TARKA THE ROTTER
©Wolf Avni 25/7/2006
In my business one meets some interesting people and one gets to hear diverse interesting stories. One that I heard just the other day concerns a speaker at some convention. From the sub-text of his delivery, it seems that somewhere along the line he must have been burned by the legal profession. Having just come through a messy divorce, one can see how that might have happened. From the podium he berated lawyers and everything to do with the legal profession. Lawyers, according to him, were a particularly low form of life and as he spoke, gesticulating wildly and gnashing his teeth, his diatribe itself seemed to spur him on. Overcome by the fervour of this presentation a member of the audience sitting in the front row, luminous with enthusiasm, leapt to his feet and screamed out loud, “All lawyers are arseholes!”
From the back of the packed hall a voice called out strongly “I object, Mr Speaker, I OBJECT!”
“Why?” asked the speaker, unable to repress his pleasure, “are you a lawyer?”
“No,” came the reply, “I’m an arsehole.”
Now the relevancy of all this in a fishing column may appear incidental at best to the superficial reader, but only if you are not aware as to how many legal types have taken to fly-fishing... and accountants, and doctors, and engineers, and for that matter, captains-of-industry and high-revving salesmen of products, which, if they were even just a little bit honest, they would call death insurance, and not as they would have you believe, the opposite. I mean really! Don’t you just hate it when insurance salesmen hand you a business card that announces them as ‘investment consultants”? Yes indeed, the professional and the corporate worlds have discovered fly-fishing in a big way and there are multitudes out there who see it as just another commodity; to be packaged, to be cloned and to be ‘managed’ all the way through the very gates of hell itself.
The issue is subtle and I know that many will joyfully leap to accuse me of being as guilty as anyone of commercialising fly-fishing and to an extent they would be right. The thing is, it is not against commercial utilisation itself that I rail, nor even against the concept of developing or exploiting the commercial opportunities that ensue from fly-fishing. In fact I would argue that this is a good thing, for the same reason that commercial hunting is in fact a powerful force for conservation of game and the wilderness that sustains them. The “in-it-for-me” motivation is a powerfully transparent force and at least more honest than most in a world where morality has become merely the last resort of scoundrels. Indeed no! My lamentation goes to the issue of sustainability. Sustainable development has become one of the key buzz- phrases of the present day, but its principles are upheld only in default. It is used as a marketing ploy far more than for the intrinsic of the concept itself, a smokescreen of convenience. It might be likened to the Casanova Syndrome; where you look deep into the eyes of beauty and innocence and swear your undying devotion and steadfastness... but only until the object of your desire gives in and puts out. At that point it’s all just wham, bang & thank you ma’am... and on to the next conquest, the next equal-opportunity rape. One sees a lot of that in fly-fishing these days, and we who love it for entirely different reasons would do well to remind ourselves from time to time of the core ethos and ethics in which it was borne and through which it has been nurtured these ages past.
Robert Traver expressed it better than most in his classic, Trout Magic, published in 1960. In his Testament of a Fisherman he said; “I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time and I for one don’t want to waste the trip... because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun.”