For those of us who love fishing, the arts—both visual and literary—have crept into our lives.
Most of us eventually learn that you don’t always have to be actually fishing to get your feet wet. Take a look at other anglers and you are bound to notice aspects of their fishing reflected in their personal lives. It can be rod winding, plug making, fly tying, even pictures on the wall. That too is fishing.
By definition, all art is a visual experience. I once had an art professor tell me that if something caught your eye long enough for you to look a few seconds, you were having a visual experience which then defined the object as art. Various art forms spring from any and all activities. We have all seen it with others where their interests were reflected in the related items around them.
I have friends who make no secret of their love of fishing by exhibiting pictures of some of their greatest catches. Others have a mounted trophy in some prominent spot often over the fireplace. Our home feels like the Museum of Natural History with fish mounts, six in all, displayed so prolifically that you begin thinking you’ll need a tank and face mask in the living room. My office gives fishing a break and is devoted solely to hunting. Antlers galore. Still, these artifacts, fishing or hunting, celebrate an all-abiding interest in their fields.
The most effective and common celebration of fishing is through the use of photos. Most employ grip-n-grin photos which suffice as a record of a great catch. We all do it, but a picture of a person holding a fish barely qualifies as art. It is only a record, only proof. Angling could benefit from a higher level of visual support. For those of us who love fishing, the activity deserves better. For a visual experience, the producer should seek to include as many of the appropriate elements as possible in the photo; surfcasting shots should be at night with as much frothy foam as can be captured—even if you have to wait for breaking waves. The surfcaster should be in uniform with suitable tackle. Record the fun and frolic of surfcasting if you are going to create a representative rendition of the activity.
With today’s digital photography, you don’t have to know anything to get a good photo. Moreover, it costs only pennies for suitable print paper to home print something of photo lab quality, framing it for under two dollars. Our rooms are full of great shots that reflect both hunting and fishing which we printed and framed ourselves. It’s a no-brainer.
All outdoor activities—fishing, hunting—have their own associations which celebrate their chosen game: Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Turkey Federation, to name only part of a long list. All of them worship at the altar of what they love through art. Our walls are festooned with signed and numbered prints from the artists who specialize. Take our house for example. Over the TV we have a signed and numbered, matted and framed print that I bought at a Turkey Federation auction for 50 bucks. Ten years later it was appraised at $500! I look at it every day and drool. Over my bed is a flight of pintails landing in a marsh. Also, in my office next to a plethora of deer antlers, which is more art, a signed Charles Denault print of two whitetail bucks duking it out in a snow-drenched forest – it takes your breath away.
I got serious folding green one time for the rights to a poster print which sold quite well (which you can see accompanying this article). A photo of a Cape Cod surf, appropriately called “Striper Dawn,” at the famous Second Rip captured the orange red hues of a new dawn. Definitely a visual experience, it shows how light plays into art. It certainly plays into photography.
The Vineyard’s Kib Bramhall, whom I met years ago when he was ad manager for SWS, does some angling art and seascapes. He doesn’t do it for the money – like the rest of us, we do what we do for the glory. He is good, though.
Good writing is more of an art form than visuals. Writers who can make readers laugh, cry, recall, inform, entertain and furrow into reader hearts are rare, and only a few of them do memorable work. While my best pictorial renditions suffice, I have dabbled at written communications for over 50 years. I have hit a few good ones among a boatload of dogs. Years ago, when I had more of my marbles, I had a first place article in the New England Outdoor Writers annual awards, which also came in second nationally with Outdoor Writers of America. Second with the big outfit is more prestigious than first with the locals. I also had a feature, “Slaughter at Pochet Hole” that was printed and sold so many times that I should get a pension for it. My old first editor, Frank Woolner, used to call selling something twice “new money for old rope.”
My heart is with literature. There is so much good writing out there. I would vomit if I had to write stuff that tells readers how to put a clam on a hook. Useful, just not fun. I want to access the soul, even if only occasionally. Years ago, again back when I knew the difference between you-know-what and Shinola, I told of a fishing buddy who died fighting a fish on Nauset. I sobbed while writing it and readers gulped and sniffled reading it. Still, it has to be a good story and you have to be up for it and in the right mood, what Woolner called the “Mills of the gods”. Angling history is replete with masters of the printed word: Woolner, A.J McClane. Cole, Wulff, overlooking a few too many. You don’t always have to get your feet wet.