Fishing is Hunting . . .
The summer Brautigan was writing his novella while camping in Idaho, I was learning trout fishing while living in The Allegheny National Forest of Pennsylvania. Trout Fishing In America was written when the beat generation was giving way to hippies and while my little sister was filling Maxwell House coffee cans with Nightcrawlers as a condition of coming along on my adventures.
We started out fishing the stream Mom could see from the backyard but within a couple years we hiked the surrounding forest, found more streams to fish, and discovered Paradiso Pond created by the local beavers. A year later, the game warden built a trout hatchery next to Paradiso from which we lifted fish to stock our pond after feeding them against the posted rules. At some point, a Rod And Gun Club assumed responsibility for the hatchery and now feeding the fish is encouraged. Paradiso Pond is gone now…the beavers moved downstream each time floods damaged their homes…today, it is several miles away according to a local fisherman we found cleaning-up in the cold water of Rock Run.
Trout fishing in Pennsylvania is Dante’s 9th Circle if you do it wrong. For one thing, there’s no casting. You can’t cast in The Forest. After losing countless lures and worms snagged by trees and brush I had the great fortune one day to find my father’s telescoping metal fly rod in the closet under the basement stairs. With that single modern marvel you could walk unencumbered through miles of forest, swipe your way through forty yards of milk weed, crawl quietly up a fern-covered mound overlooking a small swirling pool, sling a worm between overhanging branches below…and catch trout…if you were very very quiet. In Pennsylvania fishing is hunting…and a metal telescoping fly rod is the weapon of choice.
I grew-up fishing with my father’s fly rod, never once using a fly, or learning how to perform the therapeutic ballet of fly-casting that I came to adore in my old age as taught to me by my friend James in Texas. Like James, there are times when I enjoy casting more than catching fish. It is thoroughly contemplative activity…and in it’s own way it too is a hunt…a hunt for perfection.
The early 60s was a psychedelic mash-up of beatniks, folk-rock, deuce coups, surfer girls, civil rights, and some of the most interesting trout fishing in the Galaxy. And yes, it haunts me…but in a good way. I’ll never forget Dante’s 9th Circle, The Forest, and the adventures. It was magical.