Leslie Jones, Fishing, 1934-1955?
Leslie Jones, Fishing, 1934-1955?
"Fishing makes rivers my corrective lens; I see differently. Not only does the bird taking the mayfly signify a hatch, not only does the flash of color at the break of the riffle signify a fish feeding, but my powers uncoil inside me and I must determine which insect is hatching and what feeding pattern the trout has established. Then I must properly equip myself and properly approach the fish and properly present my imitation. I am engaged in a hunt that is more than a hunt, for the objects of the hunt are mostly to be found within myself, in the nature of my response and action. I am on the Parsifalian quest. I must be scientist, technician, athlete, perhaps even a sort of poet."
Nick Lyons, from “Bright Rivers,” in The Armchair Angler, ed. by Terry Brykczynski and David Reuther (Macmilian, 1986)
once when I was me
by a clear stream winding
under bushes in a meadow
in the middle of a life
when no one could have known that
I listened to the voices of friends
of many years
along the flowing stream
where we were quietly fishing
once in a single summer
when I was me I forgot
W. S. Merwin, closing lines to “Natural History of Forgetting,” from The Moon Before Morning (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
Issac Levitan, Fog over Water, 1895
A man spends his whole life fishing in himself
for something grand. It’s like some lost lunker, big enough
to break all records. But he’s only heard rumors, myths,
vague promises of wonder. He’s only felt the shadow
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?
Maybe it’s the shadow of other fish, greater than his,
the shadow of other men’s souls passing over him.
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he’s sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.
Soon he’s drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest … He’s not far out.
It’s all so pleasant, so comforting—the sunlight,
the waves. He’ll go back soon, thinking: “Maybe tonight.”
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.
Kurt Brown, from More Things in Heaven and Earth (Four Way Books, 2002)
Currier & Ives Print, 1874
Source: Museum of The City of New York
“The river reflected whatever it chose of sky and bridge and burning tree, and when the undergraduate had oared his boat through the reflections they closed again, completely, as if they had never been. There one might have sat the clock round lost in thought. Thought—to call it by a prouder name than it deserved—had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked; the sort of fish that a good fisherman puts back into the water so that it may grow fatter and be one day worth cooking and eating.”
Virginia Woolf, from the extended essay “A Room of One’s Own” (October 24, 1929)
These silver traces from the sea, silt
browning velvet gills, roe bulging
otherwise torpedo frames, flashing
past mud-happy catfish, past the steel-clench
of fish hawks, past the defunct deepwater
tobacco landing, driven upstream, white-
hot with their need to be. Climbing fish ladders
up Conowingo Dam, each wild leap counts.
Old-timers would bottom-drop flat nets,
wait, then yank, arm over muscled arm, so thick
were April shad runs, so many their cast-iron
skillets sizzling with buttered, burgundy roe.
Out-of-state cars teem at Hill’s Bridge
in hope the fish still will. Here where
morning mist marks the river a mile off,
two men with poles leave their pickup,
white plastic bucket swinging empty,
a cooler for bloodworms and beer,
their gait towards the pier light,
sideways banter just begun,
something splashing up ahead.
Mark McCaig, from Terrain.org: Journal of the Built + Natural Environments (No. 34, October 12, 2013)
Spring Creek Bluegrass Band
Rural & Cosmic Bluegrass LP
A poem must break to the surface
and nibble at light,
and swallowing sense
at a sudden bite
with wide-mouth contraction.
A poem must be cunning
to avoid rhetoric flies,
anglers baiting with lies—
must dart for white water and running.
If caught on the hook of meaning,
a poem must whirl and fight,
tugging and constraining,
alert for oversight.
Loose from the critical reel
a poem plunges once more,
moves beneath manifest current
outward from net and from shore.
Bluford W. Muir, Salmon River, Idaho, 1961
Source: National Archives
"It is remarkable what a good judge of water can do. What did [the angler] see? […] Maybe it was a tiny patch of watercress on the opposite bank, or perhaps moisture on a rocky face above the stream, either would indicate seepage of cold spring water below which a fish is apt to be lying in hot weather. Maybe it was a big stone in the current—not any stone but one so faced and undercut that it creates an eddy of quiet water in front of it in which a trout can rest at ease while the stream brings him his vittles. Maybe it was a smallish trout exposing himself where no trout ought to be, on a clean sand bottom in brilliant sunlight. If there is a good lie nearby, the chances are that a bigger fish has driven the little fellow out of it; he wants to go back but daren’t […] More likely [the angler] didn’t really see all this, for an experienced, capable angler’s stream sense becomes a part of his subconscious. Probably all he saw were a few places that seemed to say: try me.”
Alfred Miller, from “The Perfect Angler,” in The Armchair Angler, ed. Terry Brykczynski and David Reuther (Macmillian, 1986)