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Hoagy B. Carmichael, Dr. George Parker Holden, and Fishing amidst “Riches and Poverty.”

April 23, 2012

Fresh or sweet water angling is one of the most ancient, cleanest, most engrossing, enduring, healthful, and accessible recreations available in this world of mingled riches and poverty, pleasure and pain . . . and it may be indulged in till one is well advanced toward decrepitude, and it forestalls decrepitude in many cases.

Dr. George Parker Holden, as quoted in Hoagy B. Carmichael, 8 by Carmichael (North Salem: Anesha Publishing, 2010), 39-40.


With a bit of unexpected down time today, I embraced the long-awaited opportunity to read Hoagy B. Carmichael’s 8 by Carmichael.  This 2010 book, published jointly by Anesha Publishing and The Whitefish Press, contains several pieces published previously by Carmichael.  I was particularly happy to find “Vince,” an essay about Carmichael’s friendship with Pennsylvania dry fly master and bamboo rod builder, Vincent Marinaro (who was not widely known for such friendly relationships).  This particular piece was published earlier as the introduction to Bill Harms’ and Tom Whittle’s Split and Glued by Vincent C. Marinaro.

Carmichael offers profiles of several other notable American fly fishing personalities, who played important roles in the development of the sport.  Some of the profiles draw from his personal relationships to these individuals; others draw from historical sources. The profile of Dr. George Parker Holden is particular interesting.  Holden authored The Idyl of the Split-Bamboo in 1920, which was perhaps the best known text dealing explicitly with bamboo rods before Carmichael published his own A Master’s guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod in 1977 with Everett Garrison.

The epigraph to this post is a quote from Holden, which I found in 8 by Carmichael.  What strikes me about the quote is Holden’s implication that fly fishing can be enjoyed regardless of one’s social station or even in spite of it.  This, I think, echoes the arguments made centuries ago by the author of A Treatyse of Fyshynge with an Angle (1496) and even by Isaac Walton in The Compleat Angler (1653).

In most cases, fishing requires us to visit those places away from the cultured or humanly “cultivated” world.  That is, we are required to visit “natural” places that are more-or-less protected or reclaimed from the most ecologically damaging aspects of human culture.  These visits also allow us to set aside the less physical, but equally damaging concerns associated with culture, such as the concerns for money, status, etc.  No doubt, relief from the stress that usually accompanies these concerns is one of the things that makes fly fishing the spiritually and physically healthy activity that so many authors, including Holden, suggest that it is.

In any case, 8 by Carmichael is most certainly worth a read.  It happens to be a beautifully bound book, as well.  I hope that you’ll be able to escape your everyday world just long enough to enjoy it sometime, if you haven’t already.

Oh, and you might just check out some of the music and acting of Hoagy Carmichael, Sr., the fly fishing author’s famous father.  To do so all at once, and to engage your inner fly fisher as well, watch the wonderful 1944 film To Have and Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (loosely based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel and scripted in part by William Faulkner).  Bogart, in the role of a fishing guide, complaining about a client destroying his Hardy reel is a special moment in film history, for the fishing obsessed.  You can see all three actors here:

Music, Memoirs, and Fly Fishing: Clapton

April 14, 2012

Many fans of legendary guitarist and songwriter Eric Clapton know that he is a fly fisher as well.  On a recent drive to Pennsylvania, to attend the 64th Annual Flyfishers’ Club of Harrisburg Dinner, I listened to his autobiography through my iPod.  The book is titled simply, Clapton: The Autobiography (Broadway, 2007), and according to a review in the The New York Times it was written by Clapton himself.  In the book, Clapton describes his life, from childhood, through his tenures with the Yardbirds, Cream, and other bands, and into his years as a solo musician and family man.

Despite his huge and very early success as a musician, Clapton’s personal life was a shambles for many years; it was filled with more obstacles and tragedies than most of us have or will experience.  Clapton writes, for instance, with great candour about his abuse of heroin and, later, alcohol.  He details the many ways in which he failed himself and others during his years of abuse.  Of course, he also discusses his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and his present, ongoing dedication to helping others toward recovery.

Clapton explains that coarse fishing was the one thing, besides playing guitar, that he felt he was good at, prior to his years of sobriety.  Therefore, he writes, it was after he fell, drunk, on top of some cherished coarse fishing poles, that he realized he must finally achieve and truly maintain sobriety.

In the book, Clapton mentions the great passion he eventually found for fly fishing.  He notes that he was introduced to the sport by fellow musician and founder of Procol Harum, Gary Brooker.  Outside of his book, Clapton’s passion for fly fishing is evidenced by his uncredited appearances in Hardy catalogues.  The picture below is taken from the 2007 UK/international edition (click on the picture to go to the Hardy web page featuring their fishing bags).

Clapton has made other public appearances as a fisherman as well.  For instance, you can see him fishing the River Test, on the UK television program, Botham on the fly.  The video is made available by the Discovery Channel International .

