My wife and I pulled up outside a shop the other day, and while she went in search of ice for the cool box, I hung back and answered questions from a woman who was swooning…..over our boat. She seemed a bit rough around the edges. Hard as a woodpeckers lips in fact. Her fingers were tobacco stained, and her hair was like straw. But she got it. She got it that this work of art is a thing of such beauty, that to travel with it, to launch it, and to climb into it, is in itself a treasured act in which one can delight, far beyond the measure of the miles that one might paddle in it.
Funny that, isn’t it. More than half the people I pass on the road don’t notice the canoe. The others have traffic accidents. My daughter and I counted the other day. As each car passed, we labeled the occupants as “with it”, or “dull”. I guess this is as close as I will get to knowing how a pretty girl feels when she walks into a room of admiring stares!
And then there are these landing nets. Such insignificant things in our arsenal of fishing tackle really, but somehow we have elevated them, and given them cult status. You can nip into a shop and buy this or that item of tackle, but not a landing net. Oh no! These things are sacred. You order them, and get photos of the progress of their manufacture. When they are delivered, it must happen over good cappuccino, and photos are taken. The price, the effort, the beauty, and the reverence, all outweigh their hours of use and practical purpose ten fold.
And don’t get me started on bamboo rods! I don’t own one. Well not a functional one anyway, and I doubt that my bank manager would allow it. As a result I feel downright inferior. There. I admit it.
Wooden fly reels. Have you seen those? A whole bunch seem to be made in Ukraine or Georgia or some other such place threatened by Russia. Absolutely beautiful! I have only seen the photos. They are rich in grain, gleaming with polish, and photographed in the soft glow of a fire in the hearth.
My recently acquired J-Vice. Damn I love it. Sometimes I just sit at the tying desk and stroke the gleaming brass. The cheap Indian one that it replaced did me just fine for twenty five years, but who wouldn’t want to own one of Jay’s treasures!
It is magnificent.
I suppose these talismans are unnecessary indulgences that, if one breaks it all down, are part of our society’s rampant consumerism. Their acquisition, and the pains we go to to achieve ownership, represents downright affluenza of the type that I so dislike. But if these things are items of our gentlemanly outdoor pursuits. If they are things we can wax lyrical about, and about which we can brim with pride and joy, without being stuck-up about it. If they gleam and glow, and warm our hearts, then why not. If we can treasure our fine “gear and tackle and trim”, and its use can become a relished indulgence, in which we partake for fewer hours than justifies its ownership, but with a delight that casts the measurement of time aside, then “Why not?”, I say!
The other day I was on a piece of river with a fellow fly-fisherman, and with my camera around my neck as usual.
The going was really tough. We caught nothing on this stretch (again!). Apart from catching nothing, the stream was full of logs and trees and sticks, from a government tree clearing initiative gone wrong. We scrambled under fallen trunks, slipped down eroding muddy banks, got scratched by invasive American bramble. Our socks were full of black-jack seeds. The rocks were covered (in places) in fine layers of silt from erosion upstream.
This doesn’t sound pretty does it!
OK, so here’s the picture:
Looks good doesn’t it?