©Wolf Avni 17/5/2006

“Proverbs are like bagpipes; an ill-wind that nobody blows any good”. #1

They say that the devil is in the detail... that one is blinded to the trees by the fact of  the forest... that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof...  that small things amuse small minds... and so on.
The fabric of all language is filled with any number of homilies, proverbs, clichés and  apostasies;  entire litanies of  bucolic folk-wisdom, the  sole function of which it seems is to encourage you into denial of the nuances that make you precisely who and what you are. It kind of figures.
Every thesis invites its antithesis and of course there are just as many glib little sound-bytes that purport to convey the total wisdom of the human race in dire warnings  of the consequences that any  pandering to your own incredibly provincial, fundamentally tribalist nature must end in.  A stitch in time saves nine, we are advised. As we leap to obey, to execute our timely stitch, we are forewarned that they that act in haste, repent at leisure. The result naturally enough, is mental gridlock.  From small acorns vast oaks are born, we are reminded, but then, in acting  on it,  are reprimanded for making great mountains out of mere molehills.  And so we take refuge in the space between the two, which in itself is intellectual quadriplegia.
 Look to the pennies and the pounds will gather themselves, we are promised  and when that don’t work out for us, we beat a hasty retreat to  safer ground, from whence you are sure to  be admonished never to forget that penny wise is  pound foolish.
Is it a conspiracy? And if so, who is the toy-master? Who pulls these strings?  Who yanks this chain?  Are we always to be terminal prisoners of the tyranny of pack-mentality? Is this irreparable herd-instinct of  ours an unalterable genome-driven destiny?  
It is a fact that the most fundamental of successes in  this game called Life all begin in the same place.  It goes by the name of Self-Empowerment, which itself is nothing  more than the responsibility that an  individual willingly assumes... at least for the consequences of own-choices, if not for the comicalness of these terms-of-reference and mind-sets inherited from a bunch of mutating monkeys,  by way of which one might define both the individual self and the entire species. Well we all know that we are ‘only human’, which is to say, if we were to be even just a little bit honest,  somewhere between the meat-eating monkey and a messiah  - a fact which no one will thank you for reminding them of, especially in a world where most of us seem inclined closer to the former rather than the latter.
The loyal reader who may at this point  be past beginning to wonder what the fuck I’m going on about, will, I am sure, need no reminding that what ever it might be,  I am not about letting your ignorance cramp my style... so get loose or get out.   In the words of a youthful John Kennedy whose brains had not yet been blown out all over a wind-swept down-town

Dallas pavement; “Full speed ahead! Damn these torpedoes!”  If nothing else, the man did at least understand that the only real way to get over life and the curved balls that come with it, is to go straight through it, dead centre.

That is the whole point of all fishing, but fly-fishing especially.  We turn to it in the first place as an  antidote, a counterpoint to the bullshit-bingo that the modern urban experience of life has become. Yet if  fly-fishing is a quest for balance in our own lives, then surely one might expect that one of the first things a fisherman would look to would be getting in tune with the balance of the world that the fish are a part of.  Nothing could be further from the truth and by some strange coincidence, it is just about the last place that  he looks, if he looks at all.


Almost all of the fish we pursue are apex predators. They fin around,  close to the top of intensely rich weaves of biological interaction and interdependencies. For every unit of energy invested in the apex predator fish, there are 100,000 units of energy tied up in the web that he swims through. It is a world rich in texture beyond any imagination,  nuanced through and through  with delightful subtleties and adventures of discovery. The more intense and cosmic the scrutiny, the more that it discovers there is to unravel, right down into the microcosmic world of the macro-invertebrates. And so we finally come to a proverb that is at least potentially true; “there is more to fishing than catching fish!”
 Yet it is a world that in all its richness, might, as far as the average fisherman is concerned, not even exist. Not one in a thousand fishermen will ever look past their own skin at it. To most anglers fishing  never becomes much more than a question of how many fish they caught,  comparing their own performance against that of brethren anglers, as if it were just another big-dick contest. Somehow, though we  know all the words and learn all the notes, we never quite get the song.   Cappiche?   
I show my  text to Puffadder Bill  and he bristles.  “What has any of this psychobabble got to do with a fly-fishing column”, he asks in honest outrage? 
“Well”,  I tell him... “if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”