Wolf Avni JANUARY 27, 2004


“Don’t it always seem to go?

That we don’t know what we’ve got

till it’s gone

We take paradise

and we put up a parking lot.

In “The River Why”, James Duncan tells  of a fly-fishing writer who spends his life visiting untrammelled, pastoral places - where he enjoys the most pristine, undefiled  environments on the planet. Preceded by reputation, he receives an endless flood of invitations into remote, jealously guarded slivers of paradise-on- earth.  He then proceeds to publish lyric texts in praise of these undiscovered nooks and seclusive  destinations. He is very good at what he does and in the resonance of his language, each exquisite detail springs to life in glorious technicolour, in irresistible texture. The inevitable follows, enabling  an immediate,  compulsive stampede which sees each locus reduced to just another whistle-stop on the tourist merry-go-round. In publicising such places, his narratives  expose the tender underbelly of Eden to all manner of  excess and they become ravened by an  indifferent and rampant consumerism. Magnetised, one by one, the intrinsic nature of each  place attracts a steady horde and harvests a  perfidious  destruction. One by one they are  fed into a  crust of commercialisation.  These Shangri-las  become grist to a different kind of strip-mining. The end result,  however, is predictable.  They get all used up, then exist no more.  But the characterisation is just a fiction. No sane, sentient being, certainly no fly-fisher,  would be such a schmutz.  Or would they?

 My mind’s eye  runs down the list of fisher folk that I have encountered over a lifetime.  It is riddled with remarkable individuals parading exceptional talents;  creative geniuses , provocative intellectuals and titans of the humanities, sciences and business.  Among them I have chanced to meet the occasional  kindred spirit  and  have made many friends, some of whom have mentor-ed my path into worlds of significant discovery.  To them I owe enduring gratitude.  Still, among anglers, they are outnumbered, a thousand or more to one,  by sorry sod-suckers who might barely see beyond the end of heir own noses.  While my heart would wish to deny it, sadly, anglers are no more endowed with graces than one might expect from any statistical average. 

 As we fizz bravely  into the 21st century, we do so with about eight billion human fellow-travellers,  alive, or nearly so, and with  less than 1% of the planet’s land mass intact.  From the deep Amazon to  the polar regions, from the  high slopes of the Himalayas to the briny oceanic trenches,  the accumulation of litter and devastation left in the human footprint -  what we like to refer to as development, progress - agglomerates to a  point long past mere crisis.  Since the early 1960's, sober and credible ecologists,  biologists and humanists  have been raising the alert with increasing urgency. Mostly, the alarm falls on deaf ears.  In the face of commercial and political indulgences, their strident warnings are  discounted as no more than the hysterical ranting of hippiedom, a tree-hugging freak show,  an assortment of radical fringe lunacies.  But too often, yesterday’s perceived  madmen are  the visionaries who foretold the present. Theirs is  an unimpeded vision.  Perhaps their detachment from social currency, their very nakedness, gives them an unveiled, unrivalled  peek at reality, at the tendrils of the present reaching into the future. Eventually it does  catch up and yesterday’s phantasm becomes today’s undeniable certainty. Never fear,  we know how to deal with these articulate messengers of doom from an  uncomfortable  future  - customarily, we just  kill them,  putting them and their reputations to the sword.

The point, dear fellow angler, is that wise fishers  keep their peace  - and their secrets to themselves.  Should  anyone perchance  know of an unrevealed place, a mythical honey-hole, a confidential valley or a hidden pool, they  would do best to honour it in silence, keeping it  hidden in their most private repository, to be brought out only  in seclusion, to be  enjoyed in cloistered and selfish solitude. By all means, fish an evening rise there, unaccompanied. Trust nobody, especially not any who claim fraternal links through angling.  Beware also spousal relationships.  It may be that a pleasure shared is pleasure doubled, but remember,  in true marriage there are no secrets, or shreds of false dignity that a connubial  soul might cling to, claiming as their own.  They may say that we are joined at the hip, but it is by the throat that our life-mates grip  us.  

 My good buddy, Surly Ghillie, knows of more incredible fishing spots than anyone else, though he never talks of them. The most he will ever say is “Step lightly, tread softly, lest you crush Creation beneath your wanderings” #2,   but he too, spends more time than most might consider healthy,  fossicking in his library  among the works of obscure sages - Kahil Gibran, Rachel Carson, Freddie Nietchse, Al Camus, Andy Schwartz-Bart, Zac Walton  and others of that ilk. Who could take him seriously?  Hell, he’s even read my book,  or  so he says .......! 


#1. Carole King 1969

#2. From the Unpublished Epigrams of Surly Ghillie