So it was that
I applied my powers of
ratiocination to the invention of a device called a "Life-Quality Balancing
System," or "L.Q.B.S." The
L.Q.B.S. consisted of a scale (two pans of
equal weight hanging in
balance), 1,400 #8 medium-shank
fishhooks (one for each minute of the
day), and a meticulous list dividing my
Standard Day into Neutral Minutes (N.M.'s), Unsatisfactory Minutes (U.M.'s),
and Satisfactory Minutes (S.M.'s). For every U .M. I put a hook on the left
scale-pan, for every S.M. I put one on the right, N.M. hooks I put in a neutral
I then constructed a
series of charts and graphs dealing with ways to turn V.M.'s and N.M.'s into
S.M.'s, fully convinced that this simple scientific process would eventually
allow me to attain a state called " Unending Satisfaction Actualization ,"
or "U .S.A."
thrilled with this program, and baffled that I hadn't come up with it sooner.
Nothing but unadulterated fishing went into the plus pan; I put Bill Bob hooks
in the neutral box, not because he wasn't satisfactory, but because neutral is
the way he prefers to be. Of course Ma- and H2O-hooks were piled high in the
junk pan, along with school, yard work,
Flyfishing Clubs, pimple-popping, constipation and other nasty imbalances.
The historian-type reader with his high
tolerance for dull but factual
material may be disappointed to learn
that, though I still use the hooks, the lists and graphs were reduced to fluffy
gray ash when "U.S.A." failed to pan out.
survived, however, and since it
exemplifies the quasi-logical gymnastics my
polarized brain was wont
to perform, I include it:
THE IDEAL 24
HOUR SCHEDULE 1. sleep: 6 hrs.
consumption: 30 min. (between casts or while plunking, if possible)
school: 0 hrs!
4. bath, stool, etc: 15 min. (unavoidable)
and miscellaneous chores: 30 min. (yards unnecessary; dust not unhealthy;
utilitarian neatness easily accomplished)
6. nonangling conversation: 0
7. transportation: 45 min. (live on good fishing river)
gear maintenance/fly tying/rod building/log keeping, etc: 1 hr. 30 min.
fishing time: 141/2 hrs. per day!
WAYS TO ACTUALIZE IDEAL SCHEDULE 1.
finish school; no college!
2. move alone to year-round
stream (preferably coastal)
avoid friendships, anglers not excepted (wastes time with gabbing)
experiment with caffeine,
nicotine, to eliminate excess sleep
5. do all driving, shopping, gear
preparation, research, etc. after
daylight for fishing only.
Result (allowing for unforeseeable interruptions):
4,000 actual fishing hrs. per year!!!
It took some time to get
settled in the cabin: a day to stash
gear, a day to build a fish-smoker, a
day to set up and stock the aquarium, a
day to clean and salt in supplies, two
days to cut three cords of wood.
On June ninth I hung the
Ideal Schedule on the wall by my bed and
began to live it:
I proceeded to fish all day, every day, first
light to last.
All my life I'd
longed for such a marathon - and I haven't one happy
memory of it.
All I recall is stream
after stream, fish after fish, cast
after cast, and nothing in my head but the low cunning required to hoodwink my
Each night my
Log entries read like
tax tables or grocery receipts,
describing not a dream come
true, but a drudgery of double shifts
on a creekside assembly line.
After two weeks of "ideal" six-hour
nights and sixteen-hour days I got an
incurable case of insomnia.
It hardly mattered: sleeping I dreamt of fishing and waking I fished till there was one,
undivided, sleep like state.
There was fishing. There was nothing else.
A Kiluhiturmiut Eskimo song tells of a man like me:
was life when standing at my fishing hole on the ice.
But did standing at
my fishing hole ever bring me joy?
No! Ever was I so anxious
for my little fishhook if it should not get a bite, Ayi, yai ya. . . .
Like the Eskimo, my last thought
before going fishing was "Won't it be glorious!" And like the Eskimo I then stood
by the water, a needy, nervous wretch
too anxious to
wonder how "glory" could be so dismal. Ayi, yai ya!
