Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Office and Priorities

November 27, 2012

Visit me in my on-campus office, and my interests and priorities will be apparent from the first.  There is no better place for my Spey Company bumper sticker than on my Ph.D. diploma.  SpeyCo’s motto is “Mastering the Art of Living down By the River.”  I can relate to that (trust me).  Fortunately, Tim Pantzlaff of SpeyCo is also mastering the art of reel making.  He clearly understands how passionate some of us are about fishing.  That and his craftsmanship make him a great guy from whom to purchase a reel.  Anyway, it’s a good thing my department chairperson is not likely to stop by.  I’m not sure she’d get the bumper sticker.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2012

Sadly, I have no idea who tied this holiday fly.  I picked it up at a friend’s fly shop a few years back.  Regardless, I hope it has been a good day for all.

A Book about Fly-Fishing and Fatherhood

November 17, 2012

After class the other day, a student kindly gave me a book she came across.  The title is Faithful Travelers: A Father.  His Daughter. A Fly-Fishing Journey of the Heart.  The book was written by James Dodson  and published by Bantam in 1998.  As a father of a young daughter, the title has definitely captured my attention.  Also, having glanced through the book, it seems to be well written.  In short, I’m looking forward to reading it.

You can learn more about Dodson, who happens to live down the road from me, at his website.  If I enjoy the book, I’ll certainly look him up (and perhaps invite him to class).  I’ll try not to hold the fact that he normally writes about golf against him.

W.B. Yeats and Love on the Stream

November 9, 2012

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was a renowned Irish poet and nationalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. He influenced many fellow poets and Irish nationalists. As one interested in spiritualism and mysticism, he also influenced intellectuals as far afield as scholars of religion. W.Y. Evans-Wentz, best known for popularizing the scholarly study of Tibetan Buddhism (and also for romanticizing the religion in an oft-criticized way) cites Yeats as a great influence in his The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (1911).

Following is a wonderful poem by Yeats, referring to both fishing and love. It hints, perhaps, at the transformations described in such ancient Celtic stories as the “Tale of Gwion Bach,” supposedly describing the birth of Welsh bard Taliesin. Yeats’ poem is taken from An Anthology of Modern Verse, published in 1921.

“The Song of Wandering Aengus”

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

The Study of Fly Fishing Literature at UNC, Chapel Hill

November 6, 2012

I am really excited to teach this course at UNC, Chapel Hill this spring.  It will be accompanied by a much broader, theoretical course on play, game, and sport in the US, which will be offered through the American Studies Department.

If you have any suggestions about the fly fishing literature course — regarding readings or guests — please let me know.

The Fly Fishing Rabbi on National Public Radio

November 4, 2012

Some years ago, I asked Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer, a passionate fly fisher, to speak to the students in my fly fishing-themed course, at Gettysburg College, about religion and fly fishing.  Happily, he obliged, and we have been friends ever since.  Not long after his visit to Gettysburg, he had me speak to his congregation at Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, CT.  I enjoyed giving my talk and exploring some Connecticut trout streams, as well.

Rabbi Eisenkramer coauthored a book entitled Fly-Fishing: The Sacred Art, with Reverend Michael Attas.  This morning, he was featured on National Public Radio’s What a Game.  During this morning’s broadcast, he shared some of the thoughts communicated in his book about spirituality and fly fishing.  You can listen to his appearance on What a Game, below.

Fishing in the College Classroom

October 15, 2012

A cap from my previous institution, and a fly fishing journal that all of my students signed.

Recently, my departmental chairperson, at the university at which I teach, suggested that I offer a course dealing with fly fishing.  This, she said, could be framed as part of the university’s two-year initiative to focus on matters surrounding water.  I readily agreed.

I had the pleasure of teaching an interdisciplinary course at my previous institution, in which I used fly fishing as a theme to examine broader issues.  I very much enjoyed teaching that course.  When I left that school to spend more time with my wife–a professor in another state–and daughter, I assumed that I would never have the chance to offer a course like that again.

Happily, I was wrong.  I am eager to teach a new version of the course this spring.  The students will read historically important texts ranging from Juliana Berner’s (authorship disputed) The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle (1486) to Norman Maclean’s A River runs Through It (1976). In doing so, they will try to discern why religious themes are so prevalent in these texts, written over a span of over six centuries.  Among other things, they will need to consider the role that water and the so-called “natural” world might play in the religious views of the authors.

I am eager to read and discuss these texts with my students.  I am also eager to hear their thoughts about how views of water, held by centuries of fisherpersons, have changed or remained the same.  And I wonder if, perhaps, we can learn something about why so many people today pay so little attention to water.  Indeed, many take it for granted, despite its power and our need for it.

So the vast Collection of Waters sometimes heaves in its briny Billow, swells every Bay, and rushes with Joy tho’ every Channel; as from an Engine played by the Almighty Arm; then sinks into her deep Caverns, leaves Room for the Return of the Rapid Rivers; with vast Addition from in-land Oceans.

Reverend Joseph Seccombe, 1739.

Two of my Favorite Things

October 2, 2012

My daughter loves to rifle through the reel cases and pick out the small reels.  Here, she has laid claim to a Forbes “Avon.”   She does, in fact, have here own Hardy “Flyweight,” that a friend bought for her.

John Voelker and Morris Kushner

September 19, 2012

Trout Magic, first edition, signed.

John Voelker (1903-1991), a Michigan Supreme Court justice, is probably best known as the author of Anatomy of a Murder (1958).  Otto Preminger made the best-selling book into a movie, starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and Ben Gazara.  The movie also featured Duke Ellington and some amazing, original music that the musician composed for the film.

After the success of the book and its film adaptation, Voelker retired to spend the rest of his days fly fishing and writing.  Eventually, he wrote several books dealing with fly fishing, which have become part of the canon of fishing literature.  The books were initially published under the name of Robert Traver.  He adopted this pen name early in his writing career to protect his professional identity as an attorney and judge.  Most fly fishers, I am confident in saying, envy Voelker his success and his ability to retire early and fish.

Following is a trailer for Anatomy of a Murder, in which you can see Voelker himself.

In his book 1974 book, Trout Magic, Voelker writes about one of his favorite bamboo fly rod makers, Morris Kushner.  Kushner’s rods are well-respected to this day, even though he never made them professionally.  Indeed, Voelker quotes Kushner as saying, “I only make ’em because I love to make nice things for myself and my friends”  (Trout Magic, 143).

My own friend, also a rodmaker, recently alerted me to the fact that there is documentary about Kushner.  It is titled, simply, The Rodmaker.  You can purchase a copy of it here.  Note that the DVD includes an interview with Voelker.  Following is the trailer for the movie.  The trailer, too, features some fine footage of Voelker.  Enjoy.


September 14, 2012

When dawn breaks in Scotland, in just a few hours, I’d love to be somewhere on The River Clyde.  Upstream with the trout and grayling or downstream with the salmon — I am not particular.

Instead, I’ll be in North Carolina grading papers and waiting for some antibiotics to chase away my sinus infection.  But I’ll have my memories, imagination, and hope with me.  No doubt I’ll find a way back to the Clyde soon.

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