Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Archive of What Worked

     Words are spoken beside rivers, questions asked, & in the following silence of leaf & twig, stone & sky, slant of light, the rushing water answers. In that observed moment, the mind engaged yet not busy, the ambiguous stream reveals something.

Perhaps it serves to perceive tradition as a stream. I prefer that to thinking of tradition as a museum of old things. O there is that. There are actual things that are iconic to the fly fishing tradition, objects to be admired for their beauty & utility, the thought & craftsmanship contributing to their making – & these beautiful tools, the fine rods & reels, brilliantly conceived flies & gear, do serve as visual, working proof of a tradition holding rich craft & aesthetic values. We love looking at these things. As one who has sipped an entire glass of whiskey while savoring & admiring a single well-tied salmon fly I am no exception. Many find a lifetime of pleasure collecting the trappings of our sport, & some collect while seldom or never wetting a line. Ours is a faceted passion. And though I take pleasure from all aspects & elements of the fly fishing tradition, I won’t lie, more than anything I love to hook fish & feel a tug, so it is the ideas & concepts behind those things in tradition, born of observation, experience & connection through time on the water, that interest me the most. Tradition is the archive of what worked. Something works enough times to be truly noteworthy, & it is kept. Tradition is a living river, its authentic elements fractal & expansive. We may take what we need from that nourishing stream, & what we take, we may duplicate, refine, or carry in a new direction.  

What makes us who we are as anglers? Does our connection to the natural world have anything to do with it? Are we influenced by where we live, or have lived? Are we ‘men of the country’, informed by energetic signals unique to our particular regions? Well, yes. More or less. I think so. Possibly more than we may know. Everything's connected. Anglers are adaptable & absorbent predators, come down the ages bearing a formidable arsenal. Knowledge of lake & stream. We learn what is valuable to keep & come to see how that both serves & defines us.