Angling With Angels

The inclement weather of late (an overdose of rains) has kept me from the lawnmower and the fly rod more than I prefer, so I’ve had some time to figure things out. I’ve decided (after a little research) that fishing is okay (defined as the quest for fish, an act of hunting for food) but angling is a more artful pursuit (defined as fishing for enjoyment and immersion in Nature).

Day after writing this article, I found the Genesee River in good form…

Just before the storms hit on Saturday I made an angling run to the Oswayo. I wasn’t out to catch a meal, so technically I was out to catch a bit of fun before the rains returned and pushed the high, muddy water over the banks. The midday air was hot and humid; high water had drowned my usual access points. I could have used a little help from above– from something stronger than a human but less omnipotent than a god. Angels came to mind while angling.

Trout fed on nymphs until a strong hatch of Stenonema (Cahills) brought them to the surface…

“Angel” and “angle”– two spelling words mangled by schoolkids and adults alike. Originally, angle (from the Middle English “angel,” rhyming with “dangle”) meant… to fish. At the publication of Dame Juliana Berners’ A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), “angle” referred to a fish hook as well as to the angle formed by line and pole. As for angels, we now understand that these beings have greater knowledge than we primates have. They are not omniscient but are smart enough to act as messengers from beyond.

the “beyond” of yellow flags as seen from my backyard…

I switched my Green Drake dry fly (no fish rising in the clouded water) to a weighted Woolly Bugger. Like ’em or not, Buggers are a super-pattern, great for winter stream conditions and in warmer weather when the creeks are high and roily. Pulling a Woolly Bugger slowly from the depths, I watched (again) the graceful motions of the marabou tail, reminded of the snowy egrets I observed a week ago while fishing on the coast. The white wings in flight had seemed angelic, not unlike the motion of a big fly squirming on the line.

columbine, angelic moments of the wild…

A religious person (as opposed to a pagan angler) might delve more deeply into the nature of angels, but I’m happy with a few basic tenets. I understand that angels can be good or bad. They’re usually male, and not to be viewed as cute cherubic infants! They are spirits not unlike the souls of man and woman. They can be demonic or heavenly; they can bear messages from God or Satan; they can act as guides, instructors, protectors, and executioners.

view of home from Dryden Hill, before windmills come & scar the scene…

A “Talking Pine” can be angelic when its boughs sigh in the wind:

I am Pinus strobus,/ one who tells the stories/ in these wooded hills of home.// My arms circle on the sky./Rotations guide your eyes/ to constellations/ high above the fire.// My whispers are directions,/ ancient words. This night// accept the healing herbs,/ the compass of my heart./ Reflect on your place,/ your life. See it// merging spark-like/ in my branches.// I am Pinus strobus,/ one who tells the stories/ unto those who wait for the sun.

brown trout from the high waters of Oswayo…

Angels can even take the form of a Woolly Bugger that helps me land a good trout from the river currents– but only when called upon, as if with a prayer, and with a fishing rod named Lady Luck.

Blue flag (iris), Oswayo Creek….

A dry Red-tailed McGee, a Pine Creek caddis favorite (Big Meadows Fly Shop)…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to Angling With Angels

  1. Leigh Smith says:

    Sounds like a great trip. And there is no shame in fishing a wooly bugger.

  2. No shame whatsoever, Leigh. I’m no dry fly purist. Woollies could get us through an angling year, if needed. Thanks pal.

  3. Bob Stanton says:

    Freshly emerged mayflies, especially Cahills and their light-colored brethren look not unlike angels ascending from the water…

  4. plaidcamper says:

    Spirited stuff, Walt! I hope your wooded hills of home find some protection, angelic or otherwise, from rampaging dollar demons out to exploit what’s left…
    The flag/flower shots are pretty heavenly, great photographs.
    Thanks for this one!

  5. Brent says:

    I agree with Plaid: the lighting in the flag iris picture is perfect, and all three dominant colors (yellow, blue, green) are vivid and sharp. And a beautiful shot down the old “driving range” from Dryden Hill!

    • Thanks Brent. I’ll pledge allegiance to the blue flag of Oswayo! I knew you’d appreciate the “driving range,” an early place of employment. Just the other day, after all these years, I found another of McKenna’s golf balls nearby. You missed a few!

  6. loydtruss says:

    Gorgeous images showing the best that nature offers in your next of the woods——–You have renewed my interest in the Wooly Bugger; will give it try on my next outing to the Sipsey. Thanks for sharing

  7. Thanks Bill, and good luck with the Woolly!

  8. tiostib says:

    Great to connect with another fly fishing angler, in particular one who hangs out with angels. My rambles have mostly been West Coast, a lot of them in less populated parts of Oregon. Mostly blind now, my fishing trips are days in drift boats down rivers, casting in the general direction the guide tells me. I’ve yet to catch anything on Clauser’s Deep Minnow, a fly from your neighborhood, but hope to try it out late in the summer on the Williamson or wood. Good fishing and keep writing!

    • Great to hear from you, Tio. Thank you for the follow on my blog and, impressed with your poetry and narratives reflecting a varied life with many challenges faced with true compassion and skill, I look forward to reading much more. I have fished on a few streams in your region, including the big Williamson, and will certainly enjoy hearing more about your world, whether casting from a drift boat or taking a leisurely stroll with your wife. Again, thanks much, and all the best!

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