Why Fishing Makes Me Smile

Why Fishing Makes Me Smile
Image courtesy Diane Michelin
Prose by Les Booth

Each time I reach for a brush, I access water in the process.

Each time I reach for a color to bring life to the image growing before me, I am casting to a rising thought;  a potential inspiration.

Each time I enlist imagination to see the thin, spare line between what is and what can be, I am watching for the tell-tale trace of the heart-beat just beneath the surface.

Each time I feel the connection between an artistic vision and the viewer’s joy, I am feeling the strike of primordial energy connecting to feed and sustain the species.

Each time I stand back to observe the image forming on the easel, I see the beauty of life at the edge of the water – beckoning me to engage, drink and realize possession is but a temporary illusion.

Each time I prepare to consign art into a new environment, I taste the twin pang of pleasure and loss, while remembering this bit of truth:

  ‘Tis mine in mind, ephemeral as the mist.

  ‘Tis we – forever bound –  as inseparable: genetic.

Each time I remember, each time I remember.

Each time,  I know.  I am connected through art and water.

Each time I fish — I am haunted by memory… and I smile.


Every story has in its innards a story just hoping to be heard.  The story for this collaboration tells of serendipitous inspiration …  a comment and an image – placed on on a social media site.

Diane Michelin, Canadian water-colorist, posted on her Facebook account the image above with the comment, “Why I smile when I fish.”  

Easy enough.  A lot of us smile when we fish. But only the artists in the group understand the true meaning behind that smile of which Diane speaks.  It is a smile of devotion, passion, love and ecstasy.  As well as pain, loss, separation, disappointment and hurt.

All of these emotions are daily fraternity of the experience the artist feels when she – or he – engages with their creative juices and the object of their effort and talents.

For the artist – ‘connecting to/with water’ both important, necessary and done – in a different manner.  For the water-colorist, water IS the fuel of their medium.  Not so much with the oil, pastel, ink, color pencil artists.  The sculpture – if in clay – revisits the intimacy with water as well.  But all artists must transition concepts formed in their minds-eye to whatever surface they are working on. Those who bring water to their work, must have a deep and liquid affinity with their subject as well. Those who do, do not need explanation – their passion is spread across many disciplines  and examples for all to see.

For the artist whom also participated in  the art of fly-fishing, water is the beginning – the force – and the end,  of a multi-layered experience; all wrapped into one.  The water is the center of everything about fishing.  Water is the fishes habitat. Water is the environment the fisherman must conduct his interview with the point of his pursuit. Water is the vehicle of the fisherman’s pleasure.  Without water- there is no fishing.

The artist – who is also a fisherman – is both burdened and blessed, with a burning duty/desire to bring to life the vision of the watery world in which each fisherman pursues his or her desires afield.  To present memory and introduction is a wonderful opportunity and honor for every artist who takes up the challenge.

Thus, when the artist readies to match wits with the piscatorial delights of their favorite water way, there is so much more going on than a mere selection of equipment, reading water, battling elements, controlling adrenaline.  The artist finds themselves in a mode of recording the ‘vision’; moment; feelings; atmosphere … and action!  All the while they are satisfying their ‘inner fisherman’.

As well, the works produced by an artist, most often do not afford the artist the luxury of adorning their walls for very long.  Art is their product/commodity’/livelihood and they must move the art; sell it; in order to make a living.  Thus, connections with the art are ephemeral.  Emotions can – and often do – run deep. The very life blood of an artist is embedded in the paint they use, the stone they cut, the clay they toss, the fly they tie, the rod they build, or the story they write.

It is a temporary acquaintance the artist makes with their work. But it is becomes a life long conversation for the artist and their clients (friends!) .. all tied to the art they so enjoy.

Knowing this, it is not hard to see why when they fish … the artist cannot help but smile.


Kispoix Waders: CEC2010-003

Diane Michelin painting, Kispoix Steelhead Camp, c.2010
“Everyone has a Home-Ground. They should remember it and tell others about it.”
Les Booth ©2010; painting, Kispoix Steelhead Camp ©2010 Diane Michelin

A slight, barely perceptible, rustling of pages lightly disturbed the afternoon silence.  Dust particles danced in the sunbeam sneaking past years of unwashed dirt on the attic window. The rustling continued.

Not rhythmic in movement, just the occasional perception of sporadic movement.  It was, however slight, deliberate.  Someone  – or something – was moving the papers and he heard it.

