Fly Fishing

 Post and the Painting by Rod Crossman

A few years back I was asked by Fly Rod and Reel magazine to create some paintings to go along with a story by Jeff Day titled Hemingway’s Meadow.  Jeff’s writing pushed me head long into the current of my own fly fishing memories.

     The story won the annual Robert Traver fiction award. A competition sponsored by the John Voelker Foundation. Robert Traver was John Voelker’s penname and he was one of my long time fly fishing heroes. I’d read most of his books, Trout Madness, Trout Magic were two of my favorites. All most all of them featured places in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. An eight hour drive from where I live.

     For many years my fishing buddy Jim and I, made an annual Spring pilgrimage to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan… mostly because it was one of the last places where truly wild trout existed.  But also because of fisherman authors like John Voelker and Earnest Hemingway.   The Nick Adams stories by Hemingway and its descriptions of the Big Two Hearted river haunted me.

      In the late spring of 1982 we finally fished the Two Hearted river for the first time. it was a disappointment for producing fish. So we tried some other streams. Eventually our trout search landed us on the East Branch of the Fox,  just outside of Seney, Michigan.  We found out about it from a local who said it held big brook trout, or in his words, “specs worth fishing for.”

 We spent three days camping and fishing along it. We trekked a canoe up the stream for miles to a place where it split apart into side channels and meanders. The locals called it the “Spreads.” Fast moving ribbons of tannic stained water wandering through swamps infested with mosquitoes.  

    We caught big brook trout there.  At the time we had no idea that we were actually fishing in the same stream Hemingway fished and wrote about under the title The Big Two Hearted.  It wasn’t until years later when I read more of the history behind the Nick Adams story, I discovered Hemingway changed the name of the stream from the Fox to the Big Two Hearted for poetic and the practical reasons.:  )

On a sleepless night spent surfing youtube videos,  I ran across some obscure indie/documentary  film called High Wild and Free.   How could I miss with a title like that? I clicked the ok button on the remote.  The doc had been filmed in 1950’s and was a  travelogue / autobiography  of this filmmakers outdoor experience in the mountains of British Columbia . I stuck with it for a while and even enjoyed watching scenes of he and his friends flyfishing a remote mountain stream.

     The style of the film was narration over silent footage, kind of  1950’s Gadabout Gaddis the Flying Fisherman ( you can still find these episodes from the 1950’s and 60’s on youtube) meets the Red Green Show. Gadabout was my favorite Saturday TV show as a kid.  Eventually after a few scenes  of him and his friends fishing he got around to asking a question I had asked myself many times over the years.  

He said  …” I’ve been asked many times why I fish?”   Answering his own question  with narration over  a clip of a  him unceremoniously pulling a steelhead  out of the river on to the bank.    He proudly said “ I fish for one reason,  to please myself.”  

I’m still thinking about this answer…