Book of the Month January 2020

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The Spiritual Side. What with so much going on in life right now, I confess that I have been unable to find time to read a book with the care necessary to prepare a review. I thought, at first, to simply beg forbearance and not print a report at all. But, then, our club’s Christmas Party night arrived and the experience of that party reminded me of just how blessed we are to be able to enjoy our craft, with all its little foibles, nuances, and moments of excitement as well as serenity, and to share it with the wonderful people in our fraternity.

This Christmas party was unique. First, those who planned and prepared it for the rest of us did a truly masterful job. From decorations and ornaments, to entertainment, to food, it was well-organized and wonderful, like the old Christmas gatherings I recall from church during childhood. The food was superb for an event that was essentially a potluck, and I ate more than my share! That glazed ham, in particular, was rave-worthy. Kudos to the chef (Rick Newman)!

And something remarkable happened. THE LIGHTS WENT OUT! At first, of course, I thought it was momentary – who had leaned up against the light switch? Then, after afew minutes, it became clear that it was something more than that. As the minutes passed, the lights remained unlit and we realized we would be celebrating in the dark. And, at about that time, little yet wonderful things began to happen. People found candles and lit them. Others began to deploy flashlights, mostly those in their cell phones and tablets (say what you want about all this tech stuff, it can be a blessing on occasion!). And, with those efforts, the celebration continued unabated! Maybe a bit restrained or muted at first, but it proceeded nevertheless! Once, as I stood back along the wall and observed the whole scene, it took on the look of a candlelit dinner of old, with little pockets of members gathering at tables, obviously enjoying each other’s company. The fact that light was restored near the end after we’d eaten, most of the work had been done, and clean-up was being planned for the following day, served to remind that God does, indeed, have a sense of humor!

All of which served to remind me of the spiritual side of our sport. I have spent most of my adult life following two outdoor pursuits: falconry and fly fishing. While there are similarities, there are also significant differences. Falconry can be characterized by intensity and exhilaration, and an incredible rush that is experienced during moments of frantic pursuit of quarry by hawk and falconer. Moments of calm and reflection, in my experience, are rare. Fly fishing, unlike falconry, allows long periods of quiet and contemplation, enabling one to adjust personal rhythms and to restore peace and tranquility. Even while in pursuit of the next strike…

So, in closing, I’d like to share some of the observations of others regarding fly fishing’s spiritual side:

From Dame Juliana Berners, “Also, you must not use this aforesaid artful sport for covetousness to increasing or saving of your money only, but principally for your solace and to promote the health of your body and specially of your soul.”

W.C. Prime wrote, in Go A-Fishing, “It is not every man who should go a-fishing, but there are many who would find this their true rest and recreation of body and mind. And having…learned by experience how pleasant it is to go a-fishing, you will find…that you are drawn to it whenever you are weary, impatient, or sad.”

And, finally, from Isaak Walton, in The Compleat Angler: Venator:…So when I would beget content, and increase confidence in the power, and wisdom, and providence of Almighty God, I will walk the meadows and by some gliding stream, and there contemplate the lilies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures, that are not only created but fed, man knows not how, by the goodness of God of Nature, and therefore trust in him. This is my purpose, and so let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord: and let the blessing of St Peter’s master be with mine.”

Piscator: “And upon all that are lovers of virtue, and dare trust in His providence, and be quiet, and go a/angling.”

The above were taken from The History of Fly Fishing in 50 Flies, by Ian Whitlaw, and from The Compleat Angler by Isaak Walton, both of which are available in our Library.

Happy Holidays everybody!

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