Quiet as the mouse he thought may have been disturbing his personal treasures, he crept past the old steamer trunk and around the gun cabinet.

Just as he rounded the far corner of the bookcase, filled with the bound volumes echoing their former owners peaked interest, and amid his plans for how he would dispatch this unknown invader…  he saw the shadow.

He stopped, dropped and lay perfectly quiet.  Carefully listening; trying to hear anything above the pounding, rhythmic thud of his little heart!

It wasn’t the mouse he’d been expecting.  It was much larger.  Who – or what! – could possibly be in his attic? Bothering his precious stuff? This was not good. He’d have to sneak back downstairs and get reinforcements.

“OK Wyatt. I know you’re up here. Come on over,  I have something to show you.”

At the sound of the familiar voice he broke into one of his million-dollar-grins; punctuated with deep dimples, a pronounced chin cleft, and flashing blue eyes.

“Grama! What are you doing in my attic? I thought you were a mouse.”

Running around all the dust covered relics the little guardian pounced into his Grama’s lap and into another welcome moment in family history.

Within microseconds there commenced an amazing ballet. The juggling of energetic little boy and precious papers without damaging spirit or structure of either was quite the sight to behold. All done amid giggles, gleeful shouts and grandmotherly coos.

Nearly as fast as the little tornado has erupted, he had been subdued and Grama had caught her breath. All was again quiet. All, except the now Amazonian flow of dust – gorging through the sunbeam in the wake of the ‘little tornado’.

“So what are you doing up here Grama?”

“Well… I come up here every so often to go through these old treasures and get back in touch with some parts of history I really like to keep close to my heart.”

“You keep treasure in your heart?  That’s silly Grama. You make me laugh.”   Another Wyattism had been unleashed and they were both into a good, long  laugh.

Finally, she took her little buddy in her arms and whispered in his ear,”I have a story for you. Do you want to hear it? Now?”

“Oh, youbetcha Grama! I love your stories. They’re just awesome”, Wyatt gushed.

As her joyful smile grew, moistening at the eye line from the pleasures of grandchild-presence, she hauled him up onto her knee, moved a few papers, and opened a large, old book.

“Wyatt, this is a photo album…”, Grama began.

“Oh, like mommy and daddy have of pictures mommy takes?”

“Yes. Just like that. Only this one… is from a long, long time ago.  It was started by my great-grandmother and has been handed down over the years to all the oldest daughters in the family.”


“My great-grandmother and great-grandfather both thought it was very important that some things our family did – especially those things we did… as a family – should be passed on to the younger members.  My father told me that his father said these things were, ‘family treasures’.

You know, the way Grampa likes to tell you stories from when he was a little boy?”

“Oh yeah!  I really like Grampa’s stories. Especially the ones about the Gar people.  I wanna go look for them. He said we could go soon as the weather warms.”

“He’s really looking forward to that, too.  Say, do you want to know a secret – about the Gar People?”

“SURE!  A secret about the Gar People. Cool! What is it?”

“The story about the Gar People – the very same one that Grampa tells you – he heard it first, from his mother; your great-grandmother Mary. So that story, is one of the ‘family treasures’ that have been passed down for several years. He told it -many times! – to your daddy.”

“Wow! So Grampa’s mommy told him the story about the Gar People?  Did he tell you the story?”

“Yes he did. I head the story from your Grampa when he told it to your daddy. That story and many others your Grampa tells have become our ‘family treasures’, too.”

For the next hour, the two of them were huddled over the photos, cards, drawings, newspaper and magazine clippings and other paraphernalia they discovered, tucked away between the heavy stock sheets of the photo album.  The questions came rapid fire from the inquisitive little mind.  Each one was answered with calm, loving care. Each moment filed neatly away for days when a spot of sunshine would be needed.  Hidden treasures in the making.

As one page opened, little Wyatt exclaimed, “Grama!! Whose fishing waders are those? Grampa’s?  They look just like the pair he had on last summer when he took down to Pine Creek to fish.”

“Well they certainly do look like Grampa’s waders.  But they aren’t Grampa’s waders. Those waders, belonged to my father.  Sadly, you never got to know him. He died before you were born. Oh!, he’d have really like you and he’d also have liked taking you fishing just like your Grampa does.  In fact, your Grampa and my Father were great fishing buddies. This very photograph of my daddy’s waders, was taken by your Grampa right after he and I met for the very first time.  So this photograph is a special ‘family treasure’ for Grampa and me.”

