The book is filled with meta fictional virtuosity and playfulness. Still, the groundswell of it- the human need to be intimate with unspoiled natural beauty- isn’t obscured by the self reflexiveness. In fact, it is amplified by it- how we have messed up that beauty with our vanity and how beautiful it is when we are graced and our desire is made pure, and we fleetingly find that paradise that is in nature and in our imagination at the same time.
I was staring at a pool cut off from the riffle by a fallen tree. I looked at the tail of the pool and the head of a truly red letter day. The light looked like a rainbow had been drawn out of the trees and punched into the pool by a giant blacksmith.
I had only caught chubs all day-but in the flow around the top of the tree, close to the other bank, I saw some rises. The problem, though, was that I brought my three-weight, five- foot rod for casting under the tree canopy in the tiny headwaters, so I couldn’t roll cast far enough to reach the rising fish with my elk hair caddis (now I almost only use wet flies in fast water for brook trout in small streams). I also didn’t bring waders or a little landing net.
I looked in and saw the creek was only about a foot deep off the bank, so I stepped in to get closer- and quickly sank up to my waste in the boggy bottom. I plodded my way a few steps and laid a cast down upstream in the flow near the end of the fallen tree- my rod came to quivering life! Plodding my way back to the bank with the boggy bottom sucking in my legs, I stripped line in and saw the shimmering reds, purples, greens and golds- the most beautiful, resplendent living thing I had laid eyes on in my life- then watched it wriggle away, leaving me in a sopping, muddy daze.
The brook trout is still the most beautiful thing living in the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and I’m still gleaning lessons from that first contact.
What’s better than fishing and drinking beer under a tree with a friend, or as Stephen Leacock more eloquently put it: what can we learn from Izaak Walton… that a cup of ale beneath a tree is better than a civic banquet, and an old familiar song from a familiar singer outclasses grand opera.
I practise selective harvest. I fish because it is a passion and a drive, and I feel the pleasure of God’s world and the pleasure of my ancestors.