sporting books. These range from texts like Jim Corbet’s classic The Maneaters of Kumaon to Graydon Hilyard’s Bogdan, devoted to Stanley Bogdan’s masterpiece fly reels.

The staff are relaxed and very accommodating. If you are expecting them to be a bit stuffy, based upon the high-end nature of the merchandise they sell, you are completely wrong. So, if you are in Denver, be sure to visit the store. For those who enjoy contemporary classic tackle, it is a must. You can also find M.W. Reynolds online.

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.

 

 

Magic Wands, Castles, and Fly Rods

July 18, 2017

The other day, my daughter caught her first trout with dry flies. She has fly fished in the past, catching trout with streamers and pan fish with dries. Indeed, I drag her to my favorite rivers, streams, and lakes regularly. More often than not, however, she is more interested in looking for tracks, watching birds, and spotting four-legged wildlife than she is in fishing.

Her second trout on a dry fly.

She caught these recent trout using a Hardy “Flyweight” reel and a Hardy fiberglass rod, named the “Aln.” These were given to her, when she was only three or four months old, by dear friends. During the morning of the day we fished, I happened to tell her about the River Aln and the town of Alnwick, in Northumberland, England. 

Most readers probably know Alnwick as the location of Hardy’s domestic tackle factory and museum. My daughter, however, was more interested to learn that Alnwick is the home of Alnwick Castle, which was used as the fictional “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” in the first Harry Potter film. We had just watched this movie the previous day, and we were still talking about it.

The author, at the Hardy Tackle Museum.

My daughter just recently began reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. So, it was fun to tell her I visited the Hogwarts of the first film with the very friends who gave her the rod and reel she used later that day. I also took pleasure in showing her that the the castle logo on her rod and reel actually refer to that same place.

My daughter’s rod and reel, with a Bozeman “SC” reel.

The Hardy castle and other imagery.

Like author and fly fisher, John D. Voelker (pseudonym Robert Traver), I sometimes view trout fishing with flies as a type of magic. Seeing my daughter catch her first trout with dry flies was one of the greatest manifestations of this magic. At that time, her rod was almost like the wands used by the characters in Rowling’s books. Therefore, it makes a strange but perfect sense that her rod carries the stylized image of Alnwick Castle, or, from my daughter’s perspective, Hogwarts.

Alnwick Castle, as seen by viewers of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Copyright Warner Bros Pictures.

Alnwick Castle, as seen by the author.

Fly Fishing, en Vogue

June 2, 2017

Vogue Magazine recently featured an article on fly fishing in its “Living” section at Vogue.com. The article, authored by Etta Meyer, is titled “Fly Fishing through India’s Final Frontier.” For those of us who know Vogue only as a fashion oriented magazine, it seems odd to see such an article from them. However, the magazine and other periodicals published by Condé Nast provide coverage of many topics far removed from fashion and style. In fact, a glance at Vogue.com reveals article on politics, literature, film and more. The article by Meyer describes a trip the author made to India with her mother and some other women to fly fish for mahseer (Cyprinid fish belonging to the genus Tor).

Many fly fishers think of mahseer as one of the fish targeted by European colonialist fly fishers, in the era of the British Raj or Crown Rule in India. Indeed, the revered British tackle company, Hardy, manufactured numerous tools marketed specifically to those Europeans seeking these fish. A faint hint of the romantic attitude sometimes held by colonialists can be identified in Meyer’s piece. For instance, the reference to a “Final Frontier” in the title of her article–a title most likely assigned by an editor, to be fair–implies an attitude of discovery and conquest. This attitude toward the land traveled by Meyer and her companions is certainly not shared by those who actually live there. On the other hand, Myer highlights the fact that her guides and trip organizer, of The Himalayan Outback, are Indians themselves. She also writes respectfully of the many locals she meets. And, the truth is that a little romance may be an unavoidable result of the wonder that we all feel, when encountering new places and experiencing new things.  All in all, the short, well-written article is worth a read. You can find more of Meyer’s work at her website, ettadynamite.

Hardy advertisement, page 98 of The Mighty Mahseer and Other Fish; or Hints to Beginners on Indian Fishing (Madras: Higginbotham & Co., 1903) by Cecil Lang [Skene-Du]

While I don’t necessarily recommend it, you can find a more stereotypically Vogue take on fly fishing here. By following the link, you can read about a 2009 fishing-themed photo spread by photographer Tom Munro, that was featured Vogue China. The models wear leather fishing waders by Prada, among other things.

Photograph by Tom Munro. “Fishing Day,” Vogue China, October 2009.