“Oh. That was a long…  l-o-n-g… time ago, wasn’t it Grama?”

“Yes, my little blue-eyed buddy, it was a long time ago.  Yet, for me, it seems like just yesterday.”

“Were Grampa and your daddy fishing together? Were they fishing Pine Creek?”

“They were indeed fishing together, but it wasn’t on Pine Creek.  They took a big trip back to my father’s ‘home ground’.”

“What’s home.. home .. grou…ground … home ground?  What’s that?”

“Home-Ground is the place where you grow up learning about something important to you and to your life. Like Pine Creek is for your Grampa.  Remember how he told you about the places he used to run, play and explore… when he was a boy… only a few years older than you?”

“Yes! I do!  I really wish I lived on Pine Creek. I’d like to go fishing and running through the woods like Grampa did. He was really lucky back then.”

“He certainly was.  That’s why he loves telling you – and others – about how important it is to remember your Home-Ground and to tell others – especially your family members.

Just like how  you and your sister Sara and your daddy and your mommy, have stories, that your family is making.

Everyone has a Home-Ground. They should remember it and tell others about it.

That’s the kind of place – the Kispoix River, in British Columbia, Canada, where this picture was taken – was for, my daddy, your great-grandfather.  The Kispoix River and the country around it, was your great-grandfather’s playground as a young boy.  It had a real important part in making him such a fine person, a loving husband, father, grandfather… and I know if he’d have lived long enough.. an even more wonderful, great-grandfather to you and Sara.

That’s what a Home-Ground does.  It has a very important role in building the kind of a person, those who live, work and play in it’s care, will become.

This picture has a great deal of ‘treasure’ in it for me. It reminds me of my daddy and just how much of a fun daddy he was. He really loved his grandson -your daddy, Luke – and loved to take him fishing any time he could. Fishing was a big, big thing in my daddy’s life.  Just like it was for his daddy before him.

That’s why we keep this photo album in our family and bring it out to show the younger members of the family… like YOU.”

“Well, Grama, we need to do this more often! I really like it. And I know Sara will like it, too.  Can mommy and daddy, come up here, in the attic, the next time we look at the photo album? Does Grampa come up here, too? Maybe we can have a picnic in my attic and look at all the pictures. Can we!?!”

“Well.  I certainly don’t see why not. We’ll just have to make plans to do that real soon.”

The paper continued to rustle, the chatter bubbled on,  for another 45 minutes before the little blond energizer, nestled into Grama’s comforting lap, nodded off to sleep.  Fortunately the little man was still small enough for Grama to carry him, downstairs, to his room at, Grama’s Home.

As Grama quietly slipped out of his room, deep behind those dancing blue eyes, visions of the Gar People played on the stage of a rock strewn Gar Island. The retinal movie was liberally punctuated with giggles from the blond-haired boy, with dancing dimples, a dashing chin cleft and of course, those sparkling blue eyes.

He grinned and laughed in his slumber, for all the Gar People were dressed in waders, just like the ones in Great-Grampa’s  photograph.

Wet Wade: CEC2010-002

 “No real-fly-fishin’-man would wear ‘wimp-assed’ waders in ‘wet-wadin’-time’ Eh?”
story ©2010 Les Booth; painting, Wading Wet, ©2010 Diane Michelin

The phone was nearing the end of its ring cycle. Two more rings and the really cool answering machine voice would engage.

“Hey Y’all! This is Curt’s sexy, silky voiced digital female assistant.  I’ll take your call, but Curt isn’t here.  He’s somewhere getting wet, freezin’ his ass off and loving it so much I have no idea when he’ll be back.  But don’t fret!  He calls me everyday; he can’t live without hearing my voice. Clearly say your name, the date you’re calling, state – clearly – what you need and leave Curt a callback number.  He’ll get back to you… ’cause you can only wet wade in 50 degree water just so long.  Thanks for calling. <Kiss!> .. Beeeeep.

Well, she’s sultry, witty and tireless.  She’s wonderful … but she didn’t get to prove it – again – this time.

“Hi. This is Curt. What can I interrupt to assist you?”

“Wow dude, you really know how to make a person feel welcome.  When did you join the International Order of Misanthropes?”

“Hey, Josh. Frick! If I’d have known it was you I’d have let CC answer the phone.”

