Setting the hook…
“Fishing isn’t everything but it sure beats what’s second,” Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous said one fine day.
Doug Larson makes a good point too: “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”
But I hold no measure with Paul O’Neil, who’s on record as saying: “There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.”
Although he immediately recovers himself, partly, by suggesting, “I am not against golf, since I cannot but suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout.”
The Anglers Dictionary tells us an angler is “one of two cold, wet, devious and temperamental creatures of somewhat limited intelligence found at either end of a fishing line.”
Authors of this tiny dictionary, Henry Beard and Roy McKie, suggest that people hooked on fishing carry a licence, which is “a permit issued upon payment of a modest fee that allows fishermen to lose lures in a specified area.”
Setting the hook is “a small jerk used to drive the point of the hook intro the mouth of a fish that just struck the bait cast by the large jerk fishing right next to you.”
And then in a book I met John Thorne who said, “There are certain dishes that can quietly haunt your life,” and realized how right he is.
For some of us reminiscing on Yukon fishing this June it is the Arctic blue grayling.
We, who seek the grayling watch dorsal fins flaring like sails in a high wind, flashing colours like a fan dancer’s in water as clear as winter air.
We, who have soaked in the Yukon’s solitude, caressed by it’s south wind, hassled by willows, bugs, bears and been warmed by the midnight sun following the grayling, know.
We practise a tradition as structured as the tea ceremony.
Wood is gathered, hand-picked to heat the butter-laden cast-iron pan till the butter bubbles, the fly mimicking the hatch is dropped onto the rippling water, the dorsal fin spirals up like a ballet dancer twirling; the offering is taken, the hook is set.
A coup de grace, a sharp knife cuts, the Chinese proverb is recalled and followed, “one should govern a family as you would cook a small fish, very gently;” the fillets set gently into bubbling butter, sizzle till the snow-white meat turns golden brown. It is gently removed and the fisherman eats.
It is a Yukon dish that haunts your life!
Nary a fish that swims comes better to a fly, nor tastes better from the pan.
There is a final haunting, well, more a delight: telling fisher-folk south of 60 the grayling-tradition, ‘Light the fire, melt the butter, then drop the fly!’ and playing their reactions like you’re playing a fish.
They look at you quizzically; they verbally thrash your veracity, as only friends can, but the lure has been dropped.
One day in another summer they call, we’re coming for a visit, how’s the fishing? It’s a bite! The hook is set!
A budding, contemplative fisherman
A tip of the hat to fisher folk wherever your search takes you; may you have enough strikes to make your day, enough fish in your creel to satisfy your appetite, and children with you that you may share the ways of the fish and solitude with them.