So I continued my Ideal Schedule and was soon exhibiting more bizarre
symptoms: besides the insomnia, tangled tongue and
hallucinations, I began to
hide or even flee when I encountered other fishermen; to avoid
human contact I began stockpiling
groceries and bought a fifty-gallon gas drum; soon my
communications with fellow
humanoids consisted of an
occasional Thank you, Hi, or Fill-er-up, and that was it.
Like many an
addled hermit, I started yacking a blue streak, but not to
myself. Oh no. I talked to my fly rod,
As expected, we became almost preternaturally skillful at
extracting fish from coastal streams ("we" being Rodney and me). We caught
cutthroat in staggering numbers, often over a hundred a
day. I kept only
enough to eat and my
appetite shrank with my ability to sleep; still, I
ate trout twice a
day and grew no more tired of it than an
anteater grows tired of ants, he with his long snout and sticky tongue, me with
my Rodney and flies.
By mid-July I was no longer in
pain. I was totally bamboozled; I was
chicaned; I was necromanced; I was stuffed and nonsensed. I
no longer saw anything wrong with my life as it was. Rodney fished because I
fished and I fished because Rodney fished.
We had an
understanding: we were
two pieces of fishing gear-smash us, lose us, wear us out, fishing gear will
never question your judgement. That was
the thing about Nature: make one lousy
rule to describe it and it'll contradict you even if it has to
transmogrify and metamorphosize and bust its ass to do it.
And so what? If anybody grew wise enough to grasp the real
immutable laws of
Nature, Nature'd only rear back and strike 'em dead
before they got anybody to understand them.
(still alive so far!)
What use were such
questions? Hobgoblins - that's all
they were - noisy abstract swill good for
nothing but scaring and
hell out of everybody they occurred
to. . . . But a fisherman was dead.
Everyone I knew would one day be
dead. This was no
abstraction. What could
it mean? What should I do about it? Was there equipment to purchase to
myself from it? Was there reference material
to peruse that would make it comprehensible? Pills to pop to make it bearable? Calesthenics
to make it ... fun?
I didn't know. I didn't
know anything about anything.
Every thing in my head came from fishing magazines, fishing manuals,
fishing novels. And what did these
works have to say about the meaning of
Life and Death?
When I awoke, the first thing I saw was the
star, bluegreen and brilliant between
black silhouettes of cedars. I
felt very strange, but very good;
I'd no desire
to do anything but watch - no schedule to keep, no fish to catch. I scarcely
recognized myself: the
fanatical fisherman in me had
died, and what remained was a stranger.
I was someone I barely
knew, lying on my side, watching a
star. The fisherman left a pair of
binoculars on a peg at the window. He'd used them to watch for trout rising on
the river; I aimed-them at the star -
and was amazed: brilliant greens, violets and blues eddied through it as it
glittered and shone like the Queen's own dreefee.
eye had seen nothing of this whirling
spectrum, and even now, through binoculars, I saw little of the
beauty that must really be there. Then it
struck me: trees,
flowers, fish, stones and streams - all these must be the robes saving my
eyes from the Queen's searing
light; yet they refracted and colored that
light, and it shone dimly through, making
beauty as the Queen's must exist. My
heart pounded that it be so.
"Now, who do you suppose made you from a
configuration of molecules into the
living fisherman you are
today?" "I wish I knew," I
"Excellent!" said Titus.
"And who controls your
destiny, decides whether you
shall be happy or miserable, long lived or short, infamous or famous,
erudite or acrimonious and so on and so forth?"
"Wish I knew that, too."
"And who will decide when your body has become an unfit
habitation for that which enlivens it and will one
day consign it to a crematorium, river
bottom or wormy grave?"
knew that, too," I said, "but why do you holler 'excellent!' and 'very good!'
when I say I wished I knew? Don't you
expect me to say 'God does it' or 'My
soul does it'?"
Titus looked aghast. "Gus! I'm a
philosopher, not an
evangelist! It's the '
wish I knew' that's crucial. To say 'God does it' and leave it at that is to abandon the
search before it's begun. To really want the truth, to long for it desperately,
is to reject every formulation and theory
and dogma and opinion right up to the
time you see and touch and
unite with the
ever discovers truth by
barfing up Sunday school answers to questions!"
