At the fingertips of everyone on our planet lies the ability to look something up, find hopefully reliable information, even overnight drugs to our households. If we back away from the blue iridescent rectangular watering hole we realize that we are relying on somebody elses notion of what an interface is suppose to look like, what somebody else's concept of a product is suppose to do for us, and that we fit somewhere into this role playing world very well. We are handed things daily to react to but they are other peoples ideas not our own when we play the spectator in the technology world. Sure we can play along in this vast schoolyard, but the confines beyond the playground fences is where our fathers and ancestors played. Ironically these are the rich experiences we yearn for in our market driven world of not only our computers but televisions. We are simply handed tools or artifacts, and play along with these experiential visualizations passively.
It would be a grand experiment to take everyones passive technology away one day and see our true spirit of resourfulness kick back in. After all, inventiveness and change kicks in out of frustration and need, sometimes out of desperation and near death. Using our heads and hands in a spirited way is a kind of flattery of the gods. They graced us with proportion, reason, a sense of urgency, and most important a need to survive.
If I think of the most resourceful fishing tool I’ve ever laid eyes on it would be something called the “Hawaiian Eye”. It was a shiny black Cowrie shell fashioned with a bone hook attached to it. It was quite simply one of the first artificial lures developed by humans. Primarily used to catch octopus it evolved into a more familiar gap and shank geometry over hundreds if not thousands of years. Like the Apollo 13 mission I often wonder if these resourceful indigineous peoples had brainstorming sessions to develop these gerry-rigged survival contraptions with easled dry erase boards, infinite amounts of coffee, cigarettes, and dozens of Sharpies. I suppose hunger is a driving force for the evolution of fishing tools. Fishing is considered a pastime in the world today, not counting the commercial fisheries, so because the imminent danger of starvation no longer lingers in front of us what evolution takes place is on a different less threatening level. What then is the evolution of the fishing experience. Is it to make sport fishing easier with technology, does that bring new or deeper meaning to it? Does technology outwit fish, surely. Does it make us feel smarter, of course it does. Does it give us a false sense of accomplishment?, most definitely. If we can hit a deer with our car moving 75mph, why shoot it? The same holds for trout fishing, if you have a Clorox bottle and a little privacy you can pretty much wipe out a quarter mile section of river. Simply eliminate the need to purchase a 40k Bass boat that goes 55mph with another 30k in fish finding technology including rods and reels. Is this really taking the quality of the fishing experience to a more meaningful level? The products allow fisherman to make the choice of how they want to experience fishing passively or actively, they make the choice. Passive fishing refers to the old guy in the lawn chair sitting by the freeway staring at a bobber for hours. Active fishing refers to the finding of fish and the process, whatever it may be, in which we pursue our quarry. If you are not in pursuit then you are just sitting and waiting for a fish to happen to come buy and swallow your offering. Ultimately both passive and active fishing brings enjoyment of somekind or else people simply would have stopped doing it a long time ago.
Every fisherman reads magazines and sees advertisements of new products that look like they work well, they purchase them only to find out that maybe some of them do work but might feel season after season that they simply change substrates, carbon fiber, silicone overmolding, or color. Some of them turn away from the slick photoshoped ads and decide with a gutteral unidentifiable need that maybe they want to biuld a bass skiff, a rod, a lure or fly and embarque on a more explorative experience with this sport. The sometimes weathered or unweathered fisher person suddenly asks himself or herself the question, “what if?”. It is then that the hands of the fisher person are awakened to re-discover and prompt a creative visualization, to take a raw something, and make it into something useful that brings pleasure to them ultimately. We learn to make the experience more meaningful by using our hands in a spirited artful way. It is then purely our own unique idea of how we wish to experience the act of fishing.
“art is, after all, only a trace-it is like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness.” (Robert Henri)
We then question whether a feathered hook, rod, or reel can be considered art or craft, I suppose that’s for each of us to decide.