Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1980's Kind of Style.

I'm an old soul of a man, guised inside a young woman's body. A throwback, you might say, living in a cabin in the mountains, with a dog, and a rocking chair, and two Banjos.

And yes, I duel.

Now people say, you have to understand history before you can understand the present. Often, these people are old gents who just want your ear. They just want you to listen. When you're young, you roll your eyes back to their time; guilted by your mother whose look says you don't know how long he'll be around; you listen, to amuse the old man.

But as you age, you learn -- older, is often better. Stories, wine, cigars, and dare I say, men. You start to see that those who came before you made your history, like it or not. And you realize that the point of life is to decide whether you do, like it or not; then to decide whether to stay on trail or start whacking into the bush. To invent, improve, and to push boundaries, you have to know where the boundaries are in the first place. Forging a new trail isn't "new" just because it isn’t on your map.

In any case – in any art, craft, or trade, the masters are classically trained. So too in fly fishing, study the masters...listen to their stories. You need to study the classics to write a modern novel. You need to practice scales and arpeggios for decades until you can play a concerto. You need to tie the Royal Wulffs, Parachute Adams', BWOs, and Wooly Buggers, before you distress a damsel or try to tie a Clown Shoe Caddis on for size. Thus studying the masters, I tie. Right now, I'm practicing my scales.

By habit (one of many not outgrown from childhood), I animate the inanimate. The silent ones, the ones who just observe, they hold the stories. Many, thankfully untold. But I want to be told. Please. Now older, I want to listen. 

And now, I want to listen to my vise. Clamped to my desk, like a man with a firmer grip than he had during his boyhood in the 80's, I want to know its stories. I bought it for $20 -- used at a gear swap, from an equally used man. Listen to the old man's stories, I remember.


This vise has its stories too, they all do -- hooked into limbs of wood and flesh. Every bit of fly fishing radiates from the point of one vise. A solitary soul. A solitary vise illuminated by a lonely light. A solitary fly tied. And where does it go? Every personal best, record set, competition won, childhood dabble, and every fishing trip with your dad, begins here, at the vise. It's the story's history before it's first begun. That one epic catch carried a lifetime as a trophy through a tale, gathering people round to hear and dream and hope for such themselves. That fish will live forever. The fly will be forgotten...left to dry in a box or lost in a tree.

But the vise knows. It knows its part in the story. The womb, the mother who knows that of all her spawned sons, many tens of thousands will be prodigal. Sent out with so much promise, they will fail. They will disappoint. They will be lost. And, they will lose. They won't return home. Yet with stronger hands wrinkled and warped with time, it keeps holding tightly for that one who will.

Now, I reach for my vise and feel the storied stain of an old man’s salt. I tie alone. I thread my own history onto a worn spool, dubbing my words into the tale. Tonight by the light of a solitary bulb, a solitary fly emerges from my inexperienced hands and I know, I'm just a small part of this story.

37 comments:

  1. "Every personal best, record set, competition won, childhood dabble, and every fishing trip with your dad, begins here," I love that, Of course the argumentative person inside of me wanted to answer "the knot".

    I have issues. I love how you wield words. I bow at your wordsmithing. You might be a beginner tier but you are a damn good story teller.

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  2. I'm an old soul of a man, guised inside a young woman's body. I snickered when I read this, but by the end of the piece I knew. You are. Lovely work.

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  3. And you tie by the light of an oil lamp...
    Stellar.

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  4. Whew! I'm left speechless...

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  5. Kev2380 - You have a point there, about the knot! What good is a fly if you can't tie a knot worth a darn to fasten it. I like arguments. :) I have issues too, I guess. And thank you so much for your kind words...no bowing allowed!

    Mike - Ever since I was a little girl, my grandmother has always told me, "Erin, you have an old soul." And my old soul has always been out of place until now. Thank you...

    Matt - Got to set the mood, I'm always one for ambiance!

    Cofisher - You, speechless. A high compliment indeed! Many thanks.

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  6. I will think of this post every time I sit down to tie a fly or when I look at the flies that have stuck around. Always interesting to read your stories.

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  7. Thanks, Justin -- very glad you're enjoying them!

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  8. I really enjoyed that. Read it it twice and will come back and read it again.

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  9. Phillip - ah, and I hope it too gets only better with age...

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  10. Back when I was barely a teen my mom told me I was born old. Even younger, I used to sit under the kitchen table to listen to adult conversations. The best conversations of adults always occurred while sitting around the kitchen table.

    Favorite past time of us older guys... try to tell a young person something, a bit of advice. They don't listen. We sit back and watch them fail. "You gonna listen now?" Not mean about it, real matter of fact.