While Clapton does not write extensively about fishing in his autobiography, the book is still worth the read (or listen, if you’re stuck in a car as I was) for any fan of his music.  No doubt, if you have ever witnessed drug or alcohol abuse, the book will resonate with you.  Moreover, if you’re like me, it may force you to think about the relationship that may exist between your obsession with all things fly fishing and more traditionally recognized addictions.

Click the image of Clapton’s book to be taken to his publisher’s site.  And, below, watch a great rendition of Clapton’s “Layla,” performed by him and Mark Knopfler.

The Web, Images, and Copyright Protection: The View of a Fly Fishing Publisher

April 5, 2012

Dr. Todd Larson, history professor and founder of Whitefish Press (publisher of numerous fly fishing titles) addresses the controversy surrounding Pinterest in his latest blog post. Visit his blog, Fishing for History: The History of Fishing and Fishing Tackle and read his thoughts and the results of his informal research concerning Pinterest in the 4/5/12 post, “A Pinterest-ing Problem: Pinterest, Copyright, and Your Fishing and Tackle Photos.”  As many of us interested in classic tackle spend a lot of time looking at or taking photos of rare items, the issue of copyright is an important one.  Of course, it’s an important issue in all dimensions of the “web.”   You’ll notice, by the way, that I simply provide a link to Larson’s post, rather than reblogging the post itself.

Fly Fishing Literature, as enjoyed by Parents and Child

March 24, 2012


The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and The Easton edition of The Well-Tempered Angler.

Each night, my wife and I enjoy reading books, telling stories, and singing songs to our daughter before she goes to sleep.  Later on, we often read to each other, too.

Our daughter tends to favor “big” books.  That is, books that will take a long time to read and allow her to stay up just a little bit longer.  Fortunately, she has a pretty great selection of books.  One of her “big” books is The Runaway Bunny, authored by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd and first published in 1940 (and continually in print since).  Wise Brown and Hurd also collaborated on a later, better known book, Goodnight Moon (1947).   In this second book, there are some interesting pictorial allusions to The Runaway Bunny.

I am always happy when our daughter wants us to read The Runaway Bunny.  It is a touching story about a “little bunny,” who wants to run away from his mother.  His mother insists that she will follow him everywhere, always bringing him back to her.  “Little bunny finally says to his mother, “Shucks, …  I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”  It is a sweet story, and it certainly has greater depth than the average story written for children today.

What interests me most about The Runaway Bunny, however, is that little bunny, in the course of the short narrative, decides that he will “become a fish in a trout stream” and swim away from his mother (which, perhaps, displays some influence from Celtic mythology).  To this, his mother responds, “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”  Below, you can see the illustration of little bunny swimming with the trout.  Following this page and the next, there is a full-color picture of his mother fly fishing for him with a carrot “fly.”  Great stuff.

After my daughter falls asleep, and after my wife and I go to bed and finish reading to each other, I often pull out another book.  Often, it is a fly fishing book.  As much as I love Runaway Bunny, though, I always turn toward something more adult.  Not infrequently, I reread Arnold Gingrich’s The Well-Tempered Angler (1965).  Gingrich was the founding editor of Esquire.  In his magazine’s pages, Gingrich published pieces by authors who would eventually be considered among America’s greatest.  Ernest Hemingway is just one example.  I point this out simply to indicate that  Gingrich understood great writing, and he was a pretty darn good writer himself.  I might add, too, that his book, The Fishing in Print: A Guided Tour through Five Centuries of Angling Literature (1974), is by far the most extensive, annotated bibliography of fishing literature ever published.

If you have a young child, be sure to share The Runaway Bunny with her or him.  And, if you love fishing literature yourself, Gingrich’s The Well-Tempered Angler is a must read.  He wrote amusing, compelling essays about fly fishing long before the likes of John Gierach put pen to paper (or finger to key).  Finally, if you happen to be a parent and a fly fisher, well, you might consider both books.

Like Father, like Daughter

March 13, 2012

My daughter loves classic fly reels almost as much as I do.  Whenever she’s let loose in my office, she grabs a few (notice them strewn on the floor). I can’t wait until she is ready to cast a fly.

Age, Fly fishing, and Legacies: Meriwether Lewis and the Rest of Us

March 4, 2012

I have been corresponding with a very old friend recently.  This friend’s father — a humble man — is a long-time fly fisherman.  As he ages, my friend tells me, he looks for evidence that he has been successful, appreciated, and so on.   From the little I know, my friend’s father is an accomplished fly fisherman with numerous fly patterns and even an unusually high-profile publication to his credit.  Moreover, he is a medical doctor, and he has undoubtedly helped many people in that capacity.  Still, I think most of us can understand his feelings.  Therefore, as I learn more about this man and his role in the history of fly fishing in the American West, I resolve that he will receive evidence of my own admiration.

The correspondence with my friend put me in mind of a journal entry written by Captain Meriwether Lewis on August 18th, 1805, during his US government sponsored exploration of the American Northwest with William Clark and others.  Lewis and Clark’s trip, arranged by President Thomas Jefferson, is remembered as the “Voyage of Discovery.”

No doubt, most readers are familiar with Lewis and Clark.  Fly fishers may know that members of the expedition catalogued many fish that were previously unknown to Euro-Americans.  The scientific name of the Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi, reminds us of this. 

