Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fresh Angles From Fishing: Conceptuality in Contemplation

Happy New Year to everyone reading this post within an appropriate limit of time. I've really had a lot of fun blogging this year since almost April, not to mention fishing; we all know fishing's fun, and I have you, the reader, to thank for keeping me motivated.

Today I thought I'd riff on an idea more like the way I write by hand in notebooks than I have for these posts, only it has to do with fishing or angling. Until recently, I always recognized the word "angling' for its obvious dictionary defined meaning, to fish, with connotations of class and refinement. I read Izaak Walton in 2010. Until then The Compleat Angler was to me one of those classics I hadn't read. Walton worked in an iron works shop until he kept his own, retiring at 50 to a farmhouse he bought, concerned thereafter with fishing, socializing, and writing his books. He wasn't born to the higher classes and never separated from his modest origins, although he became friends with wealthy and well known men. No one else has defined angling as has Walton, and angling has in essence nothing to do with the pretensions of class and refinement; everything to do with the spirituality that really compels anyone to fish.  

I knew of Izaak Walton and his book from my boyhood, my mother having spoken of it to me when I was about eight and had just begun to fish and to understand what a classic is. I was quietly amazed such a book was written on fishing. I actually did not quite believe it, skeptical. Surely it was another of those books about how to fish. But it is about how to fish, only in a way integrated with the motives of why do it.

Since reading Walton, specifically about "fishing with an angle" (italics mine), a rod, the meaning of the word angling has permutated in my mind in a way which isn't wholly clear, but owes perhaps the most of the idea to this man who sought a way beyond the social conflicts of his time. In a nutshell, rather than fishing around for the unseen below, literally in the water, this idiosyncratic meaning of mine attached to angling suggests a purely mental aspect, certainly not everything angling entails.

We always fish in an implicit relationship to civilization. But we're out when we fish. Therefore, and in fact, we have the opportunity for new conceptual takes or angles on the civilization we come from. Our recreation, fishing or angling in all the possible meanings of the words, is quite contemplative. And everyone who fishes does this mental exercise I've suggested to some degree. I know that often when I'm out, I'm really out, I don't think of where I've come from at all, although surely my subconscious processes do. But in crossing that threshold of return, the borderland between the wild and civilization during a homecoming, we're often surprised at how other the "ordinary" world seems. We've gone away from it, so upon coming back, it's other to what we've acclimated to. This affords an opportunity to experience usual states of affairs in fresh ways.

If you pay close enough attention, you may find your thoughts subtly surprising. I can't remember any to give specific examples, perhaps I will in some future posts, but beyond doubt contemplation is not limited to aesthetic appreciations of the environment and emotional and spiritual release. Conceptual angles arise that may make living back home more interesting, easier to work through if problematic, and renewed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Inflatable Boat Should Inspire Fresh Fishing

Sometimes someone else has to see the obvious for you. I've known about inflatable boats of course; I just have never seen the inexpensive purchase of such to be the solution to the problem my son and I have had: wide ranging fishing without a boat, renting where we can, and otherwise taking invitations, practicing otherwise, on occasion, contortions of shorebound angling, such as we did at White Lake in September (photographed), with virtually no room to cast. My brother Rick bought Matt an inflatable capable of carrying over 800 pounds. Uninflated, it will just fit on our porch. I simply have to get a used electric with plenty of thrust, and three life preservers.

I laughed, struck by the irony, when Matt stripped the wrapping paper. It will make this coming year a whole new adventure. Ever since we tried White Lake, a most interesting 60-some acres of gin clear, Round Valley Reservoir-like water, welling up from deep ground water as the result of an ancient, immense sink hole, I've had it in mind that this attractive lake--and Splitrock Reservoir--are inaccessible to trailer rigs. We are not equipped to challenge the Delaware, and not so advantaged for Round Valley (on very windy days, forget it) or Hopatcong, but this will also do for Merrill Creek Reservoir at 600-some acres (and possibly larger trout now than Round Valley, Steve at Lebanon Bait and Sport told me this is true, and Steve was expertly informed), Sheperd Lake, Delaware Lake sometime possibly, Spruce Run for hybrids at night (I'll also buy lighting) and I do want to get back out on Little Swartswood. A very good friend of mine lived right on that small lake in 1992 and had a rowboat in the water, tethered to a tree in his backyard. 

The topwater fishing blew me away. I recently wrote, in the "Miles Davis and the Return to Fishing" post that our Delaware River trip to the mouth of the Lackawaxen River (and Zane Grey's former home) sealed my fate as a returned fisherman. But I had begun keeping my fishing log again in 1992 (hiatus from 1983). It's not that I didn't fish in-between those years, I just had to let go taking it as seriously as I had in my teens. Those teen years had been a way of life and a beautiful thing, hell-bent on staying on the successful side of the line between success and failure at fishing. But when I went away to college, I actually took academics seriously.

Miles Davis, Zane Grey, what do they have in common? Quite a lot I suppose. At any rate, I appreciate them both, and both were maverick escapees from the expected grids that try to wrap things up (and us), putting tracking cookies all over the packages. I am a free man. There are secrets I keep no one will ever know.

But I tell you, I guardedly expect a good year fishing. My wife may be losing her job, no fault of hers, my son wants to do a lot more snake searching, but it could be, thanks to Rick, the most interesting year fishing yet.

Anyhow, I'm reading Zane Grey on Fishing. His spirit--he candidly admits his boyishness--is something so fresh and pure it's as alive now as it was early in the 20th century, even though, for the most part, it's so high up there in clean air that if you were to breathe it, you might need to watch out for friendly suggestions that you visit a psychiatrist, and submit to the armies monied by billions of pharmaceutical dollars. It's as if they don't like a free man. It's as if they think a free man has what all of their power can never obtain.