    We're trying to tell you to start where we had to stop. The smart ones listen.

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  11. Ken G. - I did that table thing too. I'd just silently sit on the floor and listen. The other kids were all playing and being far too noisy in basements and bedrooms. Adults would ask, would urge me to "go play with the other kids"...to "socialize"....but I would always refuse. I just listened to the adults....to the old men...and I remember what I've heard.

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  12. Emily when I read your article I thought about this other story from Patrick M McManus. I think you'd really like it. It's called "the theory and application of old men."
    http://books.google.com/books?id=gDPPs9mPh7EC&lpg=PA66&ots=UpfR2b-_HV&dq=The%20theory%20and%20application%20of%20old%20men&pg=PA66#v=onepage&q=The%20theory%20and%20application%20of%20old%20men&f=false

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  13. Kev2380 - Nice! Thanks for that link! "disposition of a bull walrus with shingles." ;) A great read....it needs a second time through, definitely!

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  14. Dubbing words... classic! It is amazing how many flies roll of the vice as compared to the ones stowed away ready to be fished. I'm glad you brought that up. They are like socks in the wash. Wash 8, retrieve 7.

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  15. Erin,
    Your writings are wonderful. You should compile your favorites and publish a book.
    Thanks for sharing these.

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  16. backcountryfishnerd - My odds are more like tie 8, retrieve 4. I'm still amazed at how quickly they go....or maybe I'm just inordinately good at getting myself snagged.

    Bob - Thank you so much! Book ideas have been floating about as of late....we'll see. :)

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  17. It seems I need to dig around in some trees where you frequently fish... I'm with Bob! You could make a neat book, but don't use past posts, I've read them. ;)

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  18. backcountryfishnerd - I promise fresh. :)

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  19. If the vise could talk, what tales could it tell?

    Think of all those passed down rods and the stories they could tell......... we should all have at least one rod to pass on, to keep the story going.

    As eloquent as ever Erin and should the book be written then i hope at least one will find its way across the pond :)

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  20. I don't have one favorite line...it was all really really good...actually, "...practicing my scales" was pretty sweet. keep it up

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  21. Tom - I always wonder about the stories...and very much like your idea about passing on rods. Many thanks, as always, and should a book someday be published, I shall make sure it finds its way "across the pond." :)

    Travis - Practicing scales...man, that's what it feels like! Thanks!

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  22. That's funny. I did it for the same reason. When the adults didn't want me to know what was going on, they'd speak in Polish. That's why they never taught me. My dad doesn't speak it either. He'd get pissed, which was part of the fun of being under the table.

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  23. I have a vise similar to yours. May favorite part has to be the clamp lever. After placing the hook, I give the clamp a forceful swing. One more for good measure, and you're ready. It is like a librarian stamping on a due date, or a judges mallet finalizing a verdict. It is time to tie.

    great read :)

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  24. Ken G. - I remember my Grandpa trying pig latin for awhile...but I caught on!

    d.nash - Completely true! I love that clamp lever! You're right...it just makes you feel like you're ready. "It is time to tie." -- will always think about that now. :)

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  25. Keep practicing those scales :-) Glad to be back reading your posts...thanks for sharing!

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  26. Sanders - glad you're back, and looks like you had a great trip!

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  27. Erin, I just got round to reading your post and so glad I did. This is another beautiful one. Are we haunted by 'vices now? (ha ha).

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  28. I'm back and I like this one a lot. :) THIS is what they meant by applying a conservatory education to "real life." The appreciation for the past to understand the present and impact our future... in the most strategic, positive way possible. Talk soon. :)

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  29. Martin - Many thanks...and I, at least, know I am haunted by mine. ;)Or guilted, because I should be tying more!

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  30. Celery - I adore you. :) And now I don't feel so bad about those thousands of hours and dollars! I should write into the Conservatory alumni department and let them know I am writing about fly fishing, putting my degree to good use! But really, I whole-heartedly agree with you. This IS what they meant...

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  31. Beautiful. I will be back to read it again...

    Ben

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  32. Ben - Many thanks, and I'm glad...and hope it ages well...

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  33. Absolutely fantastic writing. Bravo. Love it.

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  34. Swamp Thing - wow...thank you!

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  35. I'm an old soul too.

    The picture with the vise and the oil lamp made me REALLY want cooler weather so I can bring my lamps out and tie with the light from them.

    Another good post!

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  36. I'm really dying for cold weather too...and some dreary drizzly days. I love those.

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  37. They are the best days for lounging around or cuddling!

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