I promised a post about Izaak Walton for his 419th birthday. I needed a reference point from where to get the right influence to write such a post. I found it in a quick overnight trip to the Savage this past weekend. None of the other guys could make it, even though Adam had threatened to show up. It’s nice though sometimes to just go it alone, and live simply, even for 36 hours. I didn’t take a single picture, or record one second of video. I just fished, relaxed, read, ate, slept and enjoyed the contemplative time Walton discussed in depth in The Compleat Angler
It definitely is a must read. You do have to get past the antiquated old english prose. It’s not quite Shakespeare, but offers the same quirky sayings. Though Geirach may have coined the phrase “trout bum,” Walton was the the prototype. Honestly, Walton was the original trout bum. Trained as a tailor, Walton struck it somewhat rich with a successful biography on the poet John Donne, then weaseled his way into English country society, particularly the ones with well cared for trout streams on their lavish estates. That sounds like a good portion of the current fly industry, doesn’t it? It was from that time along the exclusive waters in south west England, the River Dove in particular with his hommie Cholly Cotton, where Walton was able to find the ways to share his enlighten angling experiences.
The Compleat Angler first published in 1653 is primarily a dialouge between a fisherman (Piscator) and a hunter (Venator.) Piscator goes on to explain why fishing is the ultimate form of recreation. Highlighting not only the ways of angling and the how they add virtue to the practitioner but also points to justification from the bible (since the Anglican church was outlawed during Walton’s writing of the book by Oliver Cromwell, scholars argue the book was a vailed political piece arguing for the Anglican church and its restoration as the Church of England.) Political subterfuge aside, The Compleat Angler contains how-tos for fishing, both with the fly and bait, recipes for cooking your catch, even chub, etchings, songs, poems, milk maids and breakfast ales.
The overarching theme is something not surprising, but something lost mostly in modern fishing literature, fishing is an art of the contemplative, study to be quiet. Whether fishing is the escape from, or the escape to, even when we fish with our buddies, it’s something while doing nothing, “idle time not idly spent.” In that time we find something grounding to our lives that allows a greater perspective on the good, and the bad existing beyond the water. One of my favorite lines from the book refers to fishing as “learning how to lose without being irreparably harmed.” As deep as the philosophy goes when you distill it from the old english, fishermen then are as they are now, generally competitive with each other, as Walton wrote, “I envy no man, but he and only he that catches more fish.” Even the most Zen-like master of this sport today gets a little miffed (even as they try so hard to not show) when the guy in the next hole is stackin’m like cordwood. It’s not about numbers says the guy who got skunked…
Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book. It’s easy to find, it’s the third most reprinted book in the english language after the King James Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
Kind of bummed you can’t afford a DeYoung print or Abel reel? Have an iPhone 4 or 4s? I got an answer for you, how about a Derek DeYoung I-Phone case? I got one, and am glad i did, you will be too. It’s not too pricy for a phone case particularly one this cool and a limited edition. There are three other designs to choose from, but the Harvest Moon Riser was my choice. You can order one direct from Derek at his website www.canvasfish.com
I bought this old reel off of ebay a couple years ago without any real use for it. It’s a Japanese Medalist knock-off made by Compac for St Croix from back in the days of bell bottoms and quaaludes. It’s the “Salmon” model with nearly as beefy of a draw bar drag as that of my Tibor light. I finally decided to give old 47 some company in the form of a 12’6″ 6wt Redington CPX Spey rod and a Rio Skagit Flight Versi-tip line system. I’ve dabbled with two-handed rods with my old Cabela’s traditional 13′ 8/9wt, but that isn’t the most fishable rod in my neck of the woods. So, a 6wt spey rod on the Erie tribs should be a blast. Hopefully I can get some backing on the reel with the line I chose, but hey, that’s what 30lb Power Pro is for. Can’t weight to get this rig set-up and ready for some swinging! KG, you’ll have some company in busting the cherry on a new spey rod! I will need to christen the rig with a nice Spey-side single malt.
P.S. I caught some and only rainbows on the Savage, disturbing. Little bug life, more disturbing. My gut tells me something is going on there. Hope I’m wrong.