Wednesday, September 21

Trout Unlimited, back in action-ish; Return of the LVLS Book Club: Bush Pilot Angler.

-Ish.  That's the key here. The Monocacy Chapter of Trout Unlimited resumes their meetings for fall through spring this month. Next week, to be exact. Tuesday, to be exacter. The fourth one of each month, even. 7pm. Be there or, well, have something better to do, I guess.

But don't be a  douche. Isn't it time you do something for the local waterways? Not that I think many locals (or anyone, fwiw) reads this crap, but whatever, that was my design theory, and I'm running with it. This meeting isn't going to be entertaining, but its chance to help set the tone and course for the coming season.

Now, onto something more interesting....

You know, there's something about Lee Wulff that I find compelling. The guy's legend is just cool, and God himself handed him the secret to the greatest fly, evar (although I'm willing to concede Fran Betters' was on the receiving end of the most killing fly, evar).

So, anyways, Lee Wulff. The man's got a legitimate legend about him, and I really enjoy reading his exploits. I figured an extended hospital stay was an idea time to start reading his memoir, as I'd been putting off buying a copy for some time now.

Of course, with my winning streak in full effect, it didn't come in until about 3 or 4 days until after I'd left the hospital. Whatever. I've been slowly working through it since then, and its inspired me...

This is the second book I own by him, the first one being Lee Wulff on Flies which is a more technical manual, and thus falls into my usual disinterested category. It has its moments, and will likely feature its own LVLS Book Club entry someday, as well.

However, Bush Pilot Angler chronicles Lee's gifted Piper J3 Cub (Yellowbird, named after the distinctive Lock Haven Yellow shade of paint Piper used on its earliest Cubs)  as he uses it to establish the first remote fishing camps in all of Newfoundland, as well as its use as the first private aircraft in Newfoundland. Part of the agreement that was cut between Wulff and Piper Aviation was that he would create a film showing the unique use of the J3 in establishing this as essential to bush aviation, indeed it may even be considered that through Wulff's tireless use of the J3 Cub that much of this plane's earliest reputation is built (I don't pretend to be an aviation historian, despite my love of the Cub, but we'll get back to that).

As it is, the chapter entitled Filming, on page 120 of my copy, appears to be the movie linked in this video on Youtube, Wings of an Angler. Near as I can tell, this mirrors the story that Lee talks about in the making of this film, and I find it highly interesting to see the final product so many decades later.

Much of the book is devoted to vignettes of the people and character of early 1940s and 1950s Newfoundland, with a fairly good mix of seaplane flying and fishing and how it interacts and mixes with the people he encountered, professionally and personally. The thing is, for me, it combines three of the most magical things I've done, which is to fly (especially in a Cub, a plane I have few, but firsthand, personal memories with), to fish and understand what that means, and to experience Newfoundland, a place I've personally been to meet people (pre-fishing), and I look back on as the most incredible place I've ever seen.

The writing so warm and friendly, and Lee's personality so engaging, I find myself again wanting to catch an atlantic salmon, the game fish who's cause Lee personally championed until his dying day, and the fish to which he devoted so much of his personal and professional life.

The thing is, the book's not without its bad points. It can't be denied that it could've used the treatment of a good editor working in sync with its author to produce a more tightly integrated work. It is a bit haphazard a times, but I figure that such detractions can be owed to the fact that the manuscript, such as it were, was found in journal form after Lee's death in 1991. This is possibly the only real complaint about this book I've got; other than that it joins the rare pantheon of fly fishing literature I've actually read cover to cover in order rather than skipping around. Pretty much, this and Gierach essays...probably says something about me. Oh, and Gierarch writes far better, but I'd rather read 16 books by Wulff, just because one man is an artist, but the other man is a pioneer.

Maybe that's the best way to sum it up, really. The book may not be perfectly written, but its the recollections of a true pioneer, in his words. You can't help but to be a little moved to the esoteric moments of wonder when you dream of barnstorming Newfie cod fishermen in a bright yellow airplane in the cold Canadian air.

On a more personal note, my father used to fly. Furthermore, he once owned an older J3 Piper Cub, before I was around, and afterwards when I was a teen, he had a PA-18 Super Cub. That plane was one of the few things of his that I really, truly admired and even though I only flew in it a handful of times, I loved it for being ostentatious, made of doped yellow cloth in wood in an era of aluminum and technology. When he moved to somewhere warm, he sold it to buy a far more boring Cessna 172. It was discovered that the plane was exported out of country, and that was that. Reading Bush Pilot Angler made me wonder what happened to that plane, so by chance I googled up the tail number, and would you believe, it continues to exist! Turns out its one of the trainers for the Red Bull flying team, and is according to an email I received, the personal plane of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

It was nice to see that it was still out there, and had reached a position of some prominence. Not bad for a little yellow tail dragger, eh?

Final note: I had to do a quick lookup for the year of Lee's death, only to discover that the man doesn't have a Wikipedia page! That ain't right. A man as unarguably famous as he was to modern fly fishing, and after reading this book, aviation deserves something. Further proof that Wikipedia sucks ass.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I'll have to pick up a copy. Lee died in a plane crash at a very ripe old age. If I recall he was on his way to get his license re-certified.