As I indicated on a previous post, there are certain items that I would have in my portmanteaus if ever a cataclysm of noble note were to strike our civilization and threaten our humanity; the items in my portmanteaus’ keep might offer something to the people or civilization attempting to emerge from such calamity.
A Rod and Reel
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tried his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.
A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean
They picked up the gear from the boat. The old man carried the mast on his shoulder and the boy carried the wooden box with the coiled, hard-braided brown lines, the gaff and the harpoon with its shaft. The box with the baits was under the stern of the skiff along with the club that was used to subdue the big fish when they were brought alongside. No one would steal from the old man but it was better to take the sail and the heavy lines home as the dew was bad for them and, though he was quite sure no local people would steal from him, the old man thought that a gaff and a harpoon were needless temptations to leave in a boat.
The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No. So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
The Gospel of John
My father is a fisherman. This is not his paid profession, though he has won and placed in many tournaments and with them the spoils of his art and diligence. He’s fished all his life, since his early days growing up here in Raleigh on a small pond behind his house. He works to provide for the family, but I imagine he will give up his career in medical research and statistics, and give over his many remaining years to searching out and catching the many fish from which his job has kept him.
Throughout my own lifetime, my father has imparted much of his fishing knowledge to me, so that fishing is less about skills and knowledge and more about natural feel and intuition. Still, all his skills and knowledge are the easy reason he catches many more fish than I ever will.
I wonder why my father wasn’t born to a fishing village, to which he would offer his skill and knowledge to keep the village feed and thriving. Some tribes honor their great warriors or chieftains or even priests; his tribe would honor its champion fishermen. His fisherman guild would inspire the youth of the clan and the surrounding clans to send their young boys and men to learn his near mystical approach to fishing: one part expertise and knowledge of fishing, one part intuition, perception and insight on fish.
My father attended university to become a veterinarian, and so naturally studied chemistry and zoology. Mastery of zoology only makes sense for a master fisherman: knowledge of build, feeding and migratory patterns, etc . I remember in his study, adjacent to my bedroom, posters of fish and shark species, complete with their Latin and Greek nomenclature, and so as I studied these ancient languages, we’d chat about the taxonomy of the fish he had caught many times over.
Leiostomus xanthurus : spot (croaker), my grandmother’s favorite eating fish.
Sciaenops ocellatus : red drum, which my dad would hold up to my ear, so I could hear the near-percussive drumming sound, giving the fish its name.
Rachycentron canadum : cobia, of which my father has recently become a master. In recent years he caught either the first keep-able cobia of the season, or the largest of the tournament.
I’m not sure if my father loves competing in fishing tournaments like other athletes do their respective contests. Part of me gathers he likes the camaraderie of his fellow fishing friends, and he loves the fishing and the fish, but I do doubt he’s compelled by the trophies that he’s occasionally brought home as spoils (n.b., I do know he likes the fishing gear that is offered as tournament prizes).
A rod and reel would only make sense in my portmanteaus, especially if I were to seek out Shakleford Banks as my place of escape given the cataclysm. I’m not the champion my father is at fishing techniques, fishing seasons, and fishing spots, not to mention the skills to handle the fish once they are caught, though we’d both concede to my mother and his late mother, my grandmother, as to the cooking of those fish. With a rod and reel I’d have a possibility of continuing and sustaining life, eating fish, and enjoying their catching.