In Norman Maclean’s fly fishing novella, A River Runs Through It, Maclean suggests (echoing some Native American traditions) that fishing isn’t merely an exercise in raw power, but a graceful recognition that you and the fish you seek to catch are part of one wondrous whole. Not only must you have the right combination of skill and luck to catch a fish, but the fish itself must freely rise to the bait. In effect, the fish makes you into a fisherman.
Such a symbiotic relationship is a delicate balance, and therefore a difficult one for us to strike. Maclean writes, ‘It is natural for man to try to attain power without recovering grace.’ But, he suggests, in fishing as in life, the two can—and perhaps should—go together.
This is a daring thought in a modern context because it does not assume (as we all too often assume) that power is inherently evil—in fact, it implies that power rightly understood can be a good thing; and, even more challengingly, that power rightly practised can be a good thing. Read more . . .