“CC? Who’s that?  You got a new roomie or something?”

“Nah! That’s my new sexatary answering machine.  Her name is Chrome-Cathy.  I call her ‘CC’. You’d get a kick out her… knowing just how much of a perv you are!”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No problemo pard.  So, why’d you call? Surely, not to get a verbal butt kickin’ from me. Whatcha up to?”

“Well, I’m off on a fishing adventure in 3 weeks and wanted to know if you’d like to join me.”

“Where we goin’?”

“Idaho. Small drainage on the eastern side of the state. It’s remote. Quiet. No people.  And it has some of the best Cutthroat fishing this side of 1840.”

“So, where exactly in ‘eastern Idaho’ is our paradise located?”

“It’s in the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness, just west of the Montana border. It is remote! Nearest road is 30 miles away. We have to fly in or do a hard 3 days on horseback.  This is one of – if not the most – remote area in the lower 48 states.  Mountain lion, black bear, gray wolf, elk, deer, bobcat and a whole lot more are still in abundant supply. It’s not a place for city folk.”

“When do we pack?”

“In three weeks.  Booked 2 weeks in the only lodge in the area, starting 21st July.”

“So, what do I need to bring?  I take it we’ll be doing a lot of back country hiking, right?”

“Yep. That’s all we’ll be doing.  That and overnight camping; at least 6 of the 14 days.”

“So why did you book the lodge?”

“Best place to stay. Best access to the area. Best food in 60 miles. And they’ll come get us if we get ‘stuck’.”

“OK. Just thought I’d ask.”

“Pack rod – fly only, of course.”

“Duh? Yeeaaah!”

“Count on bead-head nymphs, Stimulators, Hairs-ear nymphs.. and some gawd-awful big Wooley Buggers.  Black, dark-purple and olive w/flecks of sparkle dun in ’em.  There are the occasional Bull Trout in those waters, too.  Don’t want to pass that up, eh?”

“OK!  Sounds pretty much par-for-du-course, Bro. And thanks for the inclusion.”

“Oh and Curt, don’t forget your camera crap… OK?”

“Right!  You smart-acre! I got the ‘hint’ 10 years ago.  Just remember… I don’t ever ask anyone else to carry my ‘camera crap’ and y’all  -always-  love to look at the ‘purdy pictures’ I bring home. Eh?   Take care.  Hey! Gotta run.  Finally got hold of a live-one!  A real cash-paying victim .. uh, er…  I mean ‘client’.”

“Well, that’s good to hear.  Maybe you’ll actually pay for a beer or two on this trip. Eh?”

“Careful dude. You know which of us runs faster.  And I’d bet $2-and-a-donut’ that there are cougar where we’ll be goin’. So… just remember what ‘slow-buddies’ are for…!”

“OOOOO!  Shaking in my waders already.”

“Waders? Dude, who’ll have waders?  We’ll be there in July, ‘wet-wadin’-time’ !!  No real-fly-fishin’-man would wear ‘wimp-assed’ waders in ‘wet-wadin’-time’  Eh?????”

“Are you crazy dude? We’re talking about Idaho.. high altitude… cold mountain streams. Freeze your jewels off cold water man.  Not to mention rocks… and along with the cougars – there are rattlesnakes.  So, call me ‘wimp-assed’ all you want, but I’ll be wearing waders.”

“Hey, I’m just sayin’.”

“Gotta run. Talk with you again in a week.”

“Sure thing and thanks again .. REALLY! .. for the invite. I’m looking forward to it.”

[Two months later]

Rinnnng. Rinnng. Rinnnng. Rinnng.

“Hey Y’all! This is Curt’s sexy, silky voiced – and now really worried – digital female assistant.  I’ll take your call, but Curt isn’t here.  He’s somewhere getting wet, freezin’ his ass off and loving it so much I have no idea when he’ll be back. I thought he’d have called in …long before now.  But don’t fret! In the past he’s called me everyday; he can’t live without hearing my voice. At least… I thought he couldn’t.  You know the drill – After the ‘Beeep’, say your name clearly; state the date you’re calling and what you need. Please speak clearly as you leave Curt a callback number.  He’ll get back to you: I’m now only assuming this is still true. ‘Cause you can only wet wade in 50 degree water just so long.  Thanks for calling and please, remember Curt fondly. I certainly do. <Kiss!>

.. Beeeeep.