The fact that the “Voyage of Discovery” is remembered by so many means that Lewis and the others accomplished a degree of fame.  Mind you, I am no particular fan of Lewis and Clark.  They “discovered” nothing that was not already known to the indigenous inhabitants of the lands they crossed.  Moreover, they set back Euro-American relations with some of those inhabitants significantly, through their prejudicial and even deadly behavior toward Native Americans (the reader should know that Blackfoot oral tradition relates a very different account of the fatal encounter between Clark and the Blackfeet than the one Clark, himself, relates).

My cultural concerns aside, the physical feats that Lewis and the others accomplished in crossing and recrossing a significant portion of the continent are astounding.  And yet, there is Lewis’ journal entry, which I mentioned earlier.  I quote it here (precisely), from The Journals of Lewis and Clark, edited by Bernard DeVoto (1997).

This day I completed my thirty first year, and conceived that I had in all human probability now existed about half the period which I am to remain in the Sublunary world.  I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little, indeed, to further the hapiness of the human race or to advance the information of the succeeding generation.  I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now sourly feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended.  but since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought, and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least indeavor to promote those two primary ojbects of human existence, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestoed on me; or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself. (1997, 206)

Clark’s unusual moment of humility and self-reflection is startling, given the task in which he was currently engaged.  Admittedly, I don’t think he did much to increase mankind’s happiness — certainly not that of Native Americans.  Yet, he did “advance the information” possessed by his fellow Euro-Americans about the Northwest and, to a very small extent, about the indigenous peoples there.

If, then, someone like Clark can doubt the value of his past actions, even at such a young age, it is only natural that others of us are concerned about our contributions to the world, or lack thereof, and about the perceptions others have of us.  One way to relieve such concerns, when felt by those we admire — to further their happiness, as Clark put it — is to inform them of our appreciation and respect. I hope that many people besides myself do this for my friend’s fly fishing father.

Note: Interested readers can learn more about Lewis and Clark and the fish they encountered during their expedition, in the 21 page pamphlet Fish, Fishing, and Lewis & Clark: The True Story of the Greatest Fishing Trip Ever, published in 2009 by the Federation of Fly Fishers. I am certain it can be obtained by contacting the FFF or the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department.  I’ll bracket my issues with the pamphlet’s title.

Updated Sale Listings

February 29, 2012

New items, including Fishpond gear, added to sale listings.   More items will be posted shortly: Orvis graphite trout rods, T&T and Loomis graphite saltwater rods, English boron trout rod, Orvis/Eddie Bauer glass rod, early Loop  “Model 3w” (now sold as the Danielsson “Original 3w”) large arbor reel, English-made Orvis “Madison” reel, Scientific Anglers System 2L “67L” disc reel, vintage Orvis rod bags, and more.  Click link on right of page, or follow link above.


February 21, 2012

Update: My sincere apologies.  New inventory is delayed one week (’til Feb. 27).  Granger Favorite, glass rods, Fishpond, Orvis, and more. Please inquire.  Also, I have items in hand that have  not been listed.  Let me know if you’re looking for something.  I’ve been “sick as a dog” this week, and not up to the required travel.

Families, Video, and Fly Fishing Stories

February 18, 2012

Todd Moen and Brian O’Keefe’s Catch Magazine: The Official Journal of Fly Fishing Photography and Film is a visually stunning and exceptionally well presented online magazine (I’m not sure what makes Catch “official,” but it’s still a fantastic magazine).  Through Catch, Moen has shared a two-part  “documentary style” film, as he describes it, focuses upon a mother, father, and daughter, who run a fly fishing lodge in northern British Columbia.  The film also deals with their many years fishing together as a family.  The subject matter is wonderful and the videography is amazing. 

Certainly, in the 1600’s, Isaac Walton never imagined that one day fishing stories would be told through moving pictures.  I have no doubt, however, that he would have approved of this development.  Moen’s film captures much of the beauty in nature, about which Walton wrote.  You can see Parts 1 and 2 of Moen’s Steelhead Dreams, below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Hardy’s Diamond Jubilee Reel, further notes

February 15, 2012

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of handling Hardy’s Diamond Jubilee Perfect, about which I wrote in my previous post, at the Raleigh Fly Fishing Show.  It is truly a dandy, even if it is priced well beyond my own means.  The 1912 checkwork is very well made.  I was particularly impressed by the delicacy of the brass “worm” that puts pressure on the spring (sorry, I forgot to take my camera).  The reel is, in fact, still available, though most potential customers will have to go through dealers.

It was nice to chat with Jim Murphy and John Shaner of Hardy, USA at the show, and it was great of them to both come down to Raleigh.  They mentioned some very interesting products that may be coming down the line at Hardy.  I hope to talk more with them about these things this weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

By the way, there was much to interest the person who is passionate about classic and antique fly fishing tackle at the Raleigh Show.  Reelmaker Ted Godfrey was there, as was Bob Selb of “The Classic Fly Fisherman.”  There were also some wonderful tiers of traditional salmon and trout flies.

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