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).
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.