“How Fly Fishing Brings One Close to State Magazines; or Mimicking Prey,” by Kurt Fryklund

Oct 2nd, 2013 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I have been informed by Orvis and Recreation.gov that fly fishing brings one close to nature. I can see how standing in the middle of a stream would do that. Clearly Orvis and Recreation.gov have in mind a proximity that is more than just physical. Unfortunately, they do not specify. Orvis, however, claims that fly fishing facilitates this proximity by requiring one to mimic prey, whereas Recreation.gov cites fly fishing’s requirements for skill and grace. Curious as to where fly fishing might deliver one, I decided to do some research.

My sources were state magazines, publications which cover the lifestyle of a state. I became acquainted with this genre in its natural habitat, waiting rooms. The magazines have a rural bias, which one might deduce as their covers tend less to skylines and city streets and more to fox hunting and pheasants under fire. Many publish articles on fly fishing

For the uninitiated, a fly is a barbed hook disguised with fur and feathers to look something like an invertebrate. It is whipped about at the end of a lengthy piece of line before being deposited on the water in such a manner as to compel a fish to dine before it has time to notice the copious design flaws.

The fly fishing articles in the state magazines are not instructional. Any novice who limits his education to one and then heads to a stream, river, or lake, will either find himself standing at water’s edge wondering what the hell to do next or defoliating a forest with what appears to any human observer as a bunch of fuzz. I never expected practical advice, just as I don’t expect a magazine with a fox hunting cover to instruct me on how to tally-ho across the countryside should I ever find a place to rent a horse, some hounds, and a red jacket. All I wanted was fly fishing philosophy, which is what the magazines deliver.

I once spent an afternoon fly fishing and thoroughly enjoyed my time reducing the canopy of a large willow. Per the magazines, however, I should not have considered the experience a lark, as, say, blasting a pheasant with a shotgun. You see, fly fishing is not play, but an activity that brings one close to nature.

Using my judgment, I concluded that handicapping oneself with a faux gnat speaks of asceticism, while whipping a barbed hook through a thicket requires the level of focus found in meditation. Being close to nature, then, must equate to the destination which ascetics and those who meditate aspire, some sort of enlightenment. Good enough, I thought, entirely disregarding grace.

I was now curious that few of the state magazines that publish articles on fly fishing can claim that their subject is noted for the activity. When I spotted a fly fishing shop in a strip mall near my home, I immediately wondered what would be there next month. The answer was a dry cleaner.

It eventually struck me that publishers are stalking potential subscribers like fly fishermen stalk trout, by mimicking prey; whereas fly fishermen present fuzz as local fare, publishers present fly fishing as a local lifestyle. Since the fly fishing articles portray the activity as sublime, they attract sublime readers. Sublime readers have time to be discerning, but with little knowledge of their neighbors’ recreational activities, they eagerly swallow the articles as authentic.

But state magazines are not above gestures to baboons like me. These are bits of local history, like the dirigible crash of ’25, the day the ammunition plant exploded and the time Elvis used the restroom at the local filling station (he had to ask for the key). The material is fathomable; dirigibles foundered in a mild breeze, things manufactured to explode tend to explode and Elvis undoubtedly had to relieve himself during his years on the road. It is also compelling. This must be the equivalent of bait fishing.

Truthfully, I only found one of those pieces. The other two are exercises in mimicking prey.


Defenestration-Dapper GentlemanAfter his humorous short stories were well received by his 5th grade classmates, Kurt Fryklund determined to pursue humor writing. After several decades of procrastination he is on track. As for the intervening years, Kurt earned an MA in history, watched a lot of sports, gardened when he had the opportunity, and even held a few jobs, including running a research department. Kurt currently resides in the Washington, D.C., area.

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