Save Bristol Bay

May 25, 2017

Conservationists, commercial fishers, sport fishers, and Alaska Natives have fought what is known colloquially as “The Pebble Mine” for years. Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty hopes to build this mine in the Bristol Bay Watershed of Alaska, in order to extract gold, copper, and molybdenum. Such mining operations exact a heavy toll upon the environment, and this particular mine would be one of the largest in the world.

Opponents expect the proposed mine t to have a massive, negative impact upon wild salmon and upon the many people, Native and Nonnative, who depend upon them. The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed this expectation in 2013. Subsequently, several major financial backers, including Northern Dynasty’s main partner, abandoned the project. One of them, Rio Tinto, gifted its shares to two nonprofits, one of which (BBNC Education Foundation) promotes Indigenous education and cultural preservation.

Despite such huge opposition, Northern Dynasty plans to move ahead with permit requests. With a new US President, who supports extractive industries at any cost, and an EPA director, who condemns his own agency’s regulatory powers, Northern Dynasty has reason to be hopeful their requests will be granted.

In 2014, filmmaker Mark Titus directed an award-winning documentary about the Pebble Mine and Pacific Salmon, titled The Breach. In the face of Northern Dynasty’s new push to advance their project, Titus has created another short, informative film. Please watch it, below. And if you already voiced opposition to the Pebble Mine, know that you must continue to do so. Even if you do not have ties to Alaska, opposition is important. In the current political environment, an environmentally devastating project like this may soon be proposed in your neck of the woods.

Jim Harrison’s Green Man

May 11, 2017

Green Man carving, circa 12th c., from Church of St. Mary and St. David in Kilpeck, England. Wikimedia Commons.

Jim Harrison portrait by Andy Anderson, from Dead Man’s Float.

In Jim Harrison‘s final book of poetry, he includes a piece on the Green Man. This figure appears repeatedly over the centuries in European and Euro-American literature and art. His exact origin is unknown and interpretations of his symbolism vary greatly. Historically, from certain Christian perspectives, he represented the base world, Paganism, and the devil itself. From more mystical Christian perspectives, he represented the Holy Spirit and the life God breathed into all that lives. The best known manifestation of the Green Man may be in Arthurian tales, particularly in the 14th c. Middle English “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” (author unknown), wherein his meaning is as ambiguous as ever. In the 1990’s he was romanticized by poet and so-called “Men’s Movement” founder Robert Bly. Today, he receives positive attention from many neo-Pagans. Regardless, the Green Man is most often associated with “nature,” wildness, and similar concepts. Certainly, this is the association Harrison has in mind. In his poem, titled simply “The Green Man,” the figure embodies knowledge of how one should live in the non-human world. But if we consider the poem in the context of Harrison’s other non-fiction work, we might argue that his Green Man embodies knowledge of how one should live always.

Illustration of the Green Knight (holding his severed head), from the original manuscript containing Sir Gawain and the Green Night. Wikimedia Commons.

“The Green Man”

Since early childhood I believed
in a door in the forest. I looked for it
for more than a half century
and it evaded me. The Green Man
lived there, part tree and part human.
Keeping his distance he told me a lot.
Walk mostly sideways in the wilderness
to confuse those who would track you.
When outside, sleep with your eyes open
And see the coyote pup approach out
of curiosity, the small bear resting
against a stump a hundred yards away,
a warbler standing on your toe singing.
When I lost he howled at me from a tree, “Wrong way.”
I dreamed where he lived, high on the steep
bank of the river concealed under a thick drapery
of tree roots but I skidded on my tummy
down into the river, a sign to give up.
There was a stinking wolf den close by so my dog
wouldn’t stay with me. The Green Man, alone, forever.

Jim Harrison, Dead Man’s Float (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), 54.

Simple Fly Fishing in Japan

April 26, 2017

Yuzo Sebata has been a tenkara fisherman for over fifty years. Tenkara, of course, is a traditional Japanese from of fly fishing, using a long rod with no reel. Fishing Vision, a Japanese Media company, has recently produced a video in which Sebata takes the viewer fishing in the mountains north of Tokyo for iwana trout (Salvelinus leucomaenis) . Sebata also spends some time in the film sharing his views of the natural world. Sebata is well-known and respected in the tenkara world, and you can read more about him at Tenkara USA. Follow the link below to watch the film, Tenkara “Do”: The Greybeard who lives Life with Nature (do = “way,” in Japanese). The film is professional dubbed in English.

https://fishingvision.tv/video/tenkara/tenkara-do.php

 


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