Archive for the ‘The Arts’ Category

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

 

Conservation, Redband Trout, and Art

April 17, 2017

Recently, at Modern Tipi, a Native-American owned store in Spokane, WA, featuring Native artists and Native-themed art, I ran across a beautifully framed picture of a Columbia River redband rainbow trout (Onchohynchus mykiss gardnerii). These redband trout inhabit the Spokane River and other regional waterways. The picture is the central element on a poster produced by Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited to raise awareness and conservation funds for the trout. The stylized picture incorporates Spokane’s famous Monroe Street bridge into the trout’s red band and feathers into its dorsal fin. The feathers are a nod to the local Spokane Tribe of Indians, whom themselves are deeply engaged in regional conservation, often in collaboration with the other tribes comprising the Upper Columbia United Tribes. The artist behind the picture is Deanne Camp. You can find much more of her amazing art online at www.elusivetrout.com. If you are in the area, be sure to visit Modern Tipi, as well. Support your local artists, tribes, and trout.

By the way, you can now follow The Literary Fly Fisher on Facebook. Go here, or click the “follow” button in the menu to the right of this page.

“Flyfish Spokane Poster,” by Deanna Camp, https://www.elusivetrout.com/products/flyfish-spokane-poster

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

Montana Books

March 13, 2017

Online magazine The Montana Mint published a list of recommended books about Montana recently. The post is titled “The Greatest Books Ever Written About Montana.” The claim implied in this title is quite a stretch, but they do recommend some wonderful books. Some of these I recommend to you, in turn.

Of course, you are already familiar with Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976). Maclean fans might also enjoy Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western World (1980), in which the author is nearly as poetic about the Montana landscape as Maclean. The Montana Mint lists several other Doig titles, as well.

The Big Sky, first edition data (fair use image, from Wikipedia)

Another worthwhile read is A.B. Guthrie, Jr’s The Big Sky (1947). This classic novel is a deeply engaging and sometimes disturbing fictional account of the mountain men, set during the first half of the 1800s. It left quite an impression upon me, as a young man. Its 1949 sequel, The Way West, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

For a Native American perspective upon the sort of Indian/white interactions described by Guthrie, read James Welch’s Fools Crow (1986). Welch was a Gros Ventre/Blackfeet author, who remains a looming figure in Native American literature. In Fools Crow, he tells the story of a fictionalized Piikani Blackfoot man. The story culminates with the 1870 Bear Creek (Marias River) Massacre, during which the US Army murdered approximately 200 Piikanis. Fools Crow does not mesh perfectly with Blackfoot oral histories, but it is a compelling book that certainly conveys Native emotions about such devastating events as that which occurred in 1870.

For the full list of books recommended by The Montana Mint, see their post.

 

 


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