A Wise Man Once Quipped

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Wise and successful men (and of course women) often have much to say. Often the rhetoric seems endless, pointless and for the most part ignorable. Occasionally the wise, successful and experienced man shares their experience, passions and timeless insights with the masses. Such was the case with this gentleman. A man who grew up in Iowa and Oregon, learning how to fish and making it a life-long passion. A man who became a prominent mining engineer who made significant contributions to global mining industries in the early 20th century. Throughout his life he fished for both trout and saltwater species, and as he entered his last few years on this earth, this man saw fit to tell us the essence of fishing in his own words. After years of public service and retirement, this man was convinced by an associate to tell us about fishing. In his own words, he had this to say (among other things) about fishing.

“Fishing is a chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the scenery of nature, charity toward tackle makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a damned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of man—for all men are equal before fish.”

On “The Reasons Why They Get That Way”

Nor is it the fish we get that count. We could buy them in the market for mere silver at one percent of the cost. Fishing is much more than fish; it is the vitalizing lure to outdoor life. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.

And there is the chance to associate with fishermen. You have the opportunity to renew old and long-time friendships. All fishermen and fisherladies are by nature friendly and righteous persons. No one of them ever went to jail while fishing—unless they forgot to buy as license.

Contemplation of the eternal flow of the stream, the stretch of forest and mountain, all reduce our egotism, soothe our troubles, and shame our wickedness. And in it we make a physical effort that no sitting on cushions, benches, or side line provides. To induce people to take this joy they need some stimulation from the hunt, the fish or the climb. I am for fish.

On the “Gigantic Army of Game Fishermen”

I have no sympathy with attempts to disarmament of the gigantic army which every year marches against the fish. Nor am I for any limitations on its equipment of automobiles, tackle or incantations. Peace on earth will not come that way. I am for more fish.

On “The Mentality of Fishermen”

A fisherman must be of contemplative mind, for it is often a long time between bites. Those interregnums emanate patience, reserve, and calm reflection—for no one can catch fish in anger or malice. He is by nature an optimist or he would not go fishing; for we are always going to have better luck in a few minutes or tomorrow. All of which creates a spirit of affection for fellow fishermen and high esteem for fishing.

There are certain myths about fish that people generally believe. Every fisherman is always astonished at the miracles in fishing that happen to him and he holds incantations. All American boys spit on the bait.

On “The Class Distinction among Fishermen”

Although all men are equal before fish, there are some class distinctions among them. The dry-fly devotees hold themselves a bit superior to the wet fly fisherman; the wet-fly fisherman superior to the spinner fisherman; and the spinners, superior to the bait fishermen. I have noticed, however, that toward the end of the day when there are no strikes, each social level collapses in turn down the scale until it gets some fish supper.

On “The Affinity of Boys and Fish”

One time, in the spring, our grandmothers used to give us nasty brews from Sulphur and herbs to purify our blood of the winter’s corruptions. They knew something was the matter with the boys. They could have saved trouble by giving them a pole, a string and a hook. Some wise ones did—among them my own—did just that.

On “The Time Between Bites of Stream Fish Grows Longer and Longer”

There will be no joy on long winter nights making reinventory of the tackle unless there be behind it the indelible recollection of having caught a few big ones, and the anticipation of bigger ones to come.

On “The Hardships of Stream Fishing”

There are two handicaps which apply to all expeditions for fish. The first is depletion of your savings. You must buy more tackle; and you must bring one coat with large checks. Passers-by will then know you are a real sport. You can wear your old pants. You must also buy a canvas jacket with seventeen pockets to carry the gadgets and bottles for emergencies. The second hardship relates to frustration. You have been dreaming for the previous six months about that big one. But your appointment with destiny will connect you with the smaller sizes.

To brace yourself with the iron-pointed staff and at the same time change the fly, you must tuck your rod under your armpit and change the fly with one hand and your teeth. That fly is also usually the wrong one.

On “Bonefishing”

You have to hunt for bonefish, and when you find signs of where he is, you cast him a shrimp. At times, our bonefish is digging for a hermit crab for himself. Then his tail sticks out of the water and he wags it at you. Most times he is not eating shrimp that day. Other days the water is too cold or the tide runs out, or the bonefish has just stayed home. This is good training for restrained thinking.

On “The Expert”

I was supposed to be returning after a day’s fishing without a single fish when I met a boy who was toting home a beautiful catch. I asked: ‘Where did you get them?’, He said: ‘You just walk down that lane marked “Private” till you come to a sign saying “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted”, Just beyond is a stream marked “No Fishing Allowed”, and there you are.’

On “Home Again”

wisemanThere are two things I can say for sure: two months after you return from a fishing expedition you will begin again to think of the snowcap on the distant mountain peak, the glint of sunshine on the water, the excitement of the dark blue seas, and the glories of the forest. And then you buy more tackle and more clothes for next year. There is no cure for these infections. And that big fish never shrinks.

“Fishing for Fun – And to Wash Your Soul’’ (1963), Herbert Hoover, (1874-1963), 31st President of the United States

Fishing for Fun is a short book. A mere 86 pages. You could probably finish it while the wife watched a single episode of Dancing with the Stars. It won’t make you a better angler, but it will remind you why you fish.

The short review, printed on the back of the dust jacket, starts thus: Herbert Hoover, thirtieth [sic] President of the United States, is a modern Izaak Walton. He values fishing for the solitude it brings and it therapeutic values to modern man as respects both body and spirit. The present tract is written in the Izaak Walton tradition and perpetuates the tradition of the wily “fresh water trouts” and their ability to outwit man. William O. Douglas, Justice of the Supreme Court, 1963

2 thoughts on “A Wise Man Once Quipped

  1. Joe Duca

    Thank you Mike Cline, that was a beautiful post. I reflected on many things in my life from fishing with a stick and a string all the way to the present, enjoying the place I’m at today. So much, no, all of what he said still rings true today. I hope for all, if not a few. Thanks again.

    Reply
  2. Bruce

    I also thank you for bringing me back to so many pleasant times. Fish/fishing does indeed humble our human image. My father taught to me the grandeur of the flyrod at the tender age of 6 or 7, and I have relished and endured the simpleness to which the presence of the wily water species has reduced me. Yes, I continue to the next best rod I make and the best “lure” I can tie. Be it fresh or salt, the water species will always produce humbleness.
    A very dear friend, who passed away at 88 a short few years ago, returned me to honoring that same species after my own father passed.
    I certainly believe that would there be more of those political folks who would cast a fly would make our nation much better.

    Reply

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