Friday, June 17, 2011

Shut Down Fishing

The land is old and the bugs are old. I’m a worthless human who won’t live too long. I’ll probably die right as I’m gaining 1% understanding of things. Every time I look back on a previous chapter I realize how foolish I was as the main character and that makes it clear that I am in fact being foolish right now. There is no remedy for this and it may be characterized by some as the ultimate tragedy of mankind. There is no remedy for this and all I can do at this point is try to immerse myself in things that are older and better than me. And get my kids on that same track. There is no computer program that can recreate limestone and there is no one who can make a stonefly. If you offered me a goat prairie on one hand and a dx50001.2ab computer on the other I’d take the goat prairie and then I might jackhammer the computer. Many, many things are frustrating. Legislatures. Budgets. Technology as king. Profit as measure. Profit as measure for God’s sake. That’s where we sit. And the irony of typing of this subject at a keyboard is another thing. “I don’t like machines, but I am constrained to use them; thus, the age perfects its clinch (W. Berry).” So all you can do, when shut down looms and uncertainty permeates your household, is reassure your family; know that a good worker will always find work (see Booker T. Washington), and go pay some reverence to something greater than you and in exchange walk away with some perspective: etchings in silicone and pixels on computers do not topple the real things in the world. They don’t speak to quality. Beauty is important. Feeling and memories of beauty are important. Watching your kids do something beautiful is important. Your kids’ financial future is not important. Not if things go right and mankind can still put boots on streams and walk in walnut groves. Jesus, why do we have to get all blocked up in this stuff when all we really need is good food, good walking and some geometry from heaven to marvel at? Wish I could dump it. Suppose I could. We’ll see.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that around 3 PM one day the urge to take a walk was too much so I did just that. I didn’t fish a trout pond or look after carp in the middle of town. It got to me a bit to drive a little further, but I pushed on and went to a place that I like. I hooked a cow there once. There is a grassed flood plain that holds a hardwood grove, of which some trees are black walnut (my son, for Fathers’ day, gave me a drawing of Famaly Tree Waly – in reference to the tree that defines our backyard; we grew up smelling juglones in Texas (and who can say that?); so in general we like that tree specie). My goal was to get caught redhanded in a rainstorm. Forecast said it would work out. The bugs were everywhere: complex hatch scenario. I saw march browns, light hendricksons, other light colored mayflies, BWO, caddis and crane files. All in the air. Hours or maybe a day or so before they had been in the water. With gills. Tight in interstitial spaces. Now in the air, on some mission that goes way back. Old story indeed. Anyway, I fished various dry flies. Mostly Adams. Some larger flies. Clearly I stood no chance of working out precisely what was going on but at this point I’m fine with that. The generic fly is somewhat symbolic of our level of understanding and what we deserve. I don’t need to figure it all out. Let the flies rise around me and let me lay out that 4 wt line in dramatic fashion time and again. That never gets old and it’s one thing about trout fishing that eleveates it above some other fishing pursuits: no big flies, no dapping, to jolting measure, etc. Just grace and arcs and careful setting of flies on water. I can say that I’m not entirely graceful but it sure feels graceful. And like I said it never gets old. I just like casting those flies. Thirty feet is optimal. Sometimes further. So the fish came and went. Some were released. Others, like the one on the rocks in the pic below, are dead now. I am indeed a murderer and there is no getting around that. I’ve been thinking on that one for years now. Decades even. Back when were little kids we used to stand in newly-thawed lake tributaries and net suckers. Freezing. Dark. Fish thumping into the net in succession. Then we’d take clubs and sticks and smash their skulls. We did this with abandon. Then, later on (another chapter) I wanted to let all the fish go. I’d get on my family members to let fish go; especially LMB. And for a long time I let all the trout go. Now I realize that it’s not about the individual fish. It’s an embodiment of the land and the stream: a beautifully scaled, sleek and powerful assemblage of dirt, water and air. There is no question that I love them. But they are a little piece of something that I really want to get into: flee the madness and insert oneself to the extent possible into something better. Recall that natives often eat things that they want to be a part of them… And that guy in the alien movie wanted to eat the aliens so he could fire their guns… etc. I want to eat those fish. I kill the fish to bind myself somehow. Needs even further evolution and thought, but that’s where it sits now.

The rain did come and I let it pour down on me. I got down to the surface of the river and watched the pounding. The fish stopped rising and then they started again.

The parting thought was a committment to bring my sons here. Did that just a few days after...

In the picture below: two beautiful fish (taped at 12.5" and 13.0" at home) took a cream colored compradun set just left of the riffle in that hydro-cushion. They rose perfectly to the fly and one even put itself on the reel.
















"Haig-Brown discovered that the meaning of fishing lies more in its context than its practice: a day alone on a remote steelhead river; floating with your child; fishing a lake with your family… seeking a fish whose race is threatened by your own or whose ancestral breeding grounds have been lost to town crooks. Fishing is sometimes about a disinclination to go fishing at all. An important part of life – maybe the most important part – is the quest by each of us to discover something we believe to be more worthy and permanent than we are individually. Haig-Brown persuades us that the truth which angling can lead to about our place in nature is one such greater thing." - Tom McGuane

“But knowledge grows with age, and gratitude grows with knowledge.” Wendell Berry – from Andy Catlett

9 Comments:

Blogger e.m.b. said...

"all I can do at this point is try to immerse myself in things that are older and better than me" -- waters are wise. "they are a little piece of something that I really want to get into" -- and when I do, when I 'flee the madness' as you say, I feel beautiful and whole. I am so frustrated. I want a goat. ;) Amazing writing, Wendy. I will come back and read this again, for proper digestion...

3:48 PM  
Blogger John Montana said...

Another good one J. I missed it until tonight actually. Three nights from now we will be sitting around dissecting some more memories...crazy how fast it is coming.

Erin, I knew you would dig Wendy's stuff. If you get a chance track back and read Mysteries Internal J...Emily would like it too.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Best post I've read in awhile. Makes one want to get just a little further away.

11:54 PM  
Blogger jason.ewert said...

Very well written, it's getting harder to tell where Berry stops and Wendy starts. Writing is one of those skills, mysterious to pickup but you know when you get into it.

And thanks for the heads-up! #14 sulpher was the meal ticket on Friday and Saturday. There were lots of bugs coming off both days but the Browns couldn't stay away from the pretty yellow ones! (all my streamer fish were Bows, all fish on dries were Browns)

2:24 PM  
Anonymous cabin fever said...

I connected to your blog through WFF's blog and I'm really glad I found it. It is always great to read the writing of people who take risk and put a private part of themselves into their work. Keep up the good work.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Thanks for the notes. I appreciate reading what you all think on this. Good to share with a fishing and writing community.

Looking at Mysteries Internal.

Jason: figured you'd have a great time and glad you did.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Johnmet said...

Thanks for a great read. It's good to know I,m not the only one who appreciates carp in southern MN. Check out Beaver Island MI. Looks like a tropical Island in the middle of a cold ocean. Got to get there someday.
From the Straight River basin
JHM

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10:42 PM  

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