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The meaning of life is found at the end of the line

Jim Morgan

Perhaps the best description written of a fisherman came from Zane Grey, of cowboy writer fame, who penned, “A fisherman is a lazy bad boy grown up. He is dirty and disobedient, he plays hooky and won’t work. When he gets to be a man all he wants to do is trudge off … with a fishing pole over his shoulder.”

Fishermen are an interesting lot. They can be and have been aptly described as cantankerous, capricious, introspective, stretchers of the truth, anti-social, arbitrary, generous, selfish and downright strange.

I count myself among their legions.

Not every one of the above adjectives fittingly describes every fisherman. But I do know individuals, men who pursue piscatorial pleasures wantonly, who can selectively be any or all of those things.

I count myself among their legions.

Fishing has been a part of us since the dawn of the written word. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “If you wish to be happy for an hour, get intoxicated. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill a pig and eat it. But if you wish to be happy forever, learn to fish.”

Until last weekend, I haven’t been fishing, as in actually wetting a line, in nearly a month, which for me is a long stretch.

But when I’m unable to go fishing, I can still find a way to enjoy it. As a fellow named Alfred Miller, who wrote under the pen name Sparse Grey Hackle, once noted, “Some of the best fishing is not done in water but in print.”

When you can’t get to a river or a stream or a pond or a lake, reach for a book. When I do I am certain to find gems, such as these.

n “I never lost a little fish – yes, I am free to say it always was the biggest fish I caught that got away.” Eugene Field, 1889.

n “The fishing was so good, I thought I was there yesterday!” Dave Engerbretson, 1994.

n “There must be some kind of equation to express the relation between the use of small dry flies and the use of the truth. There are men alive today who have used them both, probably, but not at the same time.” John Randolph, 1956.

n “Chasing trout is no less wearing and barely less complicated than chasing women.” Robert Traver, 1964.

n “Fish and guests get stale in three days.” John Lyly, 1579.

n “There is no use in walking five miles to fish when you can depend on being just as unsuccessful near home.” Mark Twain, 1875.

n “Trout thrive best in water with high mineral content, which is the very sort of water that is worst for making Tennessee whiskey. This is why one never finds a trout in a fifth of Jack Daniels. Or vice versa.” David Bascom, 1977.

n “My favorite time on the water will continue to be dusk. Not day, not night, but the peaceful edge of beauty in-between.” W.D. Wetherell, 1984.

n “Where did I catch this fish? Well, you can’t get there from here; it’s uphill both ways. And besides, it’s a government secret and if I told you, I’d have to kill you.” Charlie Powell, 1994.

n “Fishermen are born honest. But they get over it.” Ed Zern, 1945.

n “Fishing makes us less hostages to the horrors of having to make a living.” Jim Harrison, 1978.

n “Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it, all of it, the good and the awful, the joyous and the miserable, the comic, the embarrassing, the tragic and the sorrowful.” Harry Middleton, 1993.

n “A game fish is too valuable to be caught only once.” Lee Wulff, 1938.

n “For a man to admit a distaste for fishing would be like denouncing mother-love and hating moonlight.” John Steinbeck, 1954.

n “The purpose of fishing is to catch fish. You hear a lot of poetic falderal about the beauties of nature and the joy of a day in the open. But if I weren’t primarily interested in filling my creel or even catching fish and turning them loose – which I do frequently – I would be walking around the woods with a pair of binoculars and a bird book.” Ted Trueblood, 1949.

With any luck at all, as you’re reading these lines, I’m somewhere on a stretch of river getting ready to toss a bug to a fish that, if I catch it, will be something worth writing about.

Publisher Jim Morgancan be reached on the banksof the Blue. Better yet, try (970) 668-3998, ext. 240, or jmorgan@summitdaily.com.


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