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  • Visit: Parks' Fly Shop
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  • Saturday, May 10, 2008

    It's Just A Couple Weeks Away

    Bring Insulated Waders
    to joust or to dance ?
    .. On May 24, 2008 a Yellowstone ritual begins. Opening day for fishing in the park promises to bring a bit of weather for Memorial Day. For those with any time on their legs this brings back memories of days gone bye. Days when the decision to "fish the park" was a problematic one.
    .. The long range forecast suggests a bit of unsettled weather and highs only in the 40' and 50's. We'll keep you posted. One thing is certain: fishing will take place. And just what is this wondrous thing called fishing?
    .. The vocabulary of this fishing thing gives us insight. It is colorful, interesting and revealing. You hear it in the pubs. You hear it in the fly shops. You hear it at the outfitters. It is colorfully embellished and expanded by the guides in conversation with their sports.
    .. The terms are dear to us and we use them unthinkingly: "tough fish," "honker," "killer fish," "toad," "brute," "fight," "battle," "submarine," "struggle," "rod bender," and on it goes. The clear and unveiled under layer of this vocabulary speaks of confrontation, aggression, war, and mortality.
    .. The insidious import of our vocabulary gives insight into the attitude of the fishing encounter. Competition, superiority, defeat, mastery, and submission are carried with the fishing vocabulary.
    .. There is no denying the brutality within the history of fishing, (know what a 'priest' is?) There is no denying the origins of fishing as a "blood sport." What is interesting, in this age of catch and release, is the persistence of the vocabulary of battle, domination, and death.
    .. For ourselves, we've long since reduced our fishing vocabulary to the words of dance. Our encounters with our finned partners are waltzes, foxtrots, sambas, and jitterbugs. On rare occasion we engage in ballet, or even bop.
    .. Our partners have proven their initial willingness to dance by accepting our tokens of invitation. They behave boisterously, or condescendingly. They accept our offer with a shrug, or a swirl, or a tail slap. Would that the girls at the senior prom were as polite and honest as the fish we've met.
    .. Still, the dance is not always a love fest. Sometimes a bit of flamenco creeps in. We've been tossed to and fro in a wild tango. And years ago there was a giant steelhead on the Gualala that was a marvelous square dancer; 'swing your partner.'
    .. Come the 24th there will be hoards of well armed warriors descending on Yellowstone National Park. They will disembark from their panting steel steeds with pikes, lances, shields, swords and spears at the ready. They will charge through the wet grass and brush to their chosen arena.
    .. The lists will be well defined by the combatants; tread not or face their wrath. They will flail the water to a froth. They will do battle with a creature whose brain is the size of a split-pea and whose heart is as mighty as a dragon's.
    .. The scene is positively and persistently Medieval. The uniforms and armor will be gilded, and the knights-of-the-fly will joust with the denizens of the deep.
    .. Tales of valor and defeat will emerge. The battles-royal will be retold in the common room at the pub . . . over a pint of grog. Ladies in waiting will swoon at the brave tales that are told in the courts of feather merchants. Arms will flail in describing the wars and cheers will ring out at the mastery over the slimy opponents. The jousting will have begun.
    .. And jousting it surely is. This is not chivalric combat; the losers don't usually die, they are guilty of nothing. Jousting indeed, they are just providing entertainment for the wealthy. The tilting at piscaformes is a spring ritual that offers diversion for the noble, (mobile,) class. It is not indulged in by the common people or serfs. They have to work on Memorial Day, and Labor Day too.
    .. This hastilude is ritualized to the point of rote. The time, place, costume, manner, weapons, and demeanor are all codified by the culture of the fly. Woe be to he who violates the conventions. This is the modern equivalent of tilting at windmills.
    .. It is a serious and delusional sport. It is as cerebral as it is physical - more so. It is reality and fantasy pulled together in a charade that is at once profound and trivial.
    .. It takes place in legendary, nay, heraldic surroundings, and on sacred ground. It is played upon a backdrop where gods have tread. The paths and rivers drip with tradition and pageantry. Their names are legend and immortal. This is jousting in it's finest sense. and the money quote from Cervantes says it all.
    Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all,
    to see life as it is and not as it should be.
    .. We're too old for jousting and tourney's. Our lists are poorly defined and rather small. On the 24th of May we're going dancing. Hopefully we'll find a willing partner. Perhaps some waltzes and if we're lucky some western swing. The younger neighbors are looking for a lap dance or two.