Posts Tagged With: Erin Block

Book Review: By a Thread

Most of us would have a hard time naming a dozen influential fly tiers of any gender. Erin Block has done that (and then some) in her book, By a Thread, and it just so happens that the tiers she names are all women, which is fortunate, given the book’s subtitle, A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying.

Well-researched, By a Thread is more than a list. With her amiable story-telling style, Erin introduces readers to a number of women who have had a lasting, if somewhat unrecognized, influence on the way flies are tied and even on the way we fish. From some of the most familiar names in the business, to the anonymous tiers of today, working in places where trout are but an abstraction and the concept of fishing for fun is unheard of, By a Thread weaves them all tightly into the tapestry of fly fishing history.

The opening chapter, on Juliana Berners, fly fishing’s legendary matriarch, was an eye-opener. Within the context of Dame Juliana’s time, Erin tells why the treatise attributed to her was written in the first place and gives us an idea of her persistence and adaptability but, personally, if both my father and step-father had been executed by one king, I would have got me to a nunnery long before my friend, the Duke of York, died fighting for another at Agincourt.

Mary Orvis knew one man’s Grizzly King is another man’s Ferguson and liked to dance. Carrie Frost started tying flies at her parents’ kitchen table and created an enterprise that at one point turned out ten million flies a year — all tied by women. She also owned a car but couldn’t drive.

Elsie Darbee tied her own flies and caught fish where others walked away skunked. She raised her own hackle, breeding for elusive true dun and, if anything from Sparse Grey Hackle is to be believed, she defended her birds fiercely, once stepping into the dark with a rifle and returning with “almost 80 pounds of dead coon”.

Sara Jane McBride more or less just disappeared, Carrie Stevens followed a whim and broke a record and, today, women like Cathy Beck, Sharon Wright and April Vokey share their passion and artistry, skills and knowledge with new generations of fly fishers. Some of the names in By a Thread may be familiar, others are more obscure, but there is no doubting the contributions of each of the women profiled in its pages. Erin Block tells their stories in an engaging style that not only makes them even more interesting but also quite human, like the rest of us.

Just as each and every woman in this book would be right at home on anyone’s list of influential fly tiers, By a Thread: A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying would be right at home on any angler’s book shelf.

(By a Thread: A Retrospective on Women and Fly Tying, 6×9 softcover, 182 total pages, B&W illustrations, available from the publisher, Whitefish Press.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Fly Fishing, Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Fishing Hurts, Again (Still?)

Winter’s approach means less time on the water for most anglers in the northern hemisphere, and more time in front of the fire, contemplating this and all other seasons past. It also means more time in front of the computer, discussing our “sport”.  Erin Block has kicked off our more philosophical time of year with a very interesting conversation on her blog about ethics, specifically casting to spawning fish.

Every angler has his or her own justifications for fishing (or not) the way they do (or do not) and I am glad to see Erin’s post take off the way it has, even if I prefer to save such heaviness for the dark cold blue of deep winter. Her words, and the comments they have spawned (pun intended) are definitely worth a read.

The fact that anglers are willing to discuss their fishing ethics is encouraging to me. It is certainly better and more productive than some of the stuff non-anglers throw at us, as pointed out by Marc Fauvet of The Limp Cobra in his post, My rod’s bigger than yours. PETA has adopted a strategy to eliminate fishing by relating the torturing of fish to penis size, referring to the penises of the anglers, not the fish. Never mind the fact that many of the world’s finest anglers have no penis at all. Check it out and see if you have something to add to the conversation over there, before it turns completely to goats.

Personally, I still sometimes wonder why I feel the need to drive a hook into a fish’s mouth and reel him/her in, just to let him/her go. Or why I set traps for beaver, muskrat and mink. Or swat flies, kill wasps and poison mice. I do, however, know why I do not fish for dogs and I wrote about it once. You can read my story here: Fishing Hurts.

Meanwhile, I’ll be blowing out water lines in the camps and trying to get stuff picked up before it freezes to the ground. It’s going to be a long winter.

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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