The Wayward Angler

I long for the days of clear water, no winds, sipping trout and tight lines; but then, what Compleat Angler, as Izzak Walton wrote two centuries ago, would not drift away to such thoughts. John Dennys waxed poetic these words in 1613:

Of angling and the art thereof I sing

What kind of tools it doth behove to have

And with what pleasing bayt a man may bring

The fish to bite within the watry wave.

A work of thanks to such as in a thing

Of harmless pleasure have regard to save

Their dearest soules from sinne and may intend

Of pretious time some part thereon to spend.

 Norman Maclean spoke these words regarding his father on the same subject in “A River Runs Through It”.

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.

There are no easy ways to master the art of fly-fishing.  I was fortunate to be taught by a true Master.  It’s something that requires time and patience.  When I first started down the path of the wayward angler, someone told me a story of a boy out fishing for only his second time, who caught a 24 inch rainbow with a piece of corn. They laughed at my long efforts to keep my fly line out of the trees and free from knots.  Years went by and my skills improved slowly, there were good days, with many, not as good in between. There was just something about the delicate presentation, a perfect cast and “the take” of a rising trout that captured me. “Of pretious time some part thereof to spend”.

I’ve never considered the art of the true angler to be in some sort, a mirror toward any other pursuit than what it was in itself to be, simply an art; complete and significant in itself.  But, the patience and the time afforded for such an effort; though, most times were stealthily taken at expense, seemed within the art, a gift given by grace. If therefore this art, by grace, we’re given, it was my duty to make sure the soil on which this seed landed, be fertile.  Time and patience in the effort would be akin to the words sent to the church at Phillipi “Each man must work out his own salvation with fear and trembling”.  The work is always worthy of the reward.  Jesus told this parable, sitting in a boat, which belonged to a fisherman.


A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a cropa hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.


A wise man full of years and gray hair once told me: “When you take to the river, you must go with the proper attitude, choose the one that you will be most successful with”.  And this has made all the difference.  Ain’t it true!

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