Streams of Consciousness

Streams of Consciousness

And a couple of "one-of-a-kind" books

  • By: Seth Norman
Dapping: The Exciting Way of Fishing Flies that Fly, Quiver and Jump By Robert H. Boyle (Stackpole: 2007; 800-732-3669; stackpolebooks.com) 138 pp.; hardcover; $24.95 "Dapping," as here defined by former Sports Illustrated writer and editor Robert Boyle, relates to what many fly fishers will remember from a panel or two in Sheridan Anderson's Curtis Creek Manifesto, in which Picador sneaks up to drop--"dap"--a fly onto the water where fish are feeding near the bank.No casting--no fly line extending outside the tiptop--it's akin to hunting with a feathered hook. It's also one of the most ancient forms of our art, not to mention the method my youngest stepson used to catch an 18-inch wild brown trout on his first fly-fishing outing. All very well, but Boyle extends that definition. Literally: while he personally makes do with a 17-foot rod, some European anglers use graphite "poles" up to 42 feet long; and most practitioners employ multi-strand floss "blowlines" that may keep a fly airborne constantly, perhaps touching down like a dragonfly strafing mayflies, or an ovipositing caddis, or perhaps three hovering craneflys… Ah, but those crazy "over there" anglers leave it to Americans to play for bigger game: Like tying patterns to imitate small birds, "dapped" not on the water, but above it, along low branches, so to lure giant bass up and out of cover too heavy for any other tactic to penetrate… Call it what you want, "fun" or "felonious," but it's all about imitation, with artfully tied flies, presented in the most life-like way possible. Streams of Consciousness Hip-Deep Dispatches from the River of life By Jeff Hull (Lyons Press: 2007; 800-243-0495; lyonspress.com) 208 pp.; hardcover; $19.95 "This water holds the redolence of leaky poker hands and those songs haunted by nostalgia--neither are really solid ideas, but under certain circumstances you're going to play them every time. On the Bitteroot, the circumstances are neither melancholy nor desperation, but a big, fat, juicy stonefly hatch. OK, maybe it's a touch of desperation." Jeff Hull's last work was the novel Pale Morning Done. Its characters rocked and rowed, cast, punched, wrangled, got lucky or lost in love and fishing and making money. Most of the time they had that familiar and charming lack of objective insight that characterizes our unexamined lives. Observing from the third person of course, we readers see all of this clearly. First person is another story: essays fill this 16-piece collection--ruminations that fall into and rise within the narrow(ing) niche of fly-fishing literature. You don't learn how to tie an arbor knot, but find an exploration of how knots serve and fail us and how to protect the last best places. These essays are not about fly-fishing, any more than is A River Runs Through It. They explore the ebb and flow of emotional tides, spates, spiritual droughts; and sometimes inspiring sea changes that mark an examined life lived with rod in hand. Making Strip-Built Fly Rods from Various Woods on a Lathe By John Betts Printed on Xerox copiers at Kinkos and Office Max; order from the author at 303-722-7052 $37.50 in Colorado; $35.50 everywhere else It's not that no author has ever sent me a handwritten book to review. One came many years ago: self-published, hardcover. The drawings were sketched in pencil with errors incompletely erased, often composed using an almost-straight edge angled so that rods looked rather like stalagmites. In point of fact the author did know something about the area he fished, seemed to want to share, also to gain recognition; and--I write this with sincere sympathy--appeared to suffer from problems requiring special attention. But that's not the case this time around. This time the methods used to compose the book clearly reflect the subject. I doubt a fly fisher can take a more personal approach to crafting his or her most important tool than that described in John Bett's Making Strip-Built Fly Rods from Various Woods on a Lathe. It's a conversation and history lesson cum how-to story--the emphasis is on how-to--proceeding from the author's answer to a question I've never heard asked: What might have happened, if the introduction of bamboo had never interrupted the evolution of wooden rods? If, for example, cane had failed to accept the varnishes and glues critical to construction, performance and durability? And John Betts answers: "The most immediate reaction might have been to return, with some regret, to the solid wooden rods of proven reliability. However, pecking at the back of the minds of some rod makers might have been the desire to find a way to use strip building which had been so admirably displayed in bamboo…Why not split the strips off a parent piece as had been done with cane?" And, having done that, triturating for species of wood and the stresses managed by grain, turn them on a lathe? Adapting tapers and modifying action from the outside in--an adjustment one can hardly hope to make once cane strips are glued together? Well? Betts, long known as a brilliant maverick and innovator in fly design (and FR&R 2006 Angler of the Year), has produced a guide for pilgrims with a passion for this kind of exploration, presenting here "A journal of combining ordinary skills and available standard wood-working tools in new ways to turn smooth, durable strip-built fly rods from native and exotic hard and soft woods on a lathe. Also a simple, original method of making secure, dependable brass ferrules and fine steel wire guides for these rods." As mentioned, one can't get much more personally involved in creating an angler's most important tool. And it's no coincidence that, short of copying by hand every single manuscript, one would have a difficult time imagining how an author and illustrator could get more personally involved in producing a book than Betts did with this one: "some 150 odd pages in length," written and rewritten with an Osmiroid "Fine Italic" nib pen. "It takes 30-45 minutes to letter a full column, and 1 to 1 1/2 hours for a page. My hand begins to cramp after 2 - 2 1/2 hours, this is caused by muscle spasms in my arm and shoulder. These are places where one can see small sharp points on letters that should be round."