In fly-fishing and literature – both the reading and the writing of it – reflection plays more than an accidental role. In July my wife, Joan and I drove to a small lake in the middle of British Columbia, about three hours west of Williams Lake, just south of the highway that winds like a river over the terrain to Bella Coola. Most of the trout in BC are stocked, but this lake has wild fish only. Where wild rainbow trout exist, the different strains are not pure, and their colouring can vary dramatically – from the pink-hued silver one usually catches and sees in the supermarket, to other examples whose deep greenish bronze body has a long slash of red licking along its body like a flame. We caught our full share of these fish, mainly on flies of a bright red that I might normally associate with manicures. Every afternoon the wind would pick up and we would head in with our catch, steering the boat by the bright snow-capped peaks of the Coast Mountain Range and the distant valleys, dark with drizzle, in between.
A considerable body of fly-fishing literature exists, and I have read quite a bit of it. One of my favorite writers on fly-fishing, its various weathers and waters, is Roderick Haig-Brown. Tranplanted to Canada, he grew up in southwest England, where his family counted the author Thomas Hardy among their friends. Haig-Brown had no idea he would one day produce a body of work, and by his own admission learned nothing from Hardy: being an adolescent he only cared about hunting and fishing. He was expelled from a prominent boarding school, Charterhouse, where his grandfather had been Headmaster for over thirty years, and after kicking around uselessly for a few years he either was sent or came to the west coast of North America, first to Seattle and then to British Columbia. He turned his hand to logging, the army, the conservation field of the public service, writing novels and television dramas, and finally he served as Magistrate for Campbell River from 1941 to 1974. He grew to be a respected figure, conservationist, public servant and writer.
Before his death he served as Chancellor to the University of Victoria. He took the role seriously and wrote a couple of essays on education, one of which has supplied me with a quotation I use nearly every year at our Senior Closing Ceremony. Education’s purpose, he says is to “bring forth from young men and women the great potential that is theirs.” What more can I say?