Dutch Hines! Crikeys. What to do? This
bozo had easily three-quarters of a million
readers. That's 1.5 million
eyes, barring cyclopses. And he wanted to
My brain began to lurch and flutter like a moth toward
the flame that will cook it.
I knew his writing habits; I knew about
the Green Pencil Syndrome; I knew he would be show'n'telling about this
afternoon on Shat Creek, about the bluebacks, about the Twinkie, about me, for
many a column to come if nothing distracted him.
And nothing would distract him, because it would be
months, before he caught another fish.
I knew he'd made Fuzz Gramsay a
rich man by endorsing him, and that if I
told him that I'd built the rod he'd just used he would do the same for me; I
knew that if he endorsed me I'd get a thousand rod orders before the month was
out; I knew that even if I lowered my prices, even at a meagre ten dollars
profit per rod, that was ten
thousand smackers; I knew that with profits from that first burst of
orders I could advertise in every major sporting magazine in the country, could
hire a half-dozen peons to do my rod-building and fly-tying for me while I
became a designer, an organizer, an
entrepreneur; I could
open a tackle factory and warehouse in Fog; I could hire salesmen and financial
advisors and marketing experts; I
could automatize and computerize and expand; I could spend my days inventing
prototype rods and flies and let the local peasantry hunch over vises,
squinting their eyesight away and snorting
rod varnish; I could shunt Gus Orviston Autograph rods
off to every comer of the trout-infested world;
I could put Fleas and Headless Hunchbacks and Bermuda Shorts on the map;
I could buy a floatplane, a fleet of jet-boats, start a
guide service, take fat cats to all the great
sport-fishing grounds on Earth; I could buy a jet, make
high places, hire politicians, hire
accountants, secretaries, research assistants
- all of them women, sleek-thighed and soft-bosomed; I could open a chain of
Trusty Gus's Custom Rods and Flies that circumscribed the continent; I could
invest, get into real estate, play the stock
market, cruise Tahoe and Vegas, start
chains of Cutthroat Gus's Seafood Restaurants, Cutthroat Gus's Riverside
Fishing Schools, Cutthroat Gus's Trouter's Resorts; I could buy
myself a harem to forget Eddy with; I could
catch (or buy the proof and claim I caught) record-breaking
fish to heighten my repute; I could speculate in
land and lumber, subdivide the Coast
Range, build private
solar-powered hatcheries and surround them with resorts; I could build a
geodesic dome over the Tamanawis and control its ebbs and flows with a pushbutton
control panel by my half-acre bed where I'd loll with my harem, dictating fish
stories into computers that edited
and polished and sold them for national syndication; I could buy
myself a nuclear aircraft carrier with
built-in spas and woods and trout
ponds and sail out to sea to escape the rabble on weekends; I could make H2O
look like a hick with a cane-pole and bobber compared to me; I could buy the
whole blasted coast of Oregon,
name it Gussica, secede from the Union, start my own
space program, make Titus my Lieutenant
Spock and me the Captain of an Intergalactic Winnebago and blast away into
space to search out potential trout-planets and go where no fisherman had
gone before; I could stock my new planets with Donaldson Rainbows, Montana
Black-spotted Cutthroat, or the Salmo-Gussious Titantrout I'd have developed by
then in Gussica's solar hatcheries; I could spread my name, face, rods and
flies all through the fish-infested heavens, and every
resource and river, every hidden
treasure and tree, every huge fish and
alien queen and
natural and unnatural
wonder would spread itself before
me . . . and so on.
"Well," said Dutch. "What do you say?"
said, "Sure, Dutch. I will do the interview."
James Duncan, from The River Why
habituation"When people enjoy doing some particular
thing, performing a specific activity - athletic, scholarly, artistically - for
enjoyment, then the more times we perform the activity the more the activity
becomes a ritual and the more we will note a reduction in pleasure due to
The activity we once enjoyed has become an ordinary
Ordinary experience we don't seem to notice or remember and
at sometime we will inevitably wonder why we are still performing the activity.
Two devices allow people to beat pleasure reduction due to habituation
- increase the variety of activities or increase the amount of time that
separates repetitions of an activity.
When episodes of activity are
sufficiently separated in time, increased variety is unnecessary." - Daniel
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