Jan 24 2010 12:02 pm

100 soup cans

The majesty of the great outdoors is truly apparent sitting on the dock at dusk with a fly rod in your hand.  Gaze out into a sky filled with migrating geese and songbirds and some other romantic shit.  Your father and your grandfather both put their right arms on one of your shoulders.  It’s physically awkward, your grandfather has to reach forward to get his arm on the pile so his hand and wrist stick out in front of your face at a weird angle, but this is the best way to communicate the kind of sentimentality I’m after here.  Not to mention the intergenerational transmission of sporting tradition. 

An orange sun setting over a long northern lake burrows deep into your soul and stirs your spirit like an unitchable hemorrhoid.  Everything is just so goddamn pleasant.  It’s OK we didn’t catch any fish.  I just like being on the water.    

This is truly indulgent, but winter is brutal.  And that in itself, I realize, is cliché. 

The last several weeks have been really cold.  I walked to work everyday and my face ached.  Though now it’s warmed up and things are back to normal for Indiana.  Consistently gray skies.  Thirty five degrees.  Sort of rainy.  Occasional bouts of freezing fog.  This weather grinds on an already delicate psyche and erodes my nerves bit by bit.  I’ve been doing some serious reading about skagit heads.  Might get myself another switch rod. 

Then an email arrived from a guy named Dave Motes.  Turns out he has a website.  Turns out I’ve seen his website before.

I quite like his approach to writing about fly fishing.  He has been rejected from the “pine-paneled fraternity” of Grays Sporting Journal a number of times.  He says fuck it all: “postmodernism has struck, and I have set the hook.”  Now I’m not a big fan of that word, “postmodernism,” but dude’s got a way of thinking about fly fishing writing that I am sympathetic with.  He even “wrote a fishing story in which nobody fished” and suspects that at “this rate, my next story will feature a dry river and a party of anglers slaughtered like sheep.” 

I say kill them all Dave.  Kill them all dead.

And submit something to The Drake.  

Though I also have to say that Grays is not all sentimental bullshit.  There is some very good writing there despite the magazine’s many flaws.  As for fishing stories with no fishing but lots of violence, consider another venerable institution of fly fishing fancy writing, the Traver Awards in Fly Rod and Reel.  If I recall correctly, the thing that jumped out at me last year was some bit about a bus hijacking.  There wasn’t any fishing in that part.  Traver Award winners are more often than not pretty damn sappy, but there are bright spots.


So now I’m going to one up you Dave.  I’m not going to read any of your stories.  You don't need fishing in your stories?  I don't need stories in my stories.  

The text is ephemeral and the narrative is constantly revised in the face of shifting cultural allegiances.  The whims of pity, rage, and jealousy steer our ship.  The wet, sloppy, gaseous human condition is almost too much to bear, but we all handle it somehow, and we all still think we’re special.  But the revolt against sappy, cliché bullshit is just another tired trope in the human creative tradition.  I just happen to like it better than the alternatives. 


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