I was reading a large volume on the history and artwork of
Van Gogh and enjoying his letters to his brother Theo, when the name struck
me…. What if Vincent was a fly-fisherman, and he wrote a letter to his brother
Theodore Gordon? What if there was a bit of anachronism or time juxtaposition?
What if he explored the world of art within fly-fishing… what if he was a bit
There is a lot to be interpreted or contemplated in the
themes Vincent touches on in his letter. Enjoy!
I hope this letter finds you well. Yes! I am working again!
I am in the middle of going a bit mad tying colorful buck tail streamers. New
colors! Glorious. I start with a picture in my mind, and then use the blending
of the fibers to produce my palette and create a composition as a fly! Why? you
are asking as you read this… Well, you know me. Always detouring on the path….
Distracted by beauty.
After all Theo, this spur of creativity is your fault!
Remember when we sat on the bank of the Neversink, and after you had hooked and
landed that 3 pound trout, you took your rod down and we sat sipping absinth
and discussing the entanglements of art and angling?
That set me thinking Theo. Often I no longer sleep now.
Why fly-fishing my brother? You used the word “Grace.” I
don’t think that begins to penetrate the issue. Fly-fishing is essentially an
art, and artful in its expression. The casts are graceful, the line curves like
a model’s curves and sinuous. The flies are pieces of craft, but if you take it
like I do, they are an expression of the angler and his or her spirit and
approach to the water. That rod of yours, the newer one you tied those dozens
of exquisite flies in trade for is art too…. At least you make it so. My
strokes are too forceful… too violent.
But I am sitting here in my room obsessively creating these
new flies that the world must take notice of after I am gone because I have to.
And because I can. I am free here Theo! Free to create without any snarky looks
or turned up noses. I am free to make something deserving of the fish we caught
that day! They are beautiful. Don’t they deserve the best I can do?
Art, they told me in a class was an expression of God. I
would add nature too, for what is man’s best effort in art except a flawed
imitation of divine nature? Prometheus unbound? Or a humble tribute? Nature is
the canvas on which we paint this sport. Nature underlies it all, and man’s
understanding of nature is exhibited by naked fear and expressions of joy.
But Theo, I often wonder in the dark if my creations will
ever be appreciated beyond this little asylum of four walls… because art may be
dying. Perverted by the materialism I used to rage against at the pulpit.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that day on
the river Theo, and in your corner of the world you may not be exposed to the
relentless ‘progress’ of the sport, but let me rage a bit… and yes… I did eat
something yesterday. Don’t worry.
See… aesthetics in this fine sport somewhere down the line
got replaced with pure technology. Beauty was forgotten. People use rods with
giant blazons of corporate logos on them in wild colors that are disparate.
They put bobbers on their leader and lead split shot and everything is now made
out of plastic. “New” equals better now, seemingly without any reserve,
precedent, or understanding. Aesthetics have been replaced by raw utility and
pushed with an attitude that frightens. Have you heard of the “Inter-net.”
There are moving pictures on there! I saw them! There were people with fly-rods
or something like fly-rods jumping out of flying machines with parachutes
accompanied by a god-awful noise worse than this new dissonance! At one point
they ate a monkey and did a dance while holding up trout and doing some sort of
ritual involving shoving it at us and making funny faces!
What happened? We should be ashamed.
The trout are painted by God Theo, who are we to perform
heresies and tarnish his work?
There is something brutal here. I get the impression, even
if I don’t understand it, that the sport has become pure social status and no
longer about nature and art.
I saw an advert for a new fly rod promising that it would
make me catch more fish. That would like a tube of paint that promised me I can
produce a better painting.
I miss the clarity Theo. It all seems so confusing. I don’t
recognize it anymore. Subtlety seems to have disappeared. Silence overtaken by
non-stop stimulation. I don’t think people catch a trout anymore, instead they
I know you worry about me in this little room, so I walked to
the stream on Monday and went fishing, and what a clarion day it was, for
without the noise in my head of the marketing and materialism and the posing, I
drank deep of the purity, the essence of fly-fishing.
See, when I look at a piece of music or art, I don’t just
see a bunch of people jumping around to audible tones, or colors and lines on a
canvas. I look for a deeper meaning. Something beyond or beneath the surface of
the stream or of simple perception. I caught a beautiful trout as the stars
began to fill the sky and the setting sun set fire to the world. It was a
conflagration of madness and divinity! Then I looked down and saw the dainty
fly with rich colors of red and green and yellow. Primary colors Theo! Primary
thoughts! Down to the essence. A rod, a reel, a line, a leader, a fish, and
what God gave us to appreciate this small thing we do and embellish it with
aestheticism and expression, with interpretation bold and subtle. It is simple,
but so much more… an abstraction! I sat down and watched the sun set and drank
that bottle you sent to me last week. Thank you again! The moment just spoke of
art, and alone with nature there was no other to defile it with measurements of
efficiencies or commodity. Art was all around me. The trout splashed in
agreement as my simple rod with no adornments bent and bowed to a greater
artist that we can ever explain. The spots on the trout glowed in brilliance.
The rent is due in a week, but don’t worry, something will
come up. I can always trade some of these new flies for some bread and cheese…
Don’t worry… and be well Theo. I feel on the edge of a
breakout. That accident with the fly-tying scissors was just an isolated…..
Very nice, thoughtful, and creative piece, Eric. You painted a beautiful picture.ReplyDelete
new fly - better fishing...ReplyDelete
new tube of paint - better painting...
great idea Erik! and great article...
this seems to show and proof the misleading way of our modern thinking
I suspect,(and fear), the subjects of this essay won't recognize themselves.ReplyDelete