© Wolf Avni FEBRUARY 15, 2004
AN INELEGANT SUFFICIENCY
KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!
“ In a hedonistic world, too much of a good thing is never enough” #1
Were forgetfulness to overtake me, or my sense-of-self diminish, my mail would directly remind me of how marvellously important I have become. Only this morning I received another fat dispatch full of subtle flattery. This one was from one or other journal, divulging in confidence that, among the entire planetary human population, my name had been selected from billions for participation in a mega-million dollar sweepstakes, that only the creme-de-la-creme had made it as far as this short-list. My ticket numbers in this exclusive little gig were around the 370-million-and-something mark. It went on to tell me that I was already a winner, if only I would fill in the attached subscription commitment and that my “free” gift would be with me within the blink of an eye. I blinked and contemplated my frightful importance! There was even an additional ‘prompt response’ bonus, awaiting me if only I would drop everything and act with alacrity, beating an imminent cut-off date. Way down the page, in lilliputian print, hidden as an afterthought almost, like the hook beneath its dressing of feathers, was a line of text binding me into a near lifetime subscription. I blinked again. How rewarding to be so important.
Involuntarily, like a fish turning toward a well presented fly, I reached for my pen, but then, constrained no doubt by that modesty innate to any fly fisher, I managed to resist the exhortation to vanity. Perhaps, the unremitting flood of similar missives that have bulked up my mail over the decades, has left an even seam of callous upon an otherwise raw enthusiasm. Wine clubs touting obscure cultivars, insurances of every kind - from maternity to mortuary - mint coins and other glittering investments, fancy electronic gizmos, compendiums of fringe music and mainstream literature, gourmand delicacies from exotic - never quite what they purport to be - pantries, romantic destinations and, believe it or not, purveyors of extravagant fishing accoutrements; they all find me absolutely, irresistibly consequential. They go to extraordinary lengths to seek me out, offering unique and ‘soon-to-expire’ specials. They know my name and my birthday. Hell, they know stuff about me that I even forget to remember! And that’s just courtesy of the postal service; the good old snail-mail.
The Internet has expanded the universe rather more, and with it, apparently, the magnitude of my personage. My electronic mail box fills to overflowing, almost faster than I can empty it, with urgent communications of every kind. Between seductive proposals from girls called Mandi, Candi or Sandi, and opportunities to purchase Viagra and other quaint performance and/or mind altering substances (purchasing anonymity guaranteed), come a steady flow of angling E-zines, a whole new genre of soft porn. At last count, there were more than a half-dozen, each striving valiantly, aspiring to attain a status of something more than just another hard-selling product broadsheet. The publishers may flatter themselves with their electronic sophistication, but their product is merely Virtual cloning. The smidgen of editorial content they carry is buried beneath gigabytes of advertorial. Like most marketing “come-hithers” they are flat, lifeless and un-inspirational. notwithstanding a vocabulary of superlatives. The texts might generously be described as no more dimensional than a flat line, atonal and unoriginal, sharing linear concepts mostly plagiarised for the umpteenth time from a common source; the glossy angling journals, their purpose no more than to part fools from their money.
Even were it not so, if there were a glimmer of literary merit within their pages, their enterprise would remain misdirected, a salvo misfired. What’s wrong with these guys? Do they not know that disposable income is no longer a demographic commonly associated with us, the presently disadvantaged; those middle-aged, middle-income, Eurocentric-skinned males among whom, by virtue of age and pigmentation, I now number? Secondly, with fair nigh a half-century of angling under the belt, that covetous impulse to procure every glittering new angling bauble that one can afford, or perhaps not, which seems such an integral part of the angling obsession, has long left me. If they know so much about me, how come they don’t know this?
I need admit that my immunity is a relatively recent acquisition. In years flown past, with liquidity and youth at my side, I obsessed as compulsively as the best. There was a time - longer than I might comfortably admit - when each and every burnished, new Yuppie fishing toy seduced me as completely as their design intended. Over the decades I managed to collect cupboards full of angling essentials - essentials that are never used any more, many, barely remembering even that I own. These are the things that Virginia Woolf referred to as ‘insidious luxuries’. Where once, feeling thoroughly exposed, unsure without mountains of tackle to fall back on, I now prefer to fish unencumbered. The less the better.
Eventually, coming to appreciate that ‘product development’ is often no more than a euphemism for ‘artificial needs creation’ one abandons pursuit of angling competence as a function of equipment rather than technique and its development. It is not equipment that catches fish, never has been. It is competent fishers and elegant angling. The light comes slowly, hand-in-hand with the comprehension that one truly needs very little to actually catch a trout, or in fact, virtually any other fish. It goes further and I would maintain that easy access to fancy technical solutions for every situation or variation with which an angler may be confronted, makes for lazy angling and encourages incompetence. I would argue that the burden of too many choices does more to hinder than to help the angler, paralysing imagination and encouraging an intellectual numbness which does nothing for one’s skill or for the soul.
A favourite rod, and a sound, neutral density line with braided leader, a couple of home-tied flies, a few spools of quality tippet material, a simple, keen-bladed pocket knife and perhaps a decent pair of polarised glasses to help cut through the reflective glare; these are all that a fly angler truly needs for survival. There are subtle ways of achieving control over every aspect of retrieve, trajectory and positioning within the water column, without resorting to every item in the mail-order catalogue. I would share these secrets with you, right here and now, but for the fact that, generically, our editors are parsimonious with column centimetres, and would likely hack at it with all the finesse of a bush-meat block man. It will need wait for another column.
My buddy, Surly Ghillie, likes to call it Minimalism. I am not sure I can agree. After all, if it needs a label, then it would need definition too. Before too long, it would evolve a philosophy. But with all that baggage, it would be something more than minimalism, wouldn’t it?