Wolf Avni OCTOBER 14, 2004

THE LOW-DOWN, MELANCHOLIC, BUNNY-HUGGER, FISHERMAN-BLUES.

“This is the way the world ends

           Not with a bang, but a whimper”.#1

 Salmo Nella  more than anyone  is an island,  entire unto himself.  With irreverent purpose  he travels Life’s byways, strictly minding his own business which just happens to be mostly   fly-fishing.  In this he wields  a  raw ideal  of self-sufficiency as if it were a sword and he in mortal combat against the  confines  of convention.   One cannot help but be impressed.  I mean, the man just about makes his own shoes from the hides of wild beasts  (well, not really, but still, it paints the  picture).  What he does do is  design and build almost every piece of  fishing equipment that he uses.   In all of it; the   rods, nets and boats,   in the tying of his own uniquely original fly patterns, or  in  hand-rolling his own foul smokes, Salmo turns - first and last - to that profound internal resource which most of us mere mortals seldom defer to,  preferring  as we do,  to base our  opinions of  normalcy and perceptions of self, not so much on any inner reality, as on the comfort of commonality,  of fitting in with the social body.  It is  called  herd-mentality and it compels  no part of Salmo’s persona.  That part of our brains  which makes  of humans  social animals, is entirely missing in him. His comfort comes from a distinct,  different  place and the drum he marches to plays a singular, solo rhythm.   Everything about him from his dress code to his fishing style marks him apart,  yet if  Salmo is atypical, it is   not so much because of any conscious attempt at exhibitionism, but simply because he is powerless to be anything else. He is as much a creature of his own fundamental nature as anyone and his nature is conspicuously bound by water.

The other day, with an angling excursion imminent, and my fly box   beginning to look decidedly threadbare,  I called in  on the old git, hoping to  cadge some flies and perhaps prise an insight or  a secret location or two  from the archives of his memory.   Salmo  was not a happy camper.  In fact, the man was more rattled than one might have thought possible  and his habitual equanimity was conspicuously  absent.   He sat at his  vise, fulminating and mumbling, his hands twitching and jerking almost uncontrollably as he worked on an imitation of the rare isoperla  stonefly, rare that is, everywhere except in the highest of untrammelled waters, where few anglers go.  In his agitated condition, there was just  no way he would fashion any  creation worth a damn on  the  no.14 titanium-coated, chemically-sharpened up-eyed  long-shank hook which he had set in the vise, let alone do justice to  the exceedingly tricky stonefly,  with its twin tails and multiple wing-pad cases.  Bits of dubbing dribbled from between his usually dextrous fingers and the 6/0  tying thread snapped right  in the middle of a whip-knot.   “Damn those cursed disposable nappies,” he spluttered.  “They have a half-life of about 1,000 years ...and it seems like there are about 100,000 snivelling new souls  born every day,  each one of whom goes through at least a  half dozen nappy changes every 24 hours  for at least  their first  year or so  of life. Do the math! It comes to about half a billion per day!  You can’t burn the damn things,” he continued crossly.  “Try burning a sodden crappy-nappy”, he demanded  rhetorically while I pondered whether he had meant the babies or the nappies.  Well yes,”  I wanted to tell him, “they have incinerators which, at 30,000 degrees will crisp just about anything, ” but the man was in motormouth-mode and clearly he had me cast in the role of the Good Listener. 

  “They just lie around at the dump  till jackals or feral dogs and scavenging birds  find them and chew them into a million unspeakable  bits which get  strewn all  around the countryside.  The government  banned shopping bags, didn’t they,”  he wailed, “what about disposable nappies... don’t they care that they’re killing the earth and trashing its precious waters?  Within fifty years all of civilisation will be buried beneath a pile of discarded cell phones, obsolete computer components, derelict plasma screens  and goddam disposable nappies!”

You will understand my quandary.  The last thing in the world  I was up for was to sit and listen while  Salmo ferreted  on  about how rampant, crass  consumerism is destroying the fundamental fibre of spaceship Earth, but on the other hand,  I was about to go fishing and it had been quite a while since my last truly memorable fish and I did  mention that my fly box was looking distinctly neglected.  What was a boy to do?   Figuring  it as the unavoidable price for  a fistful  of feathers spun full of  Salmo Nella’s  magic, I  settled back in stoicism. 

“And don’t think that incineration is an answer”, he berated me,  as if reading  my mind, “the noxious gases released by the burning of complex polymer compounds are full of carcinogenic toxins.  Taken together, in the very  air  we breathe, along with all  that  solar radiation which  comes gushing in through the bloody hole in the depleted ozone, well Hell,  boy, it’s just a question of time before, in the not too distant future, we all begin to glow in the dark”

“That’s not so bad!”  I tell him. “Think of the positive spin-off. Think what that could do for night fishing.   Salmo”, I tell him, “we’ll l soon be able  to go fishing at new moon and cast by the light of our own luminosity in the depths of the darkest night. Not only that, but clouds of bugs will flock around each glowing fisherman, falling upon the water,  bringing the trout, en masse,  up to the dry fly. Pretty cool, Huh?”

But Salmo was unimpressed.  “What about fishing line?” he asked. Do you know how many of God’s creatures end their lives in a tangle of discarded gut?  It was bad enough in the old days when nylon-based  lines were used. Anyone who has taken a look under water at any popular fishing spot will know how the snarls of discarded line cover the  substrate, turning otherwise healthy environment  it into a death trap for all manner of aquatic creatures and water birds. But now, with the invention of fluro-carbon lines, the situation just got worse.  The thing about fluro-carbon is that it is much stronger than conventional line and at any given diameter,  doubles the breaking strain of the tippet  and, having the same refractive index, it becomes absolutely invisible in water. Anglers are not blind to these advantages and so they have switched in droves to its use.  But the sting in the tail is that for all practical purposes it never breaks down, not even under the glare of ultra-violet light. The damn stuff has a half-life that makes those nappies seem positively green-friendly.  And the accumulation  of discarded line-litter  will in time become as impenetrable a barrier as the security fencing around your common or garden up-market suburban home”

“That’s a good thing,” I tell him, brightly. “Think of all the miserable, pud-whacking part-time angling consumers who will give up in disgust, go home and leave the fishing just for us.  In time, if it gets bad enough, it should knock the bottom right out of the second hand tackle trade, and we’ll be able to pick up some premium gear for an absolute song. I’m about due for a new Orvis or two.“ 

Salmo remained  unimpressed and that stone-fly he was tying was never any good. I’ve yet to catch a decent fish with it.

#1. T.S Eliot. (The Hollow men).