Thursday, March 3, 2011

Guest Editorial (I Wouldn't Use Language Like This) WARNING: Rated MA

Awright, what the fuck? Is this the end of life as we know it? Is this what maleness has been reduced to? Is this asshole somehow supposed to make me want to go out and spend a shitload of money so I can look as fucking stupid as he does? Give me a break!

I guess this is supposed to be style. You'd better go out and burn every piece of clothing you own, you poor sod; it's out of style! If you have even the most minuscule hope of ever being a legitimate human being, you'd better buy some fucking pink pants and a Shirley Temple jacket right now.

Let's get something straight. True style isn't something you put on, it's something you are, born out of life experience and character and expressed through your living presence in this life. Clothes can merely enhance style; they don't create it.

Money can't buy style. Fuck money.These guys, down and out in the middle of the Great Depression, have more style in their little fingers than that guy up there ever will. Brooks Brothers be damned.

This creeping sickness of stylishness has been afflicting the fly fishing world for some time now, and it seems to be getting worse. There will always be lost souls who will be sucked into the lie that by wearing the right clothes they will become something better than the poor fucks they are. There will always be assholes who leap at the chance to wear something that someone else tells them will make them better than those other poor fucks.

Again--let me spell this out--first you earn the experience that makes you an outdoorsman/fly fisher, let alone a person of worth. You spend time out in the world of lakes and rivers, in heat and cold, learning the ways of weather and fish, learning your limits and pushing through them. The clothes simply come out of that. You wear what works for getting the job done, what keeps you cool and dry, or warm and dry, and what lets you blend into the natural world.

Like this guy--OK, perhaps the white shirt isn't the best wardrobe choice; but maybe, like the red shirt required by a certain well-known photographer in the ubiquitous hero shots on magazine covers, it was considered artistically necessary. But this guy comes pretty close to the real thing.

Lee Wulff, for example. He invented the fishing vest, for crying out loud, not because it looked cool, but because it let him get out in the river and stay out in the river with everything he needed to do what he'd come there to do: catch lots of big fucking fish.

Or Zane Grey. He covered the world to catch big fish, and wrote about it. Yeah, he knew something about self-promotion, but it looks like he was willing to let the grizzled old packer and guide influence how he dressed in the field more than some prick who wanted to promote the new Zane Grey line of outdoor wear. These guys didn't just look like the real thing; they were the real thing.

So is this guy, A. K. Best. In Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing, published in 1990, John Gierach wrote:

     A. K. is just over a decade older than I am, but in recent years we have come to illustrate two distinct fly-fishing styles. He is in baggy, heavy, military-looking olive drab chest waders, while I'm struggling into a rust-colored, fashionably tight-fitting neoprene number that looks more like a wet suit. His hat is floppy, and is circled by a sheepskin band that holds at least a hundred flies, all used; my hat is an unadorned updowner. He'll be wading the shoreline making long, graceful casts, while I'm paddling around in a belly boat, or "personal flotation device," working a longer rod and a shorter line.
     Rigging up is precise, but it's quick and nearly thoughtless. At the end of it we take large, gulping swigs of water from canteens--drinks big enough to last until after dark--and clean our sunglasses. Mine are aviator-style Polaroids strung around my neck on a cord. A. K.'s are prescription polarized bifocals.
     True to form, A. K. has strung up a bamboo fly rod, but then so have I. For that matter, I also share some attitudes and other items of tackle with A. K. that could firmly place me in the last generation of fly-fishers, although that sort of thing isn't as obvious to the casual observer as how you dress. It just goes to show that stereotypes are seldom completely accurate. Still, someday we should have the series of pancake breakfasts it would take to raise the money for a bronze statue of A. K., complete with full-bent briar pipe. It would be a public service for the upcoming pastel fly vest and boron rod crowd. The brass plaque would read:

FLY-FISHERMAN--circa 1950
Lest We Forget

You go, A. K.

And another thing. Look carefully on all these guys: not a logo to be seen! You can actually be a great fisherman without selling your soul for corporate sponsorship.

When you become enslaved to the arbiters of style, who are themselves enslaved by the obsessive search for the chimera of the NEW, always the NEW, the past ceases to exist for you, as it does for them, except as a commodity to be raped for "inspiration." Sometimes it happens the other way around: when you believe the bullshit that "new is good, old is bad," you become easy prey for the arbiters of style, whose stock in trade is bullshit.

So look back. The pioneers of fly fishing were carrying on in the tradition of these pioneers, the real, Oregon Trail pioneers. These people weren't looking to make a fashion statement; they were looking for a better life and a way West against incredible odds. They wore what worked.

And look how well their Sons turned out. Yeah, Roy is a little out there, dangerously close to something stylish.

But he earned it, working his way up through the hardscrabble days when his hat wasn't white. And we can be sure that anyone with Gabby Hayes for a sidekick isn't going to go all Brooks Brothers on us.

It all comes down to function. I love leather and denim and wool, but I'm sure not going to turn my back on some of the new synthetics that turn away the cold of a winter river. There are people who turn out clothing for the outdoor adventurer whose products are driven more by the need for functionality than for style. They know that people whose passion is the outdoors put style second; who wants to look real good when the rescuers find you frozen to death?

More power to them! May their tribe increase. And may they put out of business any clothing venture that seeks to pander to class consciousness and style consciousness in the world of fly fishing.

So, you pink-pantsed asshole, even if you aren't functional, your clothes should be.

You might think you're some kind of pioneer, but I've